3 WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF THE YOU FIRST PILOT PROGRAMME FOR PARENTS AND FAMILIES?
3.1 All parents who took part in the qualitative research, and who had completed the You First programme, had benefited in some way from attending it. However, the ways in which they had benefited and the extent to which they had benefited varied. To illustrate the different ways in which parents experienced benefits, the chapter begins by providing case studies of parents' experiences (details have been changed slightly to protect parents' anonymity). The remainder of the chapter begins by discussing the benefits parents hoped they would get from attending the programme. It then moves on to consider the extent to which each of the potential benefits of the programme, identified at the outset of the evaluation, was realised15. The benefits are discussed in order of their importance to parents. The chapter ends by considering whether the programme had any wider benefits beyond the You First participants.
Caroline: significant benefits across a range of areas
Caroline was 19 when she went to You First and her baby was 3 months old. She was unemployed and lived with her partner and their baby. She described herself as a quiet person and did not have any friends with babies who lived nearby. You First improved her confidence in many ways. She previously spent a lot of time at home with her baby, but You First had given her the confidence to go out more and do things, for example visiting family and friends. She also felt more confident in her ability as a mother and reported being less stressed than before. The programme also made her feel more confident in a group environment and she has since started going to a local mother and baby group with a friend she met at You First. She learnt about the importance of reading to her baby and passed this on to her partner. Both of them now read to their baby. She has started to put money in a savings account and is using a shopping list as a way to avoid buying unnecessary items, a tip she learnt at You First. She is also now considering going to college as a result of the encouragement provided by the facilitators at You First.
Eilidh: a few specific benefits
Eilidh was 21 when she went to You First and her baby was two months old. She was on maternity leave and lived alone with her baby. While she still saw friends, she had no friends with babies. She felt she was a fairly confident person and had already started to engage with her baby using activities such as singing. However, she found it useful to learn more about the types of things she could do with her baby, for example, she would not have thought to take her baby to the park at such a young age. Although, in some ways, she appeared to be engaging well with her baby, the programme had not successfully communicated the message that you don't need a lot of toys in order to do so; she felt that there should have been more toys at You First as it was sometimes hard to keep the babies occupied. As Eilidh's baby was quite young when she started You First, she found the advice about routines very helpful and felt that her baby slept better as a result. Eilidh also made friends at the group and has been seeing one of them regularly since finishing You First three weeks ago.
Gail: a few specific benefits
Gail was 17 when she went to You First and her baby was 6 months old. She was unemployed and lived with her parents and her baby. She was supported by her family but did not have other friends with babies. She described herself as a quiet person. She felt that both her self-confidence in general and her confidence as a mum had increased as a result of attending You First. However, she had not engaged with any other services since finishing You First as she was too nervous to go to a group where she wouldn't know anyone. You First made her more aware of the influence she has on her baby's development and she had started reading and singing with him, something she would not have thought to do at this age, had it not been for You First.
Jenny: enjoyed it but little obvious benefit
Jenny was 20 when she went to You First and her baby was 10 months old. She was unemployed and lived with her partner and their baby. She spends a lot of time with her family. She went to You First to learn things about how to look after her baby and felt that she did learn a lot. In particular, she enjoyed learning about first aid and home safety. However, she had not enjoyed the parent and baby sessions at You First and the programme had not been successful in helping to her to understand the importance of engaging with her baby. She did not think she would stay in touch with others in the group, had no plans to go to other groups and no immediate plans to continue learning or look for employment.
Expected benefits of You First
3.2 Overwhelmingly, the main reason parents gave for deciding to attend You First was having the opportunity to meet other parents of their own age who lived locally. Many of them did not previously know other parents in the area. The fact that all of them would be a similar age was very important. Parents wanted to meet others in the same situation as themselves and some reported having negative experiences, or negative perceptions, of attending groups with older parents as they felt that they were judged or 'looked down on'.
