Pregnancy and the first months of a child’s life are crucial and lay the foundations for their future. Becoming a parent can be extra difficult for some parents because of their own circumstances and past experiences, particularly if they don’t get the support they need to prepare for parenthood.

This is where NSPCC’s perinatal education programme, Baby Steps, intervenes, supporting future parents to care for their new baby and reduce stress associated with the arrival of a new baby.

NSPCC needed help to determine how to scale this robust, evidence-based model in order to help more vulnerable expectant parents across the UK. We worked with NSPCC and Kate Billingham, international specialist on prevention of child maltreatment in early life, to deliver a strategy that would enable Baby Steps to scale.

Following our recommendation to pursue a social franchise model NSPCC started to recruit local delivery partners as franchisees in 2015. Baby Steps is now delivered in 7 areas across the UK.

Read further for an in depth insight into our work with NSPCC.

ICSF’s recommendation to use a social franchising model is exactly right to ensure we get the best balance between programme fidelity and scale at pace. Any other model would have either compromised scaleability, or undermined positive outcomes for families.

Karen Bateson, Implementation Manager, Baby Steps

©2015 NSPCC. Photography by Tom Hull.
©2015 NSPCC. Photography by Tom Hull. The child pictured is a volunteer.

Challenge

Leading UK child abuse prevention charity, the NSPCC, wanted to sustainably scale up its evidence-based perinatal education programme (Baby Steps), but needed help finding where to go and how to get there.

As part of NSPCC’s strategy to strengthen the prevention of child maltreatment, it has dedicated work streams focused on developing evidenced-based, sustainable programmes for families in need of additional support. Baby Steps is one of these programmes, which enables vulnerable parents to transition successfully to parenthood and develop positive infant-parent and co-parent relationships. NSPCC commissioned ICSF to deliver a strategy that would enable Baby Steps to scale, in order to assist more vulnerable parents.

Approach

In collaboration with specialist Kate Billingham, ICSF conducted an in-depth assessment of the Baby Steps programme and recommended scaling via a social franchise model, embedding local delivery into mainstream services to make it more sustainable for the future.

Three central questions were considered during the process:

  • Was Baby Steps ready and suitable for scaling?
  • What model would best support the growth of Baby Steps to ensure sustainability and quality?
  • What needs to be done to prepare Baby Steps for successful scaling?

Baby Steps’ readiness for scale was then assessed, considering factors such as outcomes, quality, workforce and demand of the programme. This revealed that with some further development and piloting of the current programme, Baby Steps would be ready to be brought to scale.

Next ICSF worked with NSPCC to consider the various growth and replication strategies that could be used to sustainably scale Baby Steps, and the variance in flexibility and control that they provide. A social franchise model was recommended, as it would enable greater quality control and resources to be used more effectively.

This model would see NSPCC transition from being the direct provider of the service to acting as a franchisor overseeing implementation by local mainstream organisations such as Children’s Centres and midwifery teams.

Results

The proposed social franchise model was adopted by NSPCC to ensure support is available for new parents, now and in the future. Baby Steps has now been scaled to 7 local areas across the UK, with the plan to grow further in the coming years.

Karen Bateson, Implementation Manager for Baby Steps, is excited about the future potential of Baby Steps and believes it would not have been possible were it not scaled through a social franchise, which has enabled them to protect both the programme and the implementation system around it. The social franchise model appeals to local areas too, as it supports them to achieve good quality implementation. This achieves great value for money and maximises outcomes for families. .

NSPCC is continuing to build on the work with ICSF, and the experience of Baby Steps, as they develop scale plans for a range of other evidence-based interventions.