Our Warm Welcome project

Last year, we heard a harrowing story of paramedics delivering a baby by torch light and using emergency blankets to warm both mother and baby because there was no money to top up the electricity meter – even without these rare circumstances – there is a suggested association between cold environmental temperatures and the incidence of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) four days later, in children younger than 12 months old. It was there that NEA created a partnership with national charity, Baby Lifeline to support new and expectant mothers alongside giving healthcare professions the skills that they need to recognise these vulnerabilities; and with funding from the Energy Industry Voluntary Redress Scheme – our project, a Warm Welcome was born.

The Channel 4 Dispatches programme “Born on the Breadline” provided shocking statistics about desperate families. 105 ‘Baby Banks’ across the UK, are supporting more than 35,000 families with baby essentials such as clothes, nappies, bottles and cots.  Referrals are through social services and demand has increased 500% in the last 5 years.

Case studies included families rationing nappies, a family of five with only £10 per week for food and a mum who slept on the floor with a new born baby sleeping on the sofa.  One in every hundred families are turning to baby banks to provide basics for their children.  It was clear that these families were in desperate need of support and that’s where we came in.

Our project is being piloted in the North East of England in order to provide a warm and safe home for a new born baby to begin their life.  NEA is providing energy advice and support to families to manage their energy bills, keep warm and keep the lights on, advice about support available and what to do in fuel debt. Partnering with Baby Lifeline allowed us to work with health professionals, including midwives, early years practitioners and health visitors, to raise awareness of the impacts of living in a cold home for young children and develop a referral route for new mothers to access assistance through the project. Over the course of the project, we’ve seen 127 parents via community based sessions with 2 sessions left to deliver.

As part of the project, we also provided emergency funding grants for households to top up energy meters, to keep the lights and heating on; or to purchase warm clothes for their children. This lifeline was invaluable for many who were part of the project.

One expectant mother we met was 16 weeks pregnant and has a history of miscarriage. Her and her partner are on Universal Credit but her partner has limited capability for work and is on the sick for 2 years, the mother also was waiting to be accessed for limited capability for work as well. They owe money to friends and family and must pay back money as soon as they are paid by Universal Credit. They have relied on foodbanks recently due to their lack of money, the foodbank have provided some tinned goods but they are unable to consume some of this as they need to heat up the food. They have applied to their local council for crisis support with emergency gas and electricity but have been told they are not eligible. They have also already had one lot of emergency credit from their supplier were unable to get another until this one has been paid back.

Another essential aspect of the project was providing training for frontline workers working with new and expectant mothers, so they understand the plight of fuel poor families, can provide basic energy advice and know where to refer them for support. Across the training sessions, we’ve trained 58 frontline workers equipping them with vital skills to be able to support new families.

One participants said that the training was “a very valuable session which was interesting and relevant to every day work with families. The session has increased my awareness of the impact of fuel poverty as a wider determinant of health”.

The trial is ending soon – but we’re keen to speak to partners who may wish to work with us on a similar project in the future. If you’re interested, please contact Jen Carruthers Jones at jcj@nea.org.uk or call 0191 269 2921.

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