Nesta is supporting Citizens UK with a grant of £205,000 to grow their existing Parents and Communities Together programme within London and to three new areas beyond. Across the lifetime of the fund, Citizens UK will mobilise 254 more volunteers and support at least 900 families.
Citizens UK is a charitable organisation that exists to organise communities to act together for social justice and to improve their communities. Community organisers bring together organisations such as churches, mosques and schools to build their power to be able to take action together, both locally and nationally for the common good. Citizens UK works with a diverse set of alliances in London, Milton Keynes, Birmingham, Wales and Leeds.
Parents and Communities Together (PACT) is a set of activities and programmes designed to improve the health and developmental outcomes of infants. PACT brings together community organising principles to the challenges of early intervention, and has been designed with parents, community leaders, universal maternity service providers, researchers and psychologists.
PACT is based on peer support principles. The project develops communities of supportive parents who help run activities alongside professionals.
It includes three core components that will be scaled to new areas:
Parent champions Members of partner civic organisations who identify, contact, refer and support pregnant families and families with small children in their communities.
MumsSpace and DadSpace volunteers Volunteers who explore parental well being and topics such as parenting, immunisations, importance of play and going back to work.
Book sharing Volunteers are trained to deliver a seven-week course showing parents how to share and create stories with children, far beyond the words on the page, as well as explore more about how children develop.
Across all activities, parents are recruited and trained from within the communities they work with, and PACT has particular success to date in working with communities who have less take up of professional services, such as refugee and some ESOL populations.
Citizens UK believes that its model and approach can be replicated wherever there are motivated civic organisations and statutory services, who are committed to collaborating to provide better support for pregnant women and new parents.
This grant is an opportunity for PACT to take this model to Newcastle, Leeds and Lewisham in London and to extend their work in Southwark. A pilot study of this project in 2015 found that the approach improved maternal mental health and social capital. A current study being carried out by the Institute of Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience has so far found that the approach is benefiting parents from hard to reach groups and that many of the parents participating don't usually access mental health services. More results about the impact on infant outcomes will be available in 2017.
Citizens UK aims to continue to build the strength of our national civic alliance to be able to win concrete changes to improve our communities. One of the current priorities of Citizens UK is to be able to increase our expertise and capacity to work together with health and education institutions and services to improve children's outcomes.