3.3 Parents also frequently said that they felt their babies would benefit from having the opportunity to interact with other babies. They thought that it would be important for their development, for example, that their babies would learn to crawl or walk as a result of seeing other babies doing so.
3.4 Less commonly, the following were mentioned as benefits parents hoped to experience from attending the programme:
- having the chance to learn things about being a parent
- having the opportunity to get used to leaving their baby with someone else (in the crèche)
- increased confidence (this was specific to one parent who reported that she had been feeling 'down in the dumps' and whose health visitor suggested it might help to increase her confidence).
Parents' social networks and relationships
Meeting other mums of the same age was the main benefit reported by parents:
- some reported having made lasting friendships
- others felt it was more likely that they would remain in contact via Facebook or would stop to chat if they bumped into each other
- there was the potential for friendships to have been formed at all groups - whether or not they had seemed to be linked to personalities within the group
3.5 In line with what parents hoped to get from attending You First, meeting other mums of the same age was the main benefit reported by parents. In the main, parents hoped to keep in touch with some of the others they had met at You First. Some parents felt that they had made lasting friendships and would continue to meet up while others thought it was more likely that they would keep in touch via Facebook or would stop to talk if they bumped into each other. It did not seem likely that whole groups of parents who had attended a programme together would continue to meet as a group. Regardless of the extent to which they had formed friendships, parents enjoyed having had the opportunity to meet other mums of the same age and felt that this had made them more confident about meeting new people.
3.6 Given that most of the interviews took place shortly after the programmes had ended, it is not possible to say whether or not the parents will stay in touch. However, the three follow-up interviews conducted around five months after the programmes had finished provided some evidence; two parents were still meeting up with three others from their groups, while one was not in contact with others but would stop to speak to them if she saw them. These findings are in line with what the parents thought would happen when they were first interviewed, shortly after the programme had finished.
3.7 Whether or not friendships had been formed seemed to be simply a result of the personalities within each group. Thus, while not all parents had benefitted in this way, there was certainly the potential for this to have happened at each programme.
3.8 There were also a couple of instances of You First having increased parents' confidence in other relationships. One parent reported getting advice on how to deal with problems she was having with her ex-partner while another felt able to speak up to a family member about the importance of her baby's routine.
Parents' mental wellbeing
The programme had a very positive impact on parents' confidence:
- almost all parents reported feeling more confident
- this included both general self-confidence and confidence in relation to specific aspects of their lives.
3.9 Overwhelmingly, parents reported feeling more confident after having attended You First. In part, this was due to feeling a sense of reassurance that there were other parents in the same situation and that they, themselves, were doing 'fine'. This was very important to parents as they perceived that they were often stigmatised for being a young parent. Some felt more confident in themselves generally while others mentioned feeling more confident in relation to specific aspects of their lives, including:
- confidence as a mother
- confidence about meeting other people
- confidence (and motivation) to leave the house with their babies and go out and do things
- confidence to talk in a group situation
- confidence to speak up for themselves and not to 'let people walk all over them'
- confidence in relation to their baby going on to nursery or playgroup as a result of having used the crèche at You First.
3.10 For some parents, confidence had increased in some ways but not others. For example, one parent reported feeling more confident generally but not as a mum; she was still worried that people judge her for being a young parent. Additionally, and as discussed in more detail below, many parents still lacked the confidence to attend other parenting groups where they would not know anyone else.
3.11 Health visitors also noticed improved confidence in parents who had attended the programme. They noted that they seemed less anxious, and did not ask for as much support as they would have expected.
3.12 In terms of other aspects of mental wellbeing, there were reports of parents feeling happier as a result of having made friends at the programme and feeling less stressed as a result of the advice received from other parents and the facilitators, as well as the reassurance that other people had experienced similar problems.
Parents' knowledge of child development
This was an aspect of the programme in which there were widespread benefits:
- parents learned about the type of activities that are important for a baby's development and the extent to which they, as parents, influence their babies' development.
- most parents had taken these messages on board. In a few cases, however, the programme had failed to get across to parents the importance of the interaction between them and their baby.
