Dagenham charity helping expectant mums with learning difficulties wins national award

The Children and Young People Now Awards 2019 were held at Fulham's Hurlingham Club on November 28.

The Children and Young People Now Awards 2019 were held at Fulham's Hurlingham Club on November 28. Dagenham's Sycamore Trust won the PSHE prize for its work with expectant autistic parents. Picture: Children and Young People Now. - Credit: Children and Young People Now

A Dagenham charity which helps expectant autistic mums has won a national award.

The Sycamore Trust’s Parenting Pathways support worker Emma Marston and senior project manager Jean

The Sycamore Trusts Parenting Pathways support worker Emma Marston and senior project manager Jean Rayner. Picture: Sycamore Trust. - Credit: Sycamore Trust

The Sycamore Trust won the Children and Young People Now award for personal, social and health education at a November 28 ceremony at Fulham's Hurlingham Club. The award is for the initiative that's done the most to develop people's knowledge of modern life, including things like sex and relationships.

Parenting Pathways educates autistic people about sexual health as well as helping expectant mums with learning difficulties through the process of pregnancy. That includes appointments at hospital and with GPs and social workers.

Sycamore Trust staff have even been at the birth itself when there was no-one else.

The goal is to teach the women and couples the parenting skills they need to look after their children.


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"We like to receive referrals early in pregnancy, then it gives us around eight months if they have capacity to learn new skills and empower them to become good enough parents," said Jean Rayner, Parenting Pathways' senior project manager.

"It's a good thing, if it's safe to do so, to keep the family as a unit and it saves the tax payer a lot of money.

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It costs between £29,000 and £33,000 for a single foster place for a child, according to a 2014 report from the National Audit Office.

"It's about giving them the knowledge in ways they understand," Ms Rayner added.

The win is a far cry from last year, when the scheme faced closing due to a lack of funds. The National Lottery has since given it £400,000 to continue the work.

Derren Hayes, editor of CYP Now, told the audience at the Hurlingham Club: "You don't need me to tell you that the funding situation in children's services is pretty dire - nine out of 10 children's services budgets were overspent last year.

"The new government will need to invest to avoid further cuts. I'm not talking about a one-off pot of a few hundred million. It needs a long-term, sustainable, funding package that enables leaders to invest more in early help so that support can be provided before intensive intervention is needed."

More information can be found at sycamoretrust.org.uk.

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