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Parents under pressure

Reducing the risk of harm to babies and toddlers

Parents Under Pressure™ is an intensive 20-week home visiting programme which aims to help primary carers who are in drug and alcohol treatment improve their parenting skills and bond with their baby.

We want to tackle and reduce the harm caused when parents misuse alcohol or take drugs - as early as possible in children's lives.

Not all parents who drink alcohol or take drugs harm their children. However, substance misuse features in the lives of one in four children protected by local authorities.

Encouraging better bonding between parents and their children

The NSPCC's Parents Under Pressure™ teams are based in eleven NSPCC centres across the UK.

Using this model developed in Australia, NSPCC practitioners visit parents who have a child under two-and-a-half in their homes on a weekly basis.

We work with mothers and fathers to help them build parenting skills and develop safe, caring relationships with their babies. Parents can also phone us for emergency support outside the home visits.

We will use a randomised control trial to measure how successful the programme is in preventing abuse and improving the attachment between a child and their main carer.

Stories from the service: Lisa*

Lisa referred herself to the 'Parents Under Pressure™' programme after three of her children, including a six-month-old baby, were identified as 'children in need'.

She had been using drugs since the age of 13 and was on methadone prescription at the time of referral. In addition to this, both Lisa and her partner Tom* experienced abuse in childhood.

Lisa felt isolated and depressed during her recent pregnancy. She rarely left the house, which was in much need of repair, and felt unable to emotionally connect with her children.

NSPCC worker Cath identified clear goals for Lisa and Tom to work on during intensive home visits over 20 weeks.

Cath began by helping Lisa focus on practical steps to improve the home environment for her children. She tackled tasks together with Lisa and Tom during home visits and telephoned in between to check on progress and offer additional support where needed.

Later sessions focussed on Lisa's relationship with her baby. Cath encouraged Lisa to use mindfulness techniques to help her focus on her baby and develop secure attachment.

By the end of the programme, Lisa's confidence as a mother had grown. Lisa described feeling "one hundred per cent optimistic about the future"

Lisa said: "I felt like I had somebody to turn to. The help and advice was practical and I was treated with respect."

Tom said he felt like he had his wife back: "the children feel safer because mum is here for all of them now. We are beginning to be a functional family, and not dysfunctional."

Lisa's children are no longer seen as 'in need'. The family are now receiving 'team around the child' support, working with adult drug treatment agencies and universal services to maintain positive change for the family.

Working in partnership

Our teams work alongside other agencies involved with the family, including:

  • drug and alcohol teams
  • local children's services
  • GPs, specialist midwives and other local health services

Find out more about our work with children under one

Information for professionals

Why children under one are a priority

Helping young, vulnerable first-time mums cope with the pressures of having a baby

Setting a positive parenting template for vulnerable parents-to-be

Educating parents about shaking babies and practical coping strategies for parenthood

Find out about the services available in your area



*Disclaimer: Names and other identifying features have been changed to protect the identity of the family.

*Photo posed for by models.

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