3.13 You First addressed the importance of interacting with babies from an early age and emphasised the influence that parents have on their baby's development. This was done through a session on baby brain development and a continued focus, in the parent and baby sessions, on activities which would aid the babies' development, including singing, reading, going to the park and the use of toys which were suitable for the baby's age (these sessions are discussed more fully in Chapter 4).
3.14 On the whole, parents reported having learnt things about child development while at You First. The messages which resonated varied from parent to parent. For some, the idea of reading or singing to a young baby was new; they had not previously considered doing this as they felt that their baby would be too young to understand. You First, and in particular a session delivered by the Scottish Book Trust, was cited by parents as being helpful in explaining why it is important to do so:
You think that, 'is she too young for a book or is she going to understand what I'm saying or anything like that?' But then, like the Book Trust, they kind of went over it, explained it - it's not all about you reading a story to them, it's like you're pointing out pictures and like the sounds and stuff like that and, [if you] kept reading the book, then they're going to recognise it and it made more sense when they went over it. But, somebody saying to me, 'oh, read a book to her', I would be like, 'oh, she is still really young and she wouldn't understand'. (Parent)
3.15 Similarly, parents initially tended to have been dismissive of the idea of taking their baby to the park on the grounds that they would be too young for any of the equipment. Having done so at You First, some parents could see that this was not the case and that their babies had enjoyed it.
3.16 The influence that parents have on their baby's development had struck a chord with other parents. They remembered analogies used at You First, such as 'a baby's brain is like a hard drive which you have to build up'. One parent recalled being told that her baby would smile because she smiles at him and sees evidence of that as he 'copies everything we do'.
3.17 The role of toys in a baby's development had been taken on board by some parents who reported having learnt about the benefits of different toys and, as a result, being more knowledgeable about which ones would be suitable at different ages.
3.18 However, the programme had not managed to fully get across to all participants the importance of the interaction between parent and baby. This is illustrated by comments made by parents that the parent and baby sessions at You First were not enjoyable as the babies were too young for activities such as sitting in a circle reading and singing and that there were not enough toys provided for the babies to play with. In addition, after having gone to the park at You First, some parents did not see any value in this.
Enhanced parent-child relationships
This was a key benefit of the programme for many parents:
- several parents reported engaging in activities such as reading, singing, swimming and going to the park with their babies that they would not have done prior to attending You First
- there were, however, a few parents who did not appear to have changed the way in which they interacted with their babies. For these parents, You First had not succeeded in getting across the importance of these types of activities.
3.19 As discussed above, prior to attending You First, parents were often unaware of the importance of engaging in activities such as reading and singing with their baby from an early age. The extent to which parents implemented what they had learnt at You First in relation to child development varied. At one end of the scale, there were cases of parents who had started to do things with their baby that they would not otherwise have considered doing. You First had helped to equip them with both the knowledge and confidence to do these things. One parent, for example, who seemed to have really grasped the importance of reading, had also passed this on to her partner and reported that he was also now reading to their baby. Although some parents did not feel comfortable singing with their baby in front of others at You First, they did report having done so when alone with their baby at home. For parents who said that they had already been doing some reading and singing, You First helped to reinforce the message that this was a positive thing to do. They reported doing it more often as a result and getting more ideas, for example, different songs to try. Parents discussed the fact that, had they not attended You First, they would have tended to spend more time at home with their baby as they would not have had the confidence to go out with them to, say, the park, swimming or to meet other mums and babies for lunch.
3.20 While parents generally reported having always played with their baby, there were reports of them doing so more often, and enjoying it more, as a result of learning at You First what toys were suitable for their baby at different ages and the type of toys they enjoyed playing with. Some parents had bought toys used at You First to play with at home.
3.21 One parent discussed how the way in which she interacted with her baby more generally had changed as a result of the advice given at You First to turn everyday tasks into an opportunity to interact with her baby. For example, involving her baby in housework and talking to her about what they were going to buy at the shops.
