Support for young parents

No child should have their life story written before they are born, but the fact is that many do.

If your mother is a teenager, for example, you have less chance of meeting developmental milestones; less chance, even, of surviving into infancy. 

The vulnerability of a parent is a predictor of disadvantage for the child.

Is this inevitable? New research about the Family Nurse Partnership programme suggests not.  

Family Nurse Partnership (FNP) is an intensive, home-visiting programme for young, first-time parents, commissioned by 60 local authorities in England

Family nurses enable young mums and dads to develop the skills to provide sensitive, responsive care: the foundation for secure attachment. 

This makes a critical contribution to their child’s development. It builds the right conditions for their child to arrive at school ready to learn – a crucial milestone for reaching their educational potential, which is a predictor of living a healthy life, and being in employment and out of the criminal justice system.  

A new study published by the National Institute for Health Research this year showed that children whose parents enrolled in FNP were 26 per cent more likely to achieve a good level of development in their first year at school, compared with their peers. 

What is really remarkable is that this school-readiness effect appears years after the end of the intervention. The Early Intervention Foundation has described this as “rare”. FNP is the only programme of its kind to improve cognitive outcomes in children five years after parents have graduated from the programme.

The study shows that universal provision isn’t enough to change the life course of children who otherwise fall far behind the general population. High-quality parenting support, such as FNP, can’t change the adverse circumstances a child lives with, but it can influence the kind of changes that have an impact on the life that child will go on to live.  

This insight is timely as we respond to the hidden harms of the COVID-19 pandemic for children, young people and families.

To find out more about Family Nurse Partnership, or if you think this might be beneficial for your residents, please email Lynne.Reed@phe.gov.uk or visit www.fnp.nhs.uk.

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