The Birth and Beyond Community Support programme (BBCS) is a national project to train mothers as volunteers to support other mothers in their community, through pregnancy, birth and early parenthood – allowing them to build networks and access services to enable them to feel more connected and less isolated.
What is the Birth and Beyond Community Support Programme?
The programme aims to provide support to new mums and women from groups and communities who often experience day-to-day challenges and social exclusion.
The objectives of this service are:
- to improve mental wellbeing
- reduce social isolation and loneliness
- improve confidence and self-esteem
- enable clients to benefit from other local services
The programme is an innovative community development peer support service that focuses on engaging and supporting women and families who are vulnerable. The programme combines local community support with our expertise in pregnancy and childbirth, parent support, and volunteer training.
As an organisation, our vision is to build a society where no parent is isolated and all feel supported. In order to meet this objective, the BBCS programme allows us to work with Housing Associations and Community Groups (including PDT and local schools) who have an in-depth knowledge and understanding of their own local areas.
We hope that working in partnership with these organisations will allow us to provide the best possible support for women and children who are the most in need.
Central to the programme is the training of and working with local volunteers to lead the peer to peer support programme, giving other new mums skills supporting others in their community.
"The training drew on skills I already had and made me more aware of the power of listening. I feel more prepared now for my role as a BBCS and look forward to empowering and supporting other mothers in their parenting journey."
To learn more about how to get involved as a volunteer, please see the how do I become a volunteer section.
The programme is made possible by the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and Nesta, a global innovation foundation, as part of their Early Years Social Action Fund.
What is community peer support for mental health?
Peer to peer support means that our volunteers, who are also mums, are trained to support mothers and their babies both one-to-one and in groups settings such as children’s centres, community groups and cafes. They support families at any time between pregnancy and up to the child’s second birthday.
Volunteers will offer a listening role as well as signpost to services and organisations that may be helpful to the woman’s individual circumstances. We find that this really helps connect mothers with their local communities.
Why is community support important?
We believe that that the Birth and Beyond Community Support programme helps us to connect with our vision of a world where no parent is isolated and all parents are supported to build a stronger society. Working with partners such as Housing Associations and Community Groups (including PDT and local schools) who have an in-depth knowledge and understanding of the population that we currently don’t serve is key to achieving that goal. Working in partnership in this way enables the programme to adopt an assets-based and community development approach to improving outcomes for women and children.
Where is the service running?
We are working with five different partners across the five sites:
- Reach Academy Feltham in Feltham, South West London
- Cross keys Homes in Peterborough
- Better Birth in Lincolnshire
As well as assisting us promoting our project within their communities and services, our partners are providing venues for training and meetings and connecting us to other organisations working in the local areas.
How can I access this support service?
Whilst women can self-refer into the service, it can be difficult accessing services when in need, we therefore are working with health professionals across the 5 sites to encourage them to refer the women.
Women living in one of the 5 areas can self-refer into the service or ask their health visitor or midwife to refer them to the project.
Please complete the form if you would like to refer a mother or pregnant woman to NCT’s Birth and Beyond Community Supporters Team.
All referrals go to the Service Delivery Manager. Once they have received the referral, they will make contact with the woman. There will be a short telephone interview where the Service Delivery Manager will explain what the service can offer and ask them what they’d like to get out of the service. If the service is suitable, the woman will then be matched with a volunteer Community Supporter who will arrange to meet them.
This service does not offer home visits. All meetings will take place in public places or at appropriate groups.
If the mother is not suitable for the service, the reasons will be explained to her and the Service Delivery Manager will signpost her to more appropriate support.
How can I become a volunteer in community support?
Key to the success of this service is the local parents who have the passion, skills and commitment to train as Birth and Beyond Community Supporters and volunteer in their local community supporting other parents.
Since completing the NCT Birth and Beyond course, I have been given the opportunity to volunteer at one of our local feeding clinics. This has been so helpful, not only in giving me more confidence in putting everything I have learnt in to practice but also an insight of how useful this programme could be for mums and family’s in our community.
The training is Open College Network (OCN) accredited Level 2 training (5 credits) and will enable the volunteers to:
- Actively listening to the needs of the mother and offering encouragement, support, information and ideas without giving advice
- Providing support to women both one-to-one and in community settings e.g. a local café, baby groups
- Researching local groups and organisations that can offer support and signposting women to them
- Actively participating in data collection as required for evaluation and monitoring purposes
If this sounds like something you’d like to get involved with, please review the role description and submit your application.
What are we looking for?
- Experienced mothers who have a friendly and approachable manner who will try to understand the mother’s situation without judgement
- Empathy and listening skills plus interest in developing these skills in training
- A commitment of at least 2hrs per week to volunteer for a minimum of 12 months
- Someone with the ability to maintain confidentiality and adhering to the boundaries of the role
We recommended attendance to a ‘toe in the water’ session to understand more about the role.
8 weeks of compulsory training (2.5 hrs per week) must be successfully completed prior to the role commencement. Please note, an Enhanced DBS check is required for this role. There will also be regular attendance at monthly team meetings to receive ongoing training and support
Meet one of our volunteers
Lisa Gore tells us about her experience training to be a volunteer for the Birth and Beyond project and how it’s changed her life.
"I’m currently unemployed and have been for a few months now. I’d really had my confidence knocked and it was impacting on me personally. I was in a really bad place and felt quite helpless, so when I heard about the Birth and Beyond project, I wanted to find out more.
I was going to sign up with my neighbour but then she couldn’t because of work, I did um and ah about whether I could still do it on my own but I’m so pleased I carried on. Within 15 minutes of going along to the ‘toe in the water’ session, I knew this was something I wanted in on. It felt comfortable.
I’ve loved every bit of the training, sometimes I’ve surprised myself with how much I knew and sometimes I’ve been shocked at how much I didn’t know! But it’s been really interesting and there’s so much support. There’s loads of support after the training too, we have a Facebook group so we can share our experiences and ask questions with other volunteers. Already my confidence has shot through the roof.
I feel like I have the old me back."