3.22 Less commonly, there were parents who did not report having changed the way in which they interacted with their baby. In the main, this appeared to be because the programme had not succeeded in getting across the importance of doing so rather than because they were already interacting well with their child.
3.23 Ensuring that parents sustain the positive behaviours they have established at You First is a challenge for the programme. One parent reported that, since the programme finished, she had let things slip slightly and was not reading to her baby as often as she did while at You First.
I've went off it a bit, hopefully trying to get back on to it because it was fun, but I do… like she has got her wee books and stuff which I read during the day, just like now and again, but I've went off it a wee bit from when I was at the group, I used to do it nearly every day. (Parent)
Awareness of and access to sources of support and advice, learning opportunities and careers advice
You First has increased parents' awareness of the supports available to them locally. However, the extent to which parents have accessed these supports has varied:
- a small number of parents were attending other mother and baby groups and making use of services to help them back into work
- several parents, however, had not engaged with other services, with the main reason being a lack of confidence
- further consideration should be given to finding the most appropriate way to support parents after the programme ends.
3.24 As discussed in more detail in Chapter 9, the You First facilitators established links with local services. Representatives of these services were invited to come along to a You First session to talk about the service they provide. These services tended to be either other groups that parents could attend with their babies, e.g. Rhymetime (a library based group involving singing songs and nursery rhymes) or services that can help parents into work or further learning.
3.25 It was clear that parents' awareness of the services that are available in their local area has increased. The extent to which parents had accessed these services, however, varied. There were positive stories of parents who had gone on to attend other things including a community learning course, Jo Jingles (a music, singing and movement based group for parents and babies) and a mother and baby group and those who had used Working for Families (a Midlothian service aimed at helping parents overcome barriers to training or employment) to help them back into work. In addition, parents who were not yet sure whether they would like to work or further their education were confident that they would access the services available should they need to.
3.26 Other parents talked about the fact that they wanted to attend other groups after You First had finished and, in particular, groups specifically for young parents; ideally they would have liked You First to have continued for longer. The facilitators worked with local service providers to try to make arrangements for them to attend other groups, either through identifying existing groups that they could attend or by trying to set up new groups, specifically for young parents, which would be organised by local service providers and designed around the wants of the parents. However, the groups that were discussed were often unsuccessful in engaging the You First participants. There were reports from parents that such groups:
did not sound appealing (for example, a service provider who came in to talk about her group said that only two people were currently going and parents felt she was not enthusiastic about it);
did not go ahead or did not continue due to a lack of people attending; or
were not what parents had hoped for (for example, parents who did go to one group reported that they wouldn't keep going unless it changed as they hadn't actually done anything at the sessions, they 'just sat and blethered').
3.27 The facilitators also encouraged parents to go to established groups, such as Rhymetime, which are for parents of all ages. It was common for parents to say that they had been 'meaning to go' to such groups 'but hadn't got round to it'. On further probing, it appeared that they were lacking in confidence to go to a group where they would be the newcomer and where they would not know anyone else:
it's all part of being the newcomer… but it's all about confidence, like my confidence, like I don't know if I would go into something brand new again, being the new person. (Parent)
3.28 The fact that there would be older parents at these groups made it particularly daunting. Parents would be more confident about going if someone else they knew would go with them. However, this was made more difficult by the fact that parents who worked tended to have gone back to work around the time that You First finished and were, therefore, unable to attend. Although none of the parents alluded to this, the fact that these groups tend to be focused on singing and reading with babies, and the fact that parents felt embarrassed doing this in front of others while at You First, may also have put them off attending.
