UK Government

Department of Health: More Help for Disadvantaged Families

Press Release   •   Oct 28, 2010 12:57 BST

Twice as many disadvantaged families and new mums and dads will get help from a programme which provides intensive support and home visits from early pregnancy until a child is two years old, Health Secretary Andrew Lansley today announced.

So far, around 6,000 families in England have benefitted from Family Nurse Partnerships. The Government is committed to doubling that number by 2015. This follows the Government’s announcement last week to recruit an additional 4,200 health visitors over the same period to ensure all families receive the support they need.

Family Nurse Partnerships complement and support the work of health visitors, providing the “intensive care” end of prevention for families who need more help to care well for their children and themselves.

Family nurses build close, supportive relationships with families and guide first-time teenage parents so that they adopt healthier lifestyles for themselves and their babies, provide good care for their babies and plan their futures. Dads are also involved in many visits and are enthusiastic about the programme.

The Family Nurse Partnership programme has been tested in England since 2007 and is based on more than 30 years of US research which has shown significant benefits for disadvantaged young families, together with substantial cost savings to the public purse of $5 for every $1 invested.

Early evidence in England is promising, suggesting that parents involved in the scheme:

• are reducing smoking in pregnancy and are more likely to breastfeed;
• have aspirations for the future and are taking up employment and education opportunities; and
• are more confident as parents and are learning how to care well for their babies.

Andrew Lansley said:

“Every child deserves the best start in life. The first years of life have a long lasting impact on a child’s future health, relationships and happiness.

“We know that early intervention – as provided by the Family Nurse Partnership programme – can help young parents to look after their children better, and can help break inter-generational patterns of disadvantage. And it can improve the health and wellbeing of the parents themselves – they are reducing smoking during pregnancy, are coping better with pregnancy, labour and parenthood and are improving their confidence and self esteem. The evidence base for expanding this programme is clear.

“That’s why I want to see the numbers of families who get this intensive support to double by 2015. This, together with our plans to put 4,200 new health visitors into the workforce, will ensure that more and more young families – particularly those living in disadvantaged areas – get the help they need.

“We need to do much more to tackle health inequalities and the deep-rooted social problems that cause ill health. Giving support to new parents in their homes is just the start. We will shortly be publishing a public health White Paper which will set out how we will help disadvantaged areas to change their environment helping whole communities to improve their health and wellbeing.”

The Government is creating a Public Health Service that will protect and improve the nation’s health and wellbeing. Local health experts will be able to decide what’s best for their own population. The role of local Government will be very much strengthened – they will be accountable for improving public health and success will be rewarded. And local Directors of Public Health will have their own budget and power to make the decisions that will improve people’s health in their area.

Through the Public Health Service, the Government wants to see, for example, health inequalities reduced, childhood obesity rates falling, more people being vaccinated and fewer alcohol-related hospital admissions. A Public Health White Paper, setting out more details, will be published shortly.

Notes to Editors

1. Family Nurse Partnerships is a preventive programme for vulnerable young first time mothers. It offers intensive and structured home visiting, delivered by specially trained nurses, from early pregnancy until age two.

2. The programme has been tested in England since April 2007. There are teams in 55 Local Authority / Primary Care Trust areas and around 6,000 families have so far benefitted from the Family Nurse Partnership, with over 7,000 expected to benefit by April 2011. Local costs for Family Nurse Partnerships are around £3000 per family per year. Evaluation reports for the first and second years of Family Nurse Partnerships are atwww.education.gov.uk/research/data/uploadfiles/DCSF-RW051%20v2.pdf andwww.education.gov.uk/research/data/uploadfiles/DCSF-RR166.pdf. The third year evaluation report will be published shortly.

3. Public Health Minister Anne Milton last week (21 October) announced a national recruitment drive to create 4,200 new health visitors and build a rejuvenated profession. This means the numbers of health visitors working closely with families in the community will increase by almost 50 per cent.

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