Teen mums have reasons to party

This Is Wiltshire: Sian Jones with daughter Isabella Hawkridge Sian Jones with daughter Isabella Hawkridge

TEENAGERS supported by a first-time-parent guidance programme were celebrating their achievements at the annual Family Nurse Partnership Christmas Party yesterday.

The NHS and council-funded scheme offers help to first-time parents under the age of 18, who either fall pregnant or have a pregnant partner.

The scheme is widely used in the USA and has been run in Swindon for four years from The Meadow, in Leigh Road, Penhill.

Staff visit parents’ homes on a weekly or fortnightly basis, offering advice and guidance on everything from childcare to improving employment opportunities after their child arrives.

Yesterday’s celebration, which took place at the County Ground, thanks to support from the Football In the Community Trust at Swindon Town, welcomed 90 current and former users of the service.

One former user, Rachel Liddiard, 23, of Farriers Close, used the service in 2009, when she was 19 and 10 weeks pregnant. She is now studying for an Early Years degree at New College.

She said: “The support, advice and always having somebody there was invaluable. It was the most basic stuff they told me, but my childcare qualification taught me most things.

“Angela, my contact at FNP, helped me with interviews and came down to my first parent groups with the baby.”

Parents must leave the scheme when their child reaches the age of two.

Rachel said: “I don’t like not having Angela there now, because my child’s nearly three and I still need help with some things.

“Children’s centres can still help, but when you just need to text somebody over the weekend or somebody to turn to, you feel as though you still need that support from the FNP.”

A total of 220 families have been helped by the FNP so far.

Charlotte Paterson, one of the co-ordinators at the FNP, said: “We provide parenting classes, help them with moving to independent living and with relationships and budgeting.

“New parents under the age of 18 are more receptive to changing behaviours, which is why we focus the programme on those age groups.

“These are people who want to make changes in their life. “They are facing many significant events all at one time, with leaving school, beginning first relationships and leaving their own parents’ homes.”

Another parent, Tyler Egleton, 19, of West Swindon, has a child of two and a half and began using the FNP in 2010.

“They helped me get my mind set straight,” she said. “It was a form of family counselling for me in my situation as well as friendly support.

“Tracey, my support worker, helped me through the pregnancy and became like talking to a close friend.

“I would advise all teenage women who are expecting, to get involved and make the most of this service.”

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