Programme to support Suffolk’s vulnerable recurrent mothers shows real success


Suffolk County Council is delivering positive, visible results in supporting and reducing the number of vulnerable women in Suffolk.

The programme targets vulnerable women who are susceptible to repeated pregnancies and whose babies are removed through assessment and court proceedings. 

Starting point

In 2010, Suffolk County Council began analysing the data available concerning women who have multiple children removed through court proceedings. The ‘Positive Choices’ programme was developed as a result.

Between April 2011 and March 2012, 34 babies were removed from their mothers at birth in a local hospital. Of these, 24 women were mothers who had previously had babies removed, and four of these mothers had had as many as eight children removed previously.

In just four years, the programme is starting to really show signs that the support and advice it offers to vulnerable women is making a difference.

The facts

  • 2011 - Between January and December there were 127 recognised as being at risk prior to birth
  • 2012 - Between January and December there were 96 recognised as being at risk prior to birth (32 involved mothers who had previous children)
  • 2013 - Between January and December there were 93 recognised as being at risk prior to birth (29 involved mothers who had previous children)
  • 2014 - Between January and December there were 100 recognised as being at risk prior to birth (19 involved mothers who had previous children)

During its initial pilot, a team of three, led by Tina Wilson, Head of Suffolk County Council’s Children’s Safeguarding Service (with a Safeguarding Nurse and a midwife) worked with a group of women, providing advice and support to address some of the underlying issues behind the women’s’ recurrent pregnancies. Contraception and welfare support was provided, as well as sexual health checks. As a result of the pilot’s success, Suffolk County Council established the Positive Choices Team.

The primary objective of the Positive Choices Team is to support women who have previously had their children removed from their care, or are at risk of having further children removed.

The team is currently working with 45 women and of these 25 are receiving intensive support, in addition 16 women are being further supported in an outreach capacity. The team have formed a successful partnership with the Ormiston Trust providing an additional number of women with support.

Suffolk County Council’s Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, Cllr Gordon Jones said:

“It is an incredibly tough decision to remove any child from their mother. The decision is never taken lightly. Suffolk County Council has a legal duty to safeguard children.

"The authority is always looking at ways to reduce the stress that care interventions place on both the baby and mother and the Positive Choices project is a real success story in helping vulnerable women who need advice and support.”

Suffolk County Council’s Positive Choices programme has received national recognition for its innovation and has been invited to speak at national conferences offering advice to other local authorities looking to set up similar initiatives. This work has now received academic endorsement from the University of Essex and an event will take place on Tuesday 30 June to highlight the Positive Choices programme and the evaluation carried out by Professor Pamela Cox.