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Maternity Care - session 3

The maternity healthcare inequalities of women seeking asylum and refugees are well documented. But Afrocats, Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, the Caribbean and African Health Network (CAHN), the Ardwick and Longsight Primary Care Network and the Little Lions Network are on a mission to change this.

Session 3

The session kicked off with our signature dance warm-up. The women and their children enjoy this activity and it’s a great way to relax before starting the session.

Zarah and Leah, two Sure Start representatives attended the session. Sure Start Children’s Centres give help and advice on child and family health, parenting, money, training, housing and employment. Some centres also provide early learning and full-day care for preschool children.

At the beginning of their session, Zarah and Leah supplied free vitamins for all the women and children in the group. They informed the women that if they register with a local Sure Start Centre, they could get a monthly supply of vitamins for free while you are pregnant and up to their baby’s first birthday. They contain:

  • folic acid which lowers the chance of babies having spinal problems

  • vitamin C which helps the body’s soft tissue

  • vitamin D which helps babies’ bones to develop properly

The women understood the suitability of vitamins such as vegetarian and halal diets.

At Ardwick Surestart, women can receive Vitamins if pregnant and breastfeeding and also for those under 5 years old free of charge. The women were told that if they ask at the reception for Claudette and Leah, they can assist with any language barriers that may arise as they speak Arabic.

The women were extremely happy and grateful as their GPs were asking them to buy the essential recommended Vitamin, but with the current cost of living this was difficult to achieve. Afrocats, along with partners were able to break this barrier for the women to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Leah reassured the women that they could receive support from health visitors who conduct weekly drop-ins at Ardwick SureStart.

At SureStart centres, the women can access speech and language screenings and they can be referred to a speech therapist if the need arises. Early intervention is key, and it is achievable as SureStarts work collaboratively.

They could also access an outreach worker who can provide professional referrals to housing support with Manchester Move and benefits advice.

As a result of our sessions with SureStart, they were able to signpost the women to the services they offer and one woman was able to follow up on her child's speech development. Leah commented:

Thanks to the sessions with Afrocats the child's needs were brought to light. Health visitors should have picked the language challenge, however at times due to language barriers and service users not understanding what has been offered to them, such support can be missed even more. For a health visitor to refer a family they need consent unless there is a safeguarding need, at times women do not consent due to limited understanding of what Surestart has to offer.

From the session, it was clear that the lack of accessible information is affecting the everyday life of these women and how services like these can go to waste if communities are not made aware of them. Leah reaffirmed the importance of these sessions:

What women need is information, they need to know where to find support. The only way we can help them is if they come to the centre. If it wasn’t for this session, they wouldn’t know. I think it’s better for professionals to come here and find them than the other way around. There is a serious problem with communication. For referrals, we require them to sign a consent form, but people refuse to sign since they don’t know what it means and then we cannot help them. They wouldn’t need to visit their GP so regularly if they knew about us. Afrocats is building a bridge between us professionals and the intended service users, along with the community connectors what is happening here is great, much needed in the community to promote a healthy start for young children and their parents.

We rely on donations and grant funding to dismantle the health and wellbeing inequalities the people we support face. If you can donate you'll be helping us to create an equal society. Make a donation here today.


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