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Lizzy is a new mother in her mid-20s.

She works part-time and has a history of depression and alcohol misuse. She was taken into foster care when she was 11 after her mother’s drug use became so severe she could no longer care for her.

When Lizzy was pregnant, she was identified by the health service and local authority integrated care predictive model as someone who might benefit from additional support before and after the birth, due to having been taken into care and experiencing substance misuse problems. She attended a session with a social worker from the Early Support Team, though she was nervous and concerned that she was being unfairly targeted.

Digital communities for parents

At the time she was receiving therapy for depression but had stopped drinking completely a year previously and didn’t feel she needed any other support. The social worker reassured her and offered her information about some apps and online communities where she could find other parents who had similar experiences. Lizzy was also given contact details for a voluntary social care support service if she decided she needed it.

After the birth of her daughter, she felt isolated without a traditional family support network. This left her feeling stressed and anxious, and she worried she might turn to alcohol.

Lizzy started using the apps recommended to her before pregnancy and found an online community of other parents who had been in care themselves. Through this she was matched with a peer mentor who she met with regularly over video calls. These sessions provided her with advice and reassurance.

Accessing support through apps

She started using an app which enables matched volunteering with people in her neighbourhood. In exchange for dog-walking for her neighbours during the day-time she receives help with childcare during the evenings, enabling her to go to a local college to study for a vocational qualification.

Lizzy kept all her appointments with her health visitor, and agreed for information to be shared with the early support social work team. They were able to keep track of how she was doing without being invasive.

The social workers combine their professional judgement with a predictive-risk algorithm to assess whether any additional support might be required, but are happy that Lizzy has been developing her own support network and there is no need for statutory involvement.