Thousands of disadvantaged young mothers are to get more support from specially-trained family nurses while bringing up their babies, health officials have announced.
About 5,000 more families will benefit from the extension of a programme to give first time mothers one-to-one support, said health minister Dan Poulter.
The Family Nurse Partnership scheme sees specialist nurses or midwives regularly visit first-time mothers under the age of 20 during their pregnancy and until their baby is two years old.
The nurses help the new mothers, and fathers, to prepare for labour; offer advice on looking after babies and toddlers, and help plan for the future.
Dr Poulter on Wednesday announced that ministers plan to extend the current programme to include 16,000 families by 2015.
He said that he hopes the move will help more vulnerable children get a better start in life.
“Every child should have the opportunity to lead a healthy and fulfilling life,” he said.
“Family nurse partnerships play a major role in supporting children in some of the most disadvantaged circumstances to have the very best start in life.
“Around 11,000 families are already benefiting from personalised support from family nurses, but I am determined that we should go further, and that is why we will expand the programme to support 16,000 families by 2015.”
Belinda Phipps, chief executive of the parent charity NCT, added: “Parents have different needs and it is easy for problems and worries to be missed.
“Having a specially-trained family nurse will give vulnerable families the support they need during the first 1,000 days, giving children the best possible start in life.”
A Department of Health spokesman said nurse recruitment for the expanded programme would be “determined locally”.
Under a new £17.5m contract, responsibility for providing the programme has been transferred outside of government to three organisations – the Tavistock and Portman Foundation Trust, the Impetus Trust and Social Research Unit at Dartington.
This will include responsibility for the education and coaching of family nurses and supervisors.
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