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Lynne Walker’s Better Start Bradford journey with the Perinatal Support Service

11 April 2024

Back in April 2015, one of the first projects that Better Start Bradford launched was the Perinatal Support Service delivered by national charity Family Action. The service helps pregnant women and women with babies up to the age of one who have, or are at risk of developing, mild to moderate mental health issues such as negative thoughts about being a mum, low mood, anxiety or depression.

One member of the team, Lynne Walker, has remained at the heart of the Perinatal Support Service since day one and has embedded herself within the Better Start Bradford community for the past nine years.

Lynne has been a regular friendly presence at countless events, hosting activities to engage families with 0-3s, while having very important conversations about everything that the Perinatal Support Service has to offer, along with referring into other Better Start Bradford projects.

Now that we are in the final phase of the Better Start Bradford programme, our projects are reaching the end of their funding, with the Perinatal Support Service ending in March 2024. This means we will be also saying farewell to Lynne, who has worked at Family Action since 1999.

In this interview, we caught up with Lynne to chat about her time with the service and to find out what is next in her career journey and we learn that she may not be going too far!

What has your role at the Perinatal Support Service been over the years?

At the Perinatal Support Service, I started out as an Assessment and Engagement Worker. I remember clearly the first day the project started – we were like rabbits in the headlights as the service was starting from scratch.

We began by creating posters to recruit volunteers and to advertise the support we had to offer. We quickly found that posters were not going to be enough as we weren’t getting enough referrals – we needed to be out and about within the community, so my role developed with more focus on the  engagement side. We found that face-to-face engagement with families was crucial to getting our key messages out there as well as helping with self-referrals and recruiting volunteers – without a doubt we saw the numbers increasing as we undertook more engagement!

My role involved me being in different venues in the community daily, this could be health clinics, Better Start Bradford events and activities, stay and play sessions, Better Place outdoor play sessions or just anything based in the community.

My lead area within our team is health visiting and midwifery, so I attend several clinics a week sharing key messages about babies being born ready to relate and baby brain development. I also sign post people into services, not just ours, but other Better Start Bradford projects or other services that may help that person. I also shared information about the Family Hubs, where they are and what they have to offer to families.

Thank you so much Lynne for all your support, always professional and always with full heart! I never met anyone as dedicated, highly motivated, professional, and unique at your work, as you. I am so happy I had a chance to work collaboratively with you. You are true inspiration to all professionals!

Ludmila Novosjolova
Neighbourhood Worker, West Bowling Centre

What have been your ‘wow’ moments while working at the Perinatal Support Service?

There have been many ‘wow’ moments for me. Delivering our ‘Baby and Me’, Theraplay-based group programme had lots of ‘wow’ moments, because our mums always gave us amazing feedback, I can honestly say that I do my job mostly because I enjoy it, not because I get paid for it. I work with such an amazing team who are supportive, helpful and are always there even through the personal tough times, which I have gone through these last few years.

I also encouraged a service user of a domestic abuse support project that I had worked on to become a Perinatal Support Service volunteer. She had never volunteered before as she had a criminal record from substance misuse 20 years earlier and she thought she wouldn’t get through the DBS – she had spent her life so far in cleaning jobs.

I encouraged her to apply and she did get through her DBS checks and started volunteering with us. She has now got a job supporting people who misuse alcohol and drugs – it’s things like that, that make those ‘wow’ moments and that have made this role so rewarding.

A personal surprise ‘wow’ moment came for me late last year, when I was nominated for a Can-Do award (A national Family Action staff/volunteer recognition award) – I had been nominated by my colleagues without my knowledge and in my winning email, I was told that the judges thought my nomination was outstanding and it was awarded top marks by them all! It was so lovely and rewarding reading what my colleagues had to say about me!

One of the nominating quotes said: ‘Lynne is highly skilled in how to tune in to those who might need help from our service; her friendly and down to earth nature gives her some real clout in being able to engage. This allows the individual to feel safe, cared for and like someone is interested in them; it then opens a door for many to start taking steps to make a difference in their lives.

Lynne is such a warm and friendly, approachable person, and this makes her such an amazing engagement worker. She was incredibly welcoming and helpful when I first took over the Service Manager role, and this is how she approaches everyone she comes across, from colleagues and professionals to parents and members of the community.

Katie James
Perinatal Support Service Manager

What have been your main challenges in your role?

There have been several managers over the course of the Perinatal Support Service, who have had different ideas about how the project best meets the needs of our service users. The team have always adjusted to those changes, however one of the biggest challenges was moving from the Thornbury centre to Bradford City Centre – we felt like we were no longer based within the heart of our community.

Along with everyone else, one of the biggest challenges was the Covid-19 pandemic. We adapted our services by running our My Baby and Me group online, online educative workshops for parents and attending other Better Start Bradford groups online as this gave us the opportunity to get referrals as well as giving those projects the opportunity to attend our groups and recruit parents to their groups.

I also approached some supermarkets and put-up displays with our service information and referral forms, I knew that food shopping was a basic need that families needed to meet and the display of information was visible to them.

In addition, it was a difficult time to recruit volunteers, so we were all allocated clients to offer emotional support to on the phone.

Nobody believed in a million years it would go on so long or have such an impact on the community, I believe we have yet to see the future impact of this!

Lynne knows everyone and everything, and everyone knows Lynne. This wealth of knowledge and experience means Lynne is an incredibly effective sign poster, if one service is not the right support for a parent, Lynne will know what is and let them know. She is amazing at keeping up to date with everything happening in the communities we serve and sharing that information with all those who need it. Lynne is an amazing asset to our service and to the communities we work with.

A Better Start Bradford staff member

If you could go back to 2015, what advice would you give to yourself?

Believe in yourself – you will be amazing in this role if you believe you will be.

What is next for you, Lynne?

I am happy to say that I have got a Community Outreach Worker job with Barnardo’s Incredible Years programme, a project that helps parents see the world through the eyes of their 0–2-year-old. It is funded through Family Hubs and Start for Life until March 2025, so I will be doing a very similar role, but across the whole of Bradford.

I love learning new skills so that will continue, over the years I have built up lots of skills and qualifications, I’m a qualified nursery nurse, I have a degree in health social care, I’m Theraplay trained, I have also trained in the Solihull parenting programme, I can speak some Urdu, I’m a qualified children’s counsellor and most recently I have studied neuroscience and self-regulation. I will also be spending more time with my beautiful 16-month-old granddaughter.

Lynne’s persistent, I’ll give her that! I would have never completed the My Baby and Me group if it wasn’t for her. She saw me for who I was, a good mum but a mum that felt lost and overwhelmed and like I was doing everything wrong even though I wasn’t. She felt the ‘mum guilt’ and understood it; it wasn’t a case of a professional pretending they understood, she got it, she felt it, she knew in real life what this was. You can’t get any more relatable than that.

A mum that Lynne supported at Baby and Me Group

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