In the lead up to Mother’s Day, Hightown Housing Association has been speaking to residents and staff at the St Albans Mother and Baby Service about the vital support offered to new mothers.

Many of the residents haven’t had the easiest start in motherhood but the Mother & Baby Service provides a stable environment to bring up their children and learn the parenting and independent living skills (such as budgeting and healthy eating) needed to move on to their own home.

Provided in partnership with St Albans City and District Council, the Mother and Baby Service offers fully furnished, self-catering accommodation and emotional and practical support for up to eight women aged 16-30 who are pregnant or have a young child up to two years of age.

Since the service opened in 2010, 71 mothers and their babies have been supported by the service. Residents usually stay for between a year and 18 months before moving on to their own home.

Sandra Hanton has been a Housing Support Worker at St Albans Mother & Baby Service since it opened eight years ago and said:

“I love my job as it is so varied and rewarding. It feels great when I see residents increasing in confidence and gaining the parenting and life skills needed to offer their child a happy upbringing. As well as my role here, I also support people in the local community, many of whom have previously been homeless, and help them with budgeting and accessing other services available to them such as bereavement counselling or support with their mental health.”

Stephanie’s story

24-year-old Stephanie was working as a nursing assistant at a private care home and living with her parents when she became pregnant.  Knowing that she needed more space to raise her baby, Stephanie went to St Albans City and District Council for help, and was referred to the Mother and Baby Unit.

Stephanie says:

“When I first moved in, I didn’t speak to anyone. I was upset that I was living here and felt like I didn’t need the support that was offered. That changed after I had my baby.  I soon realised how good it was to have the support and made friends with the other residents.”

Stephanie now lives at the Mother and Baby Unit with her 10-month-old daughter and loves having a place that they can call their own.

“When you have a baby, sometimes you don’t know whether you’re coming or going but living here has been really grounding for me.  It’s like a family here and I look forward to coming home.  The staff are amazing, they help with anything and everything really.”

With support from the team at the Mother and Baby Service, Stephanie has returned to work one day a week, and is planning to increase her working hours and move on from the service.  She has some advice for other mothers who find themselves needing additional support.

“Things aren’t as bad they may seem, if you work with the staff you will really benefit from your time here.”

Dave Black, Hightown’s Director of Care and Supported Housing said:

“Our team at the Mother and Baby Service do a remarkable job providing mothers with important support, advice and care.

“As we say thanks to mums across the country, it’s important that we also celebrate those that haven’t necessarily had the easiest start as a parent, but with the right help are learning the skills they need to give their child a good start in life.”