Shoreditch Trust is a Hackney-based charity that offers a variety of programmes to residents to encourage them to lead happier, healthier lives. One of these programmes is Bump Buddies, a service that connects diverse groups of women so they are able to share their skills, knowledge and experiences, and learn from one another through times of change.
The programme’s main focus is helping pregnant women who require some additional support during pregnancy and early parenthood. As well as providing key information and signposting to the free services that are available, the Bump Buddies team runs a mentoring scheme, training volunteers and pairing them with pregnant women to offer support and advice during this period. The mentoring relationship often presents a welcome alternative to the professional bodies involved in preparing for childbirth, allowing the mothers-to-be to relax and be honest about their fears or concerns regarding the pregnancy. This can reveal information that enables the team to ensure that the best care and support is provided, based on individual needs.
The team launched a short film last week that details the work that they do for pregnant women in the community and the different people that it impacts. One of the stories shown in the film is that of Leanne, 31, who was referred to Bump Buddies to gain help with preparing for the arrival of her baby and accessing support with her pregnancy. Leanne was not comfortable engaging with services, and feared that social services would not allow her to keep her baby once he was born. She was paired with a mentor through Bump Buddies, and slowly gained the confidence to talk to professionals and interact with other mothers, building her network and accessing information on pregnancy and early parenting that she was not previously aware of. Her case with social services has since been closed, and her confidence has grown enormously. In terms of speaking to professionals, Leanne says “Two years ago I wouldn’t do that… But now, I can sit there and talk to people”. This ability to express herself and be clear about her needs means that she can now make the most of services that are available to her.
Esimenia, 32, was very depressed when she was put in touch with Bump Buddies. Threatened with homelessness, she was struggling to make sure she had access to all the things she needed to prepare for the birth of her child. Bump Buddies was able to provide her with these necessities, and signpost her to the housing advice she desperately needed. Esimenia says “It was amazing because I didn’t know what to do. Things are getting better thanks to the Bump Buddies”.
The mini-documentary highlights some key issues that are common themes in in the lives of the Bump Buddies’ service-users, such as isolation, housing or immigration issues, and difficulty engaging with professionals. These topics fed into a panel discussion held by Shoreditch Trust to look at ways for services in the voluntary and statutory sectors to work together to provide vital support, links into communities and essential services that can sustain better maternal health and better outcomes for children.
The panel members were: Professor Cathy Warwick CBE, Chief Executive of the Royal College of Midwives; Frances Trevena, Head of Policy and Programmes at the Coram Children’s Legal Centre; Jenny McLeish, Health Services Researcher at the University of Oxford; Emma Yates, Public Health Midwife; and Davinia La Force, a Bump Buddy Mentor.
The discussion brought to light the importance of having people present who are able to give time to vulnerable women, to create a genuine relationship and encourage them to believe in their own abilities. Jenny McLeish noted that building on the strengths that people already have enables them to go on to stand on their own two feet and solve their own problems in the future. Volunteering, with fully trained and guided volunteers, seems to be a great way to achieve this as statutory services do not always have the resources to provide this type of support. Bringing together members from such a variety of services and organisations, from the NHS, to Shelter to legal representatives, really highlighted the importance of making sure these services work together and communicate to utilise the resources available and provide the best care and support to those who need it. Shoreditch Trust’s Bump Buddies team is trying to facilitate this sharing of ideas and resources, to improve the opportunities and services available to all women in Hackney.
This local Bump Buddies programme is a lifeline for many women who don’t know where else to turn, and provides a vital connection to services that are available to pregnant women.
The team is always looking for volunteers to become mentors and help to deliver the programme, and provides all women who contact them for help with information about specialist services they can access.
If you need support, or would like to volunteer, contact Jane on firstname.lastname@example.org ¦ 020 7033 8524.
You can view the Bump Buddies’ film here.