Home-Start West Somerset offers support, friendship and practical help to families at home with children under seven in the Sedgemoor and West Somerset areas. Many of the families they support have complex and long-term needs. Clare Pound, manager at the charity, told us how - with the help of a grant from the Somerset Coronavirus Appeal - they adapted their antenatal classes for women in West Somerset to an online provision, and how it soon expanded in something much bigger.
“We knew, as soon as lockdown happened in March 2020, that expectant parents would be incredibly vulnerable and that they would - somehow - still need to access antenatal classes, as well as extra help and support in general, in light of the pandemic. Our emergency grant from the Somerset Coronavirus Appeal helped us to immediately adapt and develop our antenatal provision from something that had previously been in the West Somerset area only: our Bump-Start antenatal classes moved online and we extended the offer of support to families across the whole Somerset.
In addition to our antenatal online classes and drop-in Zoom sessions, we also offer follow up one-to-one phone calls, send uplifting and motivational postcards, and we post out various baby resources to expectant parents, such as baby grows, muslin cloths and hand-knitted blankets, some of which are donations from the community and some we buy. It was really important, especially in those early days of the pandemic, that no one felt alone.
We’ve enhanced our digital support by posting regular positive and informative messages on our social media and our website is getting an overhaul. And we’ve collaborated with other organisations, such as CLOWNS and Minehead EYE, so that we can offer more help to more families.
We knew that antenatal provision in Somerset was sparse before the pandemic and of course coronavirus restrictions made this even more difficult. Some families were having to travel over 30 miles to get to their nearest antenatal class. So our online antenatal provision has been enormously appreciated by expectant parents across the county. Since March 2020, through Bump-Start, we have so far supported 76 expectant parents across Somerset.
We’ve received lots of lovely thank you messages from families we’ve supported, including this one:
“We just wanted to say a big thank you for all the baby stuff. Can’t believe it and I cried! All arrived this morning. Such gorgeous and helpful stuff - so kind. Thank you, you both have been amazing.”
NHS Somerset midwifery services acknowledge the current lack of antenatal resources within the NHS, due to staffing pressures and financial constraints, and are working alongside us to deliver this holistic provision. We’ll continue to offer the provision to all expectant parents in Somerset once we’re out of lockdown, and we’ll start doing face-to-face classes when it’s safe and legal to do so. We’re currently organising various venues across Somerset to make sure this can happen.”