Community Mothers Programme
The Community Mothers Programme was originally developed within the Public Health Nursing Service in the then Eastern Heath Board in the early 1980s. It was adapted from a programme developed in Bristol, UK and offered a volunteer-led home visiting service to families with young children, particularly in communities of disadvantage. The Programme focused on maternal health and wellbeing and infant health and development. The Community Mothers Programme was one of the first Irish family support programmes to undergo a Randomised Control Trial.
Initially the Programme was rolled out across the Eastern Heath Board area (Dublin, Wicklow and Kildare) with 11 service sites developed by the 1990s. In the following years the Programme was adopted in a number of community sites around the country. Currently there are Community Mothers (or equivalent) Programmes in operation in:
Dublin Docklands, Kerry, Laois / Offaly, Longford / Westmeath, Limerick, North Tipperary and South Tipperary.
National Review of the Community Mothers Programme April 2019
This Review was commissioned by the Katharine Howard Foundation and the Community Foundation for Ireland arising from their concerns about the future of the Programme. The Review was conducted in partnership with Tusla and the Health Service Executive as the principal funders and key partners of the Programme sites. The National Review Report was launched in April 2019 by Bernie McNally, Assistant Secretary in the Department of Children and Youth Affairs at a very successful event.
The Report makes a series of recommendations about the strategic development of the Community Mothers Programme, aligned with current service priorities and fully integrated into the continuum of local service delivery.
Community Mother Programme Development Project 2020-2021 leading to the creation of Community Families
In 2019 funding was obtained from the Sláintecare Integration Fund and from a private donor secured by the Early Learning Initiative at the National College of Ireland to carry out a Development Project seeking to implement the recommendations of the National Review. Once more, this Project was carried out in partnership with Tusla and the Health Service Executive.
Susan Brocklesby, the independent consultant who conducted the National Review, was commissioned to manage the Development Project which commenced it work in early 2020. In spite of the Covid-19 pandemic, it was possible for Susan to undertake an intensive schedule of work with the project sites and with a wide range of stakeholders, supported by the Project Oversight Group. In February 2021, the Development Project made a short video of its work, as part of a presentation to the Sláintecare Integration Fund Network. The
Development Project completed its work at the end of 2021, holding an online event in December 2021 for everybody who contributed to the work. The key achievement of the Development Project has been the creation of COMMUNITY FAMILIES, a new updated, evidence-based and integrated national home visiting programme which aims to improve outcomes for children and families in pregnancy and early childhood.
Click here to view the video of the December 2021 event which includes:
- An overall summary of the feedback reviewed by parents and overview of the Community Family Programme by Susan Brocklesby (start at 13.43)
- Perspectives on behalf of the current Community Mothers Programme sites by Marion Byrne from Dublin Docklands and Catriona Corcoran from Longford/Westmeath (start at 57.47)
- Setting the revised model – Community Families – in the wider policy context by Ciara Pidgeon from the Parenting Support Policy Unit of the DCEDIY (start at 1.06.43)
- Outlining plans for the next steps in the implementation of Community Families by TJ Dunford, Head of Operations – Primary Care, Community Operations in the HSE and Catherine O’Donohoe, National Parenting Lead in Tusla (start at 1.20.10)
Click here to view Susan Brocklesby’s presentation and here to view the feedback that parents provided in the consultation process, which was a key step in co-designing Community Families with the parents themselves.
Click on the image to enlarge
In 2022, the next phase of the work continues with the establishment of a new national structure, co-chaired by Tusla and the HSE, to support the transition of the Community Mothers Programme sites to Community Families and its continued roll out, quality assurance and future development. Watch this space or contact KHF for more information – firstname.lastname@example.org
Key Strategic Linkages
A key aspect of the Development Project has been the integration of Community Families with key national policy priorities and service delivery systems including:
- Better Outcomes Brighter Futures
- First 5: The Whole-of-Government Strategy for Babies, Young Children and Their Families
- HSE: National Healthy Childhood Programme, Women and Infants Health Programme, Community Health Networks, Public Health Nursing Service and Breastfeeding Action Plan
- Tusla: Prevention Partnership and Family Support Programme, Child and Family Support Networks, Meitheal Process, Family Resource Centres, Children and Young People’s Services Committees and Area Based Childhood Programme