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Funding to reduce deaths of babies born to teenagers

A new project to support young parents with babies at risk of sudden infant death is launching thanks to a £308,449 grant from the Big Lottery Fund.

The grant to The Lullaby Trust is one of 101 projects across England this month sharing just under £30 million from The Fund’s flagship Reaching Communities programme which help communities and people most in need.

The Lullaby Trust charity aims to increase its involvement and engagement with 4,800 young parents across Greater London, most of whom will still be in their teens. Although many cases of sudden infant death cannot be explained, studies have shown that babies born to teenage parents in England and Wales are nearly three times likely to die suddenly and unexpectedly (see Notes to Editors). Young parents are less likely to be aware of risk factors such as smoking, a baby’s sleeping position, bed and sofa sharing, overheating and bedding.

Feedback from visitors to the charity’s website ‘Bubbalicious’ website indicate that young parents sometimes feel talked down to by health professionals and so they respond better to advice from other parents. The charity’s new Bubbalicious Ambassadors project will utilise peer mentoring, with parents acting as health ambassadors.

Parents will be trained up to provide ‘safer sleep’ advice and deliver talks across Greater London in venues where parent groups meet. Ongoing training will lead to an accreditation in peer education.

The Lullaby Trust Chief Executive, Francine Bates said: “Tragically, teenage parents are nearly three times more likely to have a baby die suddenly and unexpectedly than those over 20. Smoking in pregnancy puts babies at a very high risk of sudden infant death syndrome and pregnant teenagers are more likely to smoke both before and after delivery. Younger parents also tend to lead more chaotic lives. Many find themselves living in substandard or temporary accommodation which prevents them from making safe sleep arrangements for their children.
 
“We work closely with teenage parents who tell us that they still experience a high level of stigma. This often leaves them feeling judged and isolated and less likely to ask for help or advice. In contrast, they find it much easier to connect with parents of their own age because of shared interests, anxieties and hopes.

“Over the next three years, this grant from The Big Lottery Fund will help us reach nearly 5,000 teenage parents by training and supporting a group of 20 young mothers and fathers who will develop and deliver talks on ‘safer sleep for babies’ to their peers across London.”

Bereaved mum Zoe Hoyte from Edmonton, a volunteer befriender for the Lullaby Trust, said: “It was hard being a young mum and I was only 18 when my beautiful baby girl Karma died. I was completely devastated but I was lucky to have the love and support of a big family who helped me through some very dark times. Many young parents I meet today don’t have any help at all. They put huge amounts of pressure on themselves and are too scared to ask for advice from anyone, let alone a health visitor or GP. This is why Bubbalicious Ambassadors is such a fantastic project, the non-judgemental peer support will boost their confidence and their knowledge of how to sleep their babies safely.”

Nat Sloane, England Chair Big Lottery Fund said: “It is shocking and tragic that teenage parents are nearly three times as likely to have a baby die from sudden infant death. It is vital that we get key advice to struggling young mums and dads when their children are at such a tender age. We hope that this Reaching Communities grant will help dramatically improve the life chances of some of the most vulnerable babies.”

Also receiving funding today is Home-Start Torbay which receives £250,289 to expand its early intervention support for struggling families in disadvantaged areas. The organisation will double its home-visiting service and introduce a system of group support for families with children under five experiencing difficulties with parenting. Home Start Torbay says its project will address a shortfall in the support of practical help available to families in the town who are struggling with issues like geographical or socio-economic isolation, poverty, post-natal illness, mental health issues, disability, substance misuse, bereavement, teenage and lone parenting and multiple births.

This early intervention will prevent such difficulties escalating into crises developing into family breakdown and other consequences which could adversely affect the child’s later development and lead to problems like juvenile crime. The project will recruit more than 50 volunteers and work with 1,200 parents.

A grant of £294,043 has been awarded to Home-Start Crawley, Horsham and Mid-Sussex to help parents and carers meet their children’s needs so they can reach their full potential and have better chances in life. The organisation will recruit and train volunteers to support 100 families struggling due to low incomes, such as those who find themselves in temporary accommodation due to repossession. Volunteering opportunities will also offered to parents who have used the service, helping them to become more active in their communities.

A practical cookery programme for parents and carers of babies has been given a grant of £159,290 to help give the children the best possible nutritional start in life. The Organic Cookery School will operate in low income areas of Hampshire, Surrey and West Sussex, working with around 1,200 parents. The courses will cover weaning and recipes, the changing nutritional needs of the baby, associated costs, how to prepare homemade baby foods for parents on a budget and a toddler nutrition tasters session.

Free packs will be provided which will include seasonal ingredients, budget planners, home activity plans, recipes and weaning essentials such as blenders, bibs, spoons and beakers. The project will also provide volunteer and accredited training. 
 
A full list of Reaching Communities awards made across England this month is available here

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Notes to editors

  • Zoe Hoyte is available for interview. Contact the press office.
  • A total of 244 unexplained infant deaths occurred in England and Wales in 2011, which is a rate of 0.34 deaths per 1,000 live births. The rate for mothers aged under 20 is 0.82 (2.6 times higher).

-       Office of National Statistics, Unexplained Deaths in Infancy: England and Wales, 21 August 2013.

Unexplained infant deaths, by age of mother, 2011

Bar Graph

Source: Office for National Statistics

  • The Big Lottery Fund, the largest distributor of National Lottery good cause funding, is responsible for giving out 40% of the money raised for good causes by the National Lottery.
  • The Fund is committed to bringing real improvements to communities and the lives of people most in need and has been rolling out grants to health, education, environment and charitable causes across the UK. Since its inception in 2004 the Fund has awarded close to £6bn.
  • The Fund was formally established by Parliament on 1 December 2006.
  • Since the National Lottery began in 1994, 28p from every pound spent by the public has gone to good causes. As a result, over £30 billion has now been raised and more than 400,000 grants awarded across arts, sport, heritage, charities, health, education and the environment.

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