‘HOPE boxes’, containing a soft toy elephant, a baby blanket and notebook, have been delivered by a midwife to local pregnant and postnatal women. The boxes, part of the HOPE (Hold on Pain Eases) Box Project, offer mums-to-be the materials for ‘memory-making and capturing’ activities.
The HOPE Project was developed by Lancaster University and NHS England Safeguarding Team as an intervention to help support women who are separated from their baby close to birth, due to safeguarding concerns.
The project was co-produced with a group of women with ‘lived experience’. Louise Slater, the specialist midwife for substance misuse is employed by East Lancashire Hospital Trust and based at BwD Spark Recovery Collaborative, in Blackburn said: “What is important to know about this project is that women, who had been in similar situations to my clients, have helped to design the resources in the project.
They worked with the development team to inform them what would be best to include. These women talked about the high-level emotion in the separation from their baby as a feeling of grief. It was important to listen to them and help to support other women through this.”
Statistically, pregnant women involved in substance misuse have poor engagement with mainstream services, which can put both mother and baby at risk. Spark Recovery Collaborative work with the knowledge that ‘non-judgmental’ response aiming to provide a service to women who fear exposure of their substance use to the authorities.
One Spark client said: “The way the midwife from the drug team made me feel during both of my pregnancies is hard to put into words.
“I was given valuable information and guidance regarding my baby’s health and wellbeing when I was using drugs whilst pregnant plus extra family support throughout my pregnancy with no discrimination or judgment. They made me feel normal, which is very rarely felt by a pregnant drug user. The midwife always smiled was pleased to see me and made me feel that she genuinely cared about both mine and my baby’s health and wellbeing.”
Claire Illingworth, Area Operations Manager at Delphi, which manages the Spark contract, said: “Louise is an asset to the Spark team and works alongside a recovery practitioner to support the mums, being a great support and advocate of their needs. The work from the HOPE boxes involving clients in the delivery supports our overall vision to empower our clients.”
Following on from the HOPE project, Louise, now delivers training to student midwives, social workers and other relevant teams in health and social care alongside a woman who had taken part in the development of the boxes.