New guidelines for midwives to support women who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless have been published by the Royal College of Midwives.
Aimed at midwives and maternity support workers (MSWs) 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 social 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.
‘We have got to do everything we can to help and support those most vulnerable in our society,’ said Gill Walton, Chief Executive and General Secretary of the Royal College of Midwives. ‘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.’
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 particular need for advice and support.