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Help for disadvantaged families

Twice as many disadvantaged families and new mums and dads will get help from a programme which provides intensive support and home visits from early pregnancy until a child is two years old, Health Secretary Andrew Lansley today announced.

So far, around 6,000 families in England have benefited from Family Nurse Partnerships. The government is committed to doubling that number by 2015. This follows the government's announcement last week to recruit an additional 4,200 health visitors over the same period to ensure all families receive the support they need.

Family Nurse Partnerships complement and support the work of health visitors, providing the "intensive care" end of prevention for families who need more help to care well for their children and themselves.

Family nurses build close, supportive relationships with families and guide first-time teenage parents so that they adopt healthier lifestyles for themselves and their babies, provide good care for their babies and plan their futures. Dads are also involved in many visits and are enthusiastic about the programme.

The Family Nurse Partnership programme has been tested in England since 2007 and is based on more than 30 years of US research which has shown significant benefits for disadvantaged young families, together with substantial cost savings to the public purse of $5 for every $1 invested.

Andrew Lansley said: "Every child deserves the best start in life. The first years of life have a long lasting impact on a child's future health, relationships and happiness.

"We know that early intervention - as provided by the Family Nurse Partnership programme - can help young parents to look after their children better, and can help break inter-generational patterns of disadvantage. And it can improve the health and wellbeing of the parents themselves - they are reducing smoking during pregnancy, are coping better with pregnancy, labour and parenthood and are improving their confidence and self esteem. The evidence base for expanding this programme is clear.

"That's why I want to see the numbers of families who get this intensive support to double by 2015. This, together with our plans to put 4,200 new health visitors into the workforce, will ensure that more and more young families - particularly those living in disadvantaged areas - get the help they need."

Your comments (terms and conditions apply):

"This is a service which grew out of traditional health visiting and if HV numbers had remained high there would be no need to 'reinvent' this role. HVs are being stuck with more and more child protection and find themselves supporting social work depts rather than doing true health visiting. It is a sad reflection on the service and a further deskilling
of health visitors" - D Budd, Scottish Borders 

"Will the health visitor's job description change? Because I believe health visitors work with the families after the delivery of a baby. I thought this is more of midwife's job, taking up the care of a a pregnant woman is more of midwifery. A health visitor that has a midwifery back ground will be suitable for the role. And I believe not all health visitors have extensive midwifery experience. This role will be suitable with a nurse midwife that has interest in this position. I believe interest matters in any initiative or any recommendation. It is when one shows interest in a job that the work done better/best. Interest/knowledge/skills of professionals will make this work. We should also remember that pregnant women, especially
teenagers, need to go for their antenatal clinic in the hospital because I see this as a form of exercise which I think will help them during labour. I think this initiative will be more useful for at risk pregnant women" - Maryam Omitogun, Surrey