3.29 The issue is not, then, that parents are not interested in some form of continued support. Rather, it is about finding the most appropriate way to support them after the programme ends. During the pilot, there were mechanisms in place to try to ensure that the programme did not end too abruptly and to encourage parents' continued engagement with other services. Following the final group session, facilitators visited each parent at home. As part of this, they spent time talking to the parents on an individual basis about the progress they had made during the programme and used this to stimulate discussions about what parents' were planning to do next. A programme reunion was then held around 4 months after the programme had finished. This involved the facilitators and the parents and their babies meeting up for lunch and chatting about how things had gone since they finished You First. This was the last formal contact facilitators had with the parents, although they did tell parents that they could contact them should they ever need to. A small number of parents had done so to find out further information about groups they were interested in attending. As described above, the facilitators had also established links with local service providers and had invited them to You First to talk to the group about what they could offer them.
3.30 Despite having the above procedures in place, the You First facilitators and management acknowledged that the transition period at the end of the programme is an area in which there is scope for improvement. At the same time, however, they felt that it was difficult to find the appropriate level of support. They noted that they had to be careful not to over-support the parents, partly as they are not based in the local area on a permanent basis and partly because they are not looking to build a dependency; they are aiming to give parents both the awareness and the confidence to use available local services. This tension is illustrated by the following quote from a You First staff member:
Actually, I think you've got to be quite careful because we are not there to build up dependency, we're there, this is how long we're here for, we can help you get yourself sorted, but there are other supports to take advantage of. If we were to stay in contact, over contact, then, actually, we're getting in the way of what can be done locally, which is kind of the opposite of what we're trying to do, but it's a really difficult line to balance. (You First staff)
3.31 That a lack of confidence to attend other groups was a barrier to continued engagement was acknowledged by a member of the You First management staff. She discussed the fact that You First is a very supportive programme in terms of encouraging parents to attend each week (for example, the facilitators phoned parents before each session to check that they were able to make it). She discussed the need to consider how they build up parents' confidence to attend other groups that may not offer the same level of support and encouragement. She suggested that there may need to be more of a transition period built in to the programme in order to increase parents' confidence. One of the options being considered was a mentoring system whereby a parent who had been to a previous You First group, and had gone on to engage with other services in the area, would be a volunteer or mentor at subsequent groups in their area. They would talk to parents about the groups they had been to and would offer to go along with them to things they were interested in. Although not mentioned by You First staff, this would not necessarily need to be a parent who had previously attended You First. It would, however, need to be a parent of a similar age to the You First parents, in order that they could relate to them.
Practical childcare skills
This was not one of the main benefits of the programme reported by parents:
- parents did not tend to report having had any particular difficulties caring for their child prior to attending You First
- first aid and home safety were the two areas in which parents reported having learnt new things
- a few parents also reported benefits in relation to their baby's routine and managing their baby's behaviour.
3.32 Parents covered a range of topics related to the practical care of their baby at You First, including: routines, weaning, first aid, home safety and behaviour management.
3.33 In the main, parents did not report having experienced difficulties in the practical care of their baby prior to attending You First. In relation to night time routines, it was common for parents, particularly those whose babies were at the older end of the age range, to report that their baby had always slept well or that they had already established a suitable routine. However, there were those, particularly parents whose babies were younger, who reported that their baby was now in a better night time routine as a result of what they had learnt at You First. They valued both the advice provided by facilitators and the experience of the other parents. For one parent, the benefits also extended to day time routines; prior to attending You First, she had not had set meal times or bath times for her baby and had found implementing these helpful. One parent, however, had not managed to overcome the difficulties she was having with her baby's sleeping. Her baby would not sleep unless in the bed with her and she had concerns that her neighbours would contact social workers if she left her baby crying in her cot. She acknowledged that, despite the advice, support and reassurance she received at You First, she had been unable to resolve this issue.
3.34 Discussions about weaning and healthy eating for babies were woven into various parts of the You First programme. This included formal sessions, such as talks from local infant feeding advisors and facilitator led sessions on healthy eating and cooking on a budget, as well as use of the lunchtimes as an opportunity to promote and discuss healthy eating. Facilitators acknowledged, however, that this was an area in which a great deal of sensitivity was required and one in which limited progress had been made. While there were parents who discussed having found the advice about weaning helpful and having learnt useful tips and ideas about the types of things they could feed their baby, there was evidence that many parents were still choosing to feed their babies foods which are generally considered inappropriate, for example crisps, chocolate and sausage rolls and, as observed by the facilitators, often used these foods in an effort to stop their babies crying.
