4in10 Manager Katherine reflects on the Newham Nurture roundtable event she attended this week

Earlier this week I had the great pleasure of attending an event that showcased and celebrated the work of the Newham Nurture project. Newham Nurture is a community partnership with NCT, Alternatives Trust, The Magpie Project and Compost London. The programme supports women through pregnancy and up to two years after birth from low income, migrant and marginalised backgrounds experiencing financial hardship and disadvantage. It does this by providing drop-in pregnancy sessions, Baby & Me sessions for mums with babies from newborn up to 2 years, peer support and counselling.

A few reflections…

The project shone out as an example of what good partnership working and co-production ought to be, but all too often isn’t. The women from the project steering group, many of whom also deliver its work as volunteers and staff members, spoke eloquently and movingly about their own experiences of struggling to access the support they needed as pregnant and new mothers, about how the partner organisations were a lifeline for them and how passionate they are about making sure that help is now available to other women who so desperately need it. It was also clear from the discussion that there was a high level of mutual respect between the project partners and local statutory services, with a clear acknowledgement that unless services really listen to and act on what women are telling them then they will remain inaccessible to many.

There is a lot for others to learn from the experience of the project. While Newham’s challenges may be distinctive, there is no doubt that in many other areas of London there are families who would benefit enormously from the support of a project like Newham Nurture. The experience of having a baby can be a daunting and isolating experience for any woman, and if you add to that experience of loss and trauma, very low income, insecure housing, language barriers and discrimination, then this is magnified many times. The event concluded with a powerful audio recording of women who come to Newham Nurture talking about it and what it meant to them. The message that came over loud and clear was that they valued the project not only for the accessible, practical advice and support it gave them but also a place where they and their children could come, feel welcomed and enjoy the friendship of others who have trod similar paths ahead of them. Compost London are evaluating the work and I look forward to reading and sharing their findings with all the other organisations in the 4in10 network so that they can learn from the excellent work that Newham Nurture has planted, grown and is now blossoming in their community.

While the overwhelming feeling I had on leaving the event was one of hope; gained from witnessing the deep commitment that the women who lead this programme have to supporting one and another and working tirelessly to improve the lives of their young children, it was also tinged with anger. Anger that the choices of our politicians are wreaking such damage on these families’ lives and withholding the resources needed to ensure their children’s rights to food, health and education. With no end to the cost-of-living crisis in sight and further cuts to services on the cards, it is alarming to think that the situation for these families will get worse. Drawing on the hope and belief that change is possible, as the project so clearly demonstrates, we must redouble our effort to challenge these systemic injustices and demand better for children and families.