We spoke to Mike Davies, a coordinator and manager with Jig-So in Swansea, about the project.
Established in 2016, Jig-So is an early intervention, multi-agency project, consisting of a dedicated team of midwives, family facilitators, nursery nurses, early language development workers and managers. The team works across Swansea to support the well-being of vulnerable and expectant parents; from 17 weeks of pregnancy and throughout a child’s infant years, up until the age of two. It is part of the Welsh Government’s Flying Start and Families First programmes, which are in turn funded by the Welsh Government’s Children and Communities Grant.
Early access and referrals
Jig-So initially started as three Flying Start Midwives who demonstrated excellent outcomes when working with teenage parents. However, the strategic lead at the time noticed there was a gap in services in the first 1000 days of a child’s life - antenatal period, up to age two - between the Flying Start Midwives and other antenatal and postnatal support services. As a result, the multi-agency team was established, with a shared focus of giving vulnerable parents the best start to parenthood and babies the best start in life. Mike told us that having multidisciplinary team members who are co-located in the same office, working together with a shared focus of giving young or vulnerable families the best start, is extremely important in providing timely and intuitive support.
Initially Jig-So had a focus on younger parents, with an age cap of 25, but the project has since removed this cap, so now it can support parents of any age in Swansea. Over 90% of the referrals into Jig-So come from the community midwifery teams at the 10-14 week dating scan. Jig-So currently supports around 240 family’s per year and about 35% of these are open to social services.
Mike tells us that having such early access to vulnerable parents just after the dating scan, is key to the effectiveness of Jig-So. Becoming involved at this early stage gives the team over six months to engage and support some of the most vulnerable parents to be. Mike tells us that historically this was not the case. Previously, community midwives only had social services to turn to if they felt a family needed more support than they could offer. This referral would then sit on a waiting list and then be picked up by a social worker, who would then refer on to parenting support and again, there would be delay. These were vital weeks wasted, with parents inevitably not receiving support until around six weeks before birth. Now, community midwives can refer parents into Jig-So at the earliest possible point to support them with their often complex needs and draw in support from the wider team if it is felt that the family would benefit from it. If social services are involved, the Jig-So team will work collaboratively with them to support their plans.
Providing holistic support
Mike explained that a child’s life chances are influenced by experiences and circumstances both before birth and throughout childhood. At Jig-So there is a strong focus on how children build brain connections and how they learn from their environment. The team works alongside families, building upon their existing strengths and sharing material and information on child development, adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), attachment, bonding and other parenting material. There is a focus too on building parents confidence and supporting them to engage with other services in their community. Jig-So also brings attention to factors such as stress, poor diet, drug, alcohol and tobacco use, and how they can all have a considerable influence on foetal and early brain development. As a result, work is done with parents in regards to healthy lifestyles in pregnancy, including smoking cessation, healthy eating and exercise. The services that Jig-So provides aim to not only support parents, but also provide them with knowledge and information so they can make informed decisions on the way they wish to parent their children.
Different programmes of support are available pre and post birth to provide an invaluable level of health and social care for parents and their children. This support is fostered by the multi-agency workers through one-to-one work, but also through the facilitation of family support group classes and forums. In addition to the above, the range of support also includes a six week relationships programme. This programme provides advice on what a healthy relationship between parents might look like and through the group’s facilitators, provides a safe space to discuss often challenging topics. These include; what abusive partner behaviour looks like, strategies for overcoming stressful situations, coping with arguments and dealing with disagreements. There are also opportunities for both expectant and new parents to share their experiences and learn from others accessing Jig-So services and to build friendships and parental networks with each other. The team also offers practical support with any housing or benefit issues and anything that could impact on parenting ability.
Impact and the future
A 2019 Swansea University evaluation found that engagement with Jig-So by service users was generally very high, with 87% of service users engaging well with the service and 68.2% completing the core Jig-So midwifery programme. The evaluation also outlined that the project is seeing positive outcomes with more families staying together as a result of the support, and less children being taken into care. The health and local authority teams working together as one allows the Jig-So team to offer a more holistic package of support in order to meet the often complex needs of the families. Many of the parents reported that they received “support left, right and centre” during their time with Jig-So. The formation of relationships with practitioners influenced experiences of support. Positive relationships formed due to the personal attributes of the practitioners including being friendly, open, empathetic and non-judgemental, which allowed them to feel like they could connect on a personal level. Parents reported that they benefited from additional hours with practitioners because they took the time to explain procedures relating to labour, birth and parenthood and as a result, they felt more supported and prepared.
Mike told us that recently they have moved their Reflect service in Swansea alongside Jig-So. Reflect works with parents who have had children removed from their care, if Jig-So families are unable to stay together then they refer to Reflect. If a family subsequently becomes pregnant again they can be referred back into Jig-So, thus the support is maintained. Mike also told us that in the future they would like to expand the project and have a tenancy support worker and health visitor in the team.
For more information about Jig-So, please contact Mike Davies at Mike.email@example.com
This case-study was compiled by Jason Watt in 2021