The National Institute of Health Research published a new study today (10 February 2021) which shows that the Family Nurse Partnership programme (FNP) improves child development, school readiness and early education outcomes for the children of young parents.
The study also found that FNP children were as likely to be referred to children’s social care, registered as in need, placed on a child protection plan or go into care up to the age of 7. Descriptive analysis, based on non-statistically significant data, found that children in the FNP arm of the study were 90 days younger on average at referral to social care, and less likely to be referred on multiple occasions, compared to the usual-care arm. FNP children spent on average two months less time in care.
The Building Blocks 2-6 study was undertaken by the Cardiff Centre for Trials Research at Cardiff University. It follows up participants from a previous FNP study, Building Blocks 0-2, using data linkage to track outcomes for children up to age 7 in routine social care, health and education data. Pregnant mothers were recruited into the study in 2009 and 2010; half were enrolled in FNP and half received usual services. The Building Blocks studies are based on data from around 1,500 families; it is the largest study of FNP in the world.
Lynne Reed, National Lead for FNP and Parenting Programmes at Public Health England, said:
“This study shows that intensive parenting support in the first 1,000 days can be a gamechanger for vulnerable children. Children of very young parents usually fall far behind the general population in their development and school readiness at age 5. This study shows that it’s possible to change that.
“FNP helps parents to provide sensitive, responsive care, which is the foundation for child development and a critical factor in longer-term positive outcomes for children. In this study, the advantage for FNP children at age 5 persisted into early education outcomes at age 7. More FNP children in this study achieved the expected level in reading at Key Stage 1 compared to disadvantaged pupils in national datasets for comparative years. This is even more remarkable, given that the cohort of FNP children in the study were just as likely to be referred to and receive social care intervention as their ‘usual-care’ peers.
“Building parent capability to prevent child abuse and neglect is a complex area of practice and has been an area of focus in the continuous development of FNP delivery in England, notably in the Accelerated Design and Programme Testing (ADAPT) project. We undertook in-depth work to explore the scale and characteristics of vulnerability among young families enrolled in FNP and developed programme adaptations focussed on addressing neglect and intimate partner violence, which we plan to implement across all FNP teams in 2021/22.
“The learning from this study contributes to the rich evidence base for early intervention. It demonstrates the value of intensive parenting programmes and their potential to address inequalities for children in vulnerable families. This will be ever more important at a time when we need to respond to the hidden harms of the Covid-19 pandemic for children, young people and families.”
Read more from Lynne Reed about the study.