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Barnardo’s Scotland’s Early Years Service has positive and significant impact on young parents

Release Date: 29 Aug 2012

You First, Barnardo’s Scotland’s community run early years service, receives positive endorsement from the Scottish Government.

A report, commissioned by the Scottish Government, evaluating the charity’s early years service highlighted three areas of significant benefit to young parents who attended the programme: greater interaction between parents and their babies; the development of a social network and increased confidence as parents.

Minister for Public Health Michael Matheson said:

“The findings in this report show just what a positive and significant impact the You First programme is having on young, first time parents.

“Scotland is the best place to grow up in and we are committed to giving every child the best start in life. Innovation and inspiration have a part to play and it is through projects like this that we are able to do so. I am keen that local authorities, health boards and others across Scotland look at this project and consider the key learning as part of their ongoing work with young parents and their families.”

You First is a 20-week programme for new parents aged 21 or under with a baby under the age of one. The service was developed by Barnardo’s Scotland in 2009 with funds provided by the Scottish Government to run a pilot in three phases during 2009/2010 in East Lothian, Midlothian and West Lothian.

Since the development of the service the programme has expanded and now offers support to young parents across eight health board areas in Scotland, Inverclyde and Renfrewshire, Lanarkshire, Forth Valley, Ayrshire and Arran, Tayside; Grampian and Highland.

Martin Crewe said:

"We are delighted with the outcome of the report. Since the expansion of the programme in 2011 we have been able to offer support to an additional 200 new parents and their babies. The first years are the most important of a child’s life and it is vital that we all work together to give young parents the support they need.

“The average age of mothers is now almost 30 and it is easy to forget just how self-conscious this can make young mothers feel. Barnardo’s Scotland believes that young parents want to do the best they can for their children – they just need to be given the support to do it.”

In addition to the three major benefits, You First has also delivered additional benefits that have had a positive impact on parents which include raising parent’s educational aspirations, encouraging and highlighting the benefits of attending a crèche with their babies and helping young parents make life-changing decisions like returning to work.

Note about the service

You First was developed by Barnardo’s Scotland in 2009, the Scottish Government provided funding for a pilot to be delivered in East Lothian, Midlothian and West Lothian. The programme works in partnership with the Scottish Government and local health boards.

You First received further funding in September 2011 as part of the Early Years Action Fund delivered by Inspiring Scotland in partnership with the Scottish Government.

You First received the Care Accolade Award for Innovation in 2011.

The evaluation explored the benefits of the You First programme and the ways in which these could be maximised through effective delivery. Significant benefits were:

Increased parent-child interaction One of the areas in which some parents’ confidence improved was feeling more able to leave the house with their babies and go out and do things such as going swimming. One of the other main aspects that helped increased parent-baby interaction was the focus on the role parents play in their child’s development. While parents had previously thought that their babies were too young to benefit from reading or singing, they did seem to take on board messages about the importance of these activities for their child’s development.

Enhanced social networks Nearly all of the parents enhanced their social networks to some degree, whether that was by forming lasting friendships, establishing a peer network through texting and Facebook or simply having a ‘friendly face’ they could chat to if they bumped into them in the street.

Increased confidence A strong theme to emerge from the research was how conscious the parents were about their age and the extent to which they felt stigmatised and judged by the rest of society. Meeting other young parents was key to improving confidence in this area. Simply knowing that there were others in their situation, and spending time with those who understood what they were going through, helped parents to feel that they were doing ‘fine’.

The evaluation was undertaken by Ipsos MORI Scotland and Centre for Research on Families and Relationships, University of Edinburgh.

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