Edinburgh has become the first city in the world to offer every teenage mother vital one-to-one support as part of a pioneering project designed to give children the best possible start in life.
The Capital was chosen five years ago to launch the pilot for the Family Nurse Partnership scheme, which originated in the United States and aims to “change the world, one baby at a time”.
First-time young mums are given intensive support through one-to-one home visits during pregnancy and the first two years of the baby’s life. Fathers are also assisted with parenting techniques and help to find employment and a secure home.
More than 660 young women across Lothian have been helped, a take-up rate of 81 per cent.
Speaking at an event at Edinburgh Castle to mark the fifth anniversary, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon – who launched the pilot project in 2010 – said the resources and staffing were now in place for every eligible young mother in the city to be offered a place on the programme.
She said: “It’s one of the best investments we can make as a society – we give young mothers the support they need, we help children to get the best possible start in life, and we reduce public spending further down the line, because we have better health, education and employment outcomes.
“That’s why I’m delighted to announce today that Edinburgh has become the first city anywhere in the world to offer the family nurse partnership to every first-time mother aged 19 and under. That will make a huge difference to mothers and children across the city, and it’s a testament to the success of the partnership so far.”
Kate Billingham, senior adviser at Nurse Family Partnership International congratulated Scotland on behalf of the programme’s founder, Professor David Olds.
She said: “To have the first city in the world to reach 100 per cent coverage for teenage mums – along with high levels of quality – is an amazing achievement. Today we are recognising the leadership in Scotland, the skilled and dedicated nurses and the parents who have worked hard for their children and their own futures.”
The project recognises that “disadvantage begins in the womb” and aims to change the cycle of poverty by changing the lives of young mothers.
Melanie Johnson, executive nurse director at NHS Lothian, said the scheme had gone from strength to strength since its launch. She said: “We are particularly pleased and proud in NHS Lothian that Edinburgh has become the first city in the world to be able to offer care to every client who requires it under the Family Nurse Partnership.
“The service first began as a pilot project in January 2010 in Edinburgh and since then it has gone from strength to strength. It has also made a real and lasting impact after it was rolled out across the rest of Lothian and also Scotland.”