3.35 Parents found the opportunity to learn about baby first aid and home safety useful and reported learning things that they did not already know, and which they felt might prove to be very important in future. For example, what to do if their baby bumped their head or was choking on food and to use covers for their plug sockets.
3.36 You First also gave parents advice about managing their babies' behaviour. Some parents reported having implemented these strategies and having found them helpful. The following quote from a parent is an example of a strategy she had learnt at You first and used at home:
If I walked out the room or I went to get something, if my attention wasn't round her, she would go 'off the handle'. They [You First facilitators] were like 'put her in the playpen and come down to her level and tell her you're going to do this and even interact with her, speak to her while you're doing that and always come in and check up on her but also, as well, let her know that she has to sit and play with her toys for half an hour and that's your time' (Parent)
This was not one of the elements of the programme in which there had been significant benefits:
- there had not been a fundamental shift in approaches to budgeting
- a few parents had taken on board money saving tips, such as buying in bulk and using a shopping list, and a few others had started to save money.
3.37 The financial incentive provided at You First was used as a tool to encourage saving. Parents had the option of receiving £20 each week or deferring payment in order to receive a lump sum at a later date. They were encouraged to save all of the money until the end of the programme. Of the 42 parents who completed a programme which offered the financial incentive, 28 deferred payment until the end of the programme and often used it for something specific such as buying birthday or Christmas presents for their baby or buying clothes for returning to work. The You First management saw this as a very positive outcome in terms of improving parents' financial capabilities as they reported that it was the first experience of saving money that many of the parents had had. In contrast, one parent who had instead chosen to receive £20 every week said that she had spent it on 'rubbish that I didn't even need'. She felt that it would have been better for her if they had not been given the option of receiving the money weekly.
3.38 In addition to discussion around the financial incentive, there were more general budgeting discussions in the form of sessions delivered by facilitators (discussed in more detail in Chapter 4). There were parents who did not feel that they had taken anything from the budgeting sessions. They tended to say that they were not good with money and felt that this would always be a weakness. There were also comments that budgeting was not something that could be taught or that should be discussed in front of others.
3.39 As part of the budgeting sessions, parents created a personal budget of their incomings and outgoings over the course of a week. While none of the parents who took part in the qualitative research had created a budget and stuck to it, there were some who had taken on board money saving tips from the budgeting sessions such as buying in bulk, making a shopping list and not buying 'treats' for themselves or their babies every time they were in a shop. Parents also reported having found the session on 'meals on a budget' useful and some had tried making the meals at home. One parent had also started to put money in a savings account while another was working out what she needed to spend each week and was saving the rest to buy something at the end of the month.
Future planning capabilities for medium and long term goals
This was not one of the main benefits of the programme, although it was more useful for some parents than others:
- some felt encouraged by the discussions about what they could do in the future
- others did not see the benefit in thinking about what they would like to do over the coming years.
3.40 You First tried to encourage parents to think about their futures. As well as a group session on this topic, facilitators worked with parents individually at the home visits at the end of the programme to create an 'action plan' for their future (discussed in more detail in Chapter 4). In particular, the facilitators emphasised to parents that having a baby did not mean that they could not work or undertake further learning.
3.41 As with the other benefits discussed in this chapter, parents varied in the extent to which they found this element of the programme useful. On the one hand, there were parents who had found it very helpful to have these discussions and seemed to have gained encouragement, both from the facilitators and other parents who were going back to work, that they would be able to have a career.
… [the facilitators] were telling us that you can go to college and do all this. Because if it wasn't for the fact of somebody telling you, you could go to college or that, I don't think any of us would have thought of it, but they have drummed it into to our heads that we can go to college and we can do other things ...In fact, if it wasn't for going to You First, I wouldn't have thought about college or anything like that. (Parent)
3.42 On the other hand, there were parents who did not see the point in discussing where they would like to be in, say, five years and who were either unable to recall what was in their 'action plan' or were not confident that they would stick to it.
