The Department for Children, Schools and Families has said a pilot home nurse visiting service has significantly improved the parenting skills and confidence of vulnerable first-time mothers and fathers.
A Birkbeck College evaluation of the family nurse partnership pilots in 10 council areas found that the scheme had encouraged parents to adopt a healthier lifestyle, with a reported increase in the number of mothers breastfeeding. The rate of smoking in pregnancy was reduced by 17%, while expectant mothers also reduced their alcohol intake.
The scheme – part of the government’s social exclusion agenda – was launched last year, offering intensive home visiting by a family nurse to young first-time parents from pregnancy to the child’s second birthday.
Half of fathers involved
The evaluation also found that 50% of fathers became involved with the programme. One nurse said: “I have found that they are pleased to be included, and want to learn as much as they can and be very hands-on in their children’s upbringing.”
However, a number of key targets were missed, with many participants dropping out as they found the programme “too demanding”. Though the programme is linked to children’s centres, centre managers said they had not been sufficiently involved in the scheme and did not fully understand the role of family nurses.
Hughes: We must build on findings
Children’s minister Beverly Hughes said: “We now want to build on these early findings to ensure that the FNP is delivered effectively in the future.”
In March, the DCSF and Department of Health announced a further 20 sites that would pilot the scheme, many of which will start visiting families from September.