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New relationship support offered to expectant parents

By Lauren Gasser, 26 March 2015 Behaviour change, Communication, Early intervention, Fathers, Health, Legal, New baby, New parents, Pregnancy, Strengthening relationships, Stress, Transitions

Couples expecting a baby are to be given professional coaching on how becoming parents may change their relationship, as a part of a new support pilot announced today.

Midwives and health visitors will be given training from charity OnePlusOne on how to include relationship education into their existing antenatal and postnatal care programmes in eight areas of the country.

As part of the new perinatal project, health workers will prepare people for the impact that having a baby will have on their relationship, offer advice on dealing with conflict and tell couples about further specialist support services in their area.

The perinatal pilots are part of an £8 million cash injection for the new financial year, benefiting a total of eight separate relationship support projects around the country.

DWP Minister Steve Webb said:

“Becoming a parent is unquestionably one of the most rewarding things anyone can do, but it also exposes parents to a unique set of pressures which, unless properly managed, can test the strongest of relationships.

“By providing this support at an early stage of parenthood, people will understand how and why their relationship has changed, giving them a far better chance of resolving their differences.”

OnePlusOne director Penny Mansfield CBE said:

“OnePlusOne has demonstrated the value of training health practitioners to support couple relationships, utilising their expertise and valuable time with new parents during the often challenging period after having a baby through extensive research over the past 20 years.

“In this pilot we are delighted to be working together with our partners – IHV, NSPCC, and NCT – to make the most of the opportunities available during antenatal and postnatal contact.

“With the right knowledge and skills these key frontline practitioners can prepare mothers and fathers for the changes that parenthood brings, offer practical help in managing changes to their relationship and signpost to help at an early stage if that’s what’s needed.”

The new perinatal pilot is being delivered by relationship support charity OnePlusOne and is one of the measures that have come out of the cross government Family Stability Review.

This revealed that becoming a parent is one of the most high risk periods for causing stress between couples, which can lead to separation.

Research shows that by providing support in both the lead up to the birth of a child and in the weeks that follow, relationships stand a better chance of surviving.


  • Around £30 million has been invested in relationship support since 2011 helping 160,000 people to access preventative relationship support and 48,000 couples to participate in relationship counselling.
  • In addition, 12,000 practitioners have been trained to help families experiencing difficulties.
  • Earlier this month an extra £2.5 million was announced to continue funding 16 Innovation Fund projects designed to help separated parents work together for the interests of their children.
  • Relationship Support and Innovation Fund both work alongside the new Child Maintenance Service (CMS).
  • The CMS was introduced in 2012 as a replacement for the Child Support Agency, which is being wound down.

Perinatal pilots: provided by OnePlusOne

Delivering training to midwives and health visitors on how to include relationship education in perinatal provision delivered in eight areas of the country.  This will raise awareness among parents of the changes that may lie ahead and help to equip them with the skills needed to overcome them.

It will be complemented with relationship information on ante and postnatal literature, plus online and peer group support. Learning will be used to shape future services.

Statistics on the proportion of joint birth registrations at separate addresses along with numbers of lone parents were used to help decide where to run the pilots.  They will be taking place in a mixture of urban and rural areas across England.

The projects will be held in:

Croydon Health Services NHS Trust
Derby Hospitals NHS Trust
Suffolk County Council and Ipswich Hospital NHS Trust
Leicestershire Partnership Trust
Nottingham City Care
South Tyneside Foundation Trust
St Helens and Knowsley NHS Trust
Sunderland Royal Hospital

The Universal Preventative Support: Marriage Care

Through the Universal Preventative Support service access to relationship education is provided at key transition points in the lives of couples such as moving in together, getting married and becoming first-time parents.

Targeted Preventative Support: Tavistock Centre for Couple Relationships

The Targeted Preventative Support programme includes evidence based preventative intervention which works with vulnerable parental couples, who are likely to face relationship stress or be at risk of relationship breakdown and estrangement, to help improve both their parenting and relationship skills.

Culture Change: OnePlusOne

A series of campaigns and culture change messages aimed at employers, new parents, young people and vulnerable groups delivered to raise awareness about the importance of healthy relationships and normalise help seeking.

Support for Couples Experiencing Difficulties: Relate

Support for couples experiencing difficulties via counselling through different mediums and organisations, including online, telephony and face to face support and for LGBT couples, those from ethnic minorities and those who have a child with a disability.

Training Local Children’s & Families Workforce: Tavistock Centre for Couple Relationships

Developing national guidance and training for Health Visitors on how to spot the signs of relationship distress and respond accordingly, to help support parents during the transition to parenthood.

Developing Expert Practitioners: Tavistock Centre for Couple Relationships

Delivering training and continuing professional development to support specialists.

Policy and Infrastructure Development: Relate

Providing government with sector expertise and co-ordinating the pre and post separation relationship support sectors.



Your comments

There is 1 comment

Carrie Anne Gledhill

Posted 08 May 2015

I think this is soley innovative.
It is such a shame it is not offered more locally as i feel this would be an ideal support mechanism for myself and ex-partner, and perhaps this tool could have helped us to avoid the traumatic experiences we face in court.
Educating and supporting through pregnancy to early years can certainly benefit many other aspects of parenting and therefore reflect upon the health and well-being in society.

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