The SCQF qualification and the impact of You First on parents' views about taking further qualifications/continuing their learning
Parents did not view the SCQF qualification as a key benefit of the programme and parents' views about undertaking further qualifications had not changed greatly as a result of You First:
- some parents had enjoyed doing the qualification and were pleased to have achieved something.
- others had a more neutral view of it and some were negative towards it and had not enjoyed it
- one parent was considering going to college instead of returning to work as a result of the encouragement given by the facilitators.
3.43 Professionals who took part in the research saw the fact that parents can receive a SCQF qualification as part of the programme as very positive, particularly as they acknowledged that many of the parents will not have had a positive learning experience at school. Parents, however, did not feel that the qualification was one of the main benefits they gained from You First. Their views on the qualification tended to fall into one of three categories:
- Positive - there were parents to whom the qualification appealed, who enjoyed doing it and who felt that it was good to have achieved something
- Neutral - these parents didn't mind doing the qualification but were not particularly enthusiastic about it. For one parent, this was because she already had a career and could not see how it would benefit her. There was often a lack of awareness among these parents that they were actually working towards a qualification until late on in the programme
- Negative - some parents had not enjoyed the qualification due to the amount of paperwork it involved. Some also felt it was badly organised.
3.44 The You First facilitators were aware of some of the negative views around the delivery of the qualification and were looking at ways to address this in the future (discussed further in Chapter 5).
3.45 However, with one exception, the negative experiences of the qualification reported by some parents had not been detrimental more generally; they had not been put off undertaking further qualifications or continuing their learning as a result. For those who said that they were not interested in continuing learning, this was more likely to be because they already had a career.
3.46 Other parents had already been considering going to college prior to attending the programme and, in some cases, You First had made them more definite in their plans. One parent had previously thought that she would go back to work but the encouragement given by the facilitators had made her consider going to college instead.
Personal health and risk factors
There was little evidence of benefits to parents in relation to personal health factors:
- there were a few reports of parents cooking more often, instead of having takeaways. However, this seemed to be, at least in part, driven by financial reasons.
3.47 There was no evidence of parents who attended You First having issues related to drinking or drug use. While many of the parents smoked, there were no reports of them having cut down or stopped as a result of attending You First. Facilitators did emphasise the importance of not smoking in close proximity to the babies and would push the baby's buggy if a parent wished to smoke while on a You First outing. However, we cannot say whether parents had implemented this outside of the programme.
3.48 Parents could choose to cover smoking cessation at You First. The programme employs a person-centred approach (see Chapter 5) which means that, among other things, parents get to select the topics they cover. Insufficient numbers of parents chose to cover smoking cessation so the session did not run in any of the programmes. However, advice and information about how to get further support was provided to the individuals who were interested in covering this topic.
3.49 As discussed above in relation to weaning, You First tried to encourage healthy eating among both the parents and their babies. There were some reports of parents cooking more, rather than having takeaways, as a result of the cooking sessions and the recipes provided at You First. However, this appeared to be driven, at least in part, by the financial savings that the facilitators highlighted. Other parents, however, appeared less interested in learning about healthy eating or in changing their eating habits, as exemplified by requests for less healthy foods to be available at You First lunchtimes and the types of food they gave their babies during the programme.
3.50 There were some examples of the programme having had wider benefits. Firstly, a small number of parents had recommended You First to friends or family who had then gone on to attend the programme. Secondly, there were parents who had passed on bits of advice to friends who had children. This advice included the importance of activities such as reading and singing and more practical tips, such as having the bed at an angle when a baby has a cold. Thirdly, there were parents who reported having talked to family members about what they had learnt at You First. One parent reported having had particular success involving her partner more in their baby's routine and in encouraging him to play with her. She had also been successful in getting other family members to follow her baby's routine.