Midwives have a duty of care to offer help to those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.
The Homelessness Reduction Act (HRA) came into force in England on 3rd April 2018 to prevent and stop homelessness by offering early support to those at risk of becoming homeless or who are homeless. It also places a new duty on health services, including maternity, to help those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.
Aimed at midwives and maternity support workers (MSW) and using real-life scenarios, the guidance will help them spot the signs of homelessness or those at risk of it. It also gives information about how to refer women, with their consent, to housing services that can help them. Pregnant women are among those considered a priority for housing.
If midwives suspect a woman is at risk they will ask women about their housing situation on at least four occasions at certain points in their pregnancy. These are at the first appointment with the midwife then at 28 weeks, 36 weeks and on discharge after the birth.
Helping the ‘most vulnerable’ in society.
The guidance recognises that women booking into maternity services may be disclosing their homelessness to a professional for the very first time. A new pregnancy is a daunting time for a lot of women and those with the added worry of securing suitable accommodation in good time for their baby’s arrival will have a particular need for advice and support.
Commenting on the guidance, Gill Walton, Chief Executive and General Secretary of the Royal College of Midwives, said: “We have got to do everything we can to help and support those most vulnerable in our society. We know that vulnerable women such as this can experience more problems in their pregnancy and that this can have an adverse effect on their baby also. That is why I am so delighted that the RCM has published this guidance for midwives and MSWs so that they can support and help these women.”
Val Clare, Head of Midwifery for Bolton NHS Foundation Trust said: “We’re delighted to welcome the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham along to Ingleside Birth and Community Centre today, and to share in the launch of this new guidance. As midwives, we have a unique relationship with the women in our care, and I’m proud to be part of the first professional body in the NHS to put guidance in place as to how we support women when they are at their most vulnerable.”