CAF resilience Wild young parents

WILD Young Parents' project
CAF Resilience Programme Charity




For many of us, January is a time for reflection when, following the seasonal break spent with family and friends, we resolve to pursue our New Year’s resolutions with firm intent. The same can be said for us at WILD Young Parents' Project. With the support of the CAF Resilience programme, we’re determined to continue to support some of the poorest young families in Cornwall, to improve their lives so that they can be healthier and happier. Many of WILD’s young parents will have celebrated Christmas and New Year with their children under a cloud of problems including debt, food, fuel poverty, loneliness and health problems, and recent findings from Cornwall's Director of Public Health evidences this in their recent report.

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In Cornwall, our Director of Public Health released their annual report for 2017 in December. It provided a glimpse into some of the effects of living in one of the poorest counties in the UK. For us at WILD, we know that our young parents and their children are some of Cornwall’s most vulnerable families.  

The report highlights that earnings in Cornwall are 13% below the UK average, yet we have costly housing, with average house prices at 9 times the average annual income. At WILD, over 80% of young parent families are wholly dependent on benefits, while the others are in lower-paid work and reliant on tax credits. In Cornwall, only 21% of boys and 17% of girls are active for the recommended one hour per day. Not surprisingly, we have a higher rate in Cornwall of 5 year olds who are overweight or obese. 

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At WILD we build physical activity into every children’s session, and our outdoor adventure programme gives parents and children the opportunity to make the most of Cornwall’s wonderful natural resources. Last year over 80% of families who participated in our sports and activities sustained an overall increase in activity levels.

Food poverty has been an increasing burden on the young families at WILD. In the most deprived areas of the UK, families spend only 8% to 16% of their budget on food. At WILD, Foodbank use has quadrupled over the last few years, with half of our families this year needing Foodbank or other crisis funding.

People in more disadvantaged areas are known to eat less fruit and vegetables, and for our young parents, they are often in temporary or unsuitable accommodation, with inadequate cooking facilities. Our Food for Life programme helps young parents learn to cook, budget and wean their babies, as well as offering cooking equipment such as slow cookers, to enable them to cook in a temporary home. We also tackle the effects of poor diet through our dental health education, where we now have 70% of our WILD families accessing dental treatment (from an initial 35%). This is where Cornwall’s rurality exacerbates the problem; it’s hard to find an NHS dentist and even harder to find one who is easily accessible by public transport. 


Smoking rates in Cornwall are at 19.3%, higher than the national rate of 18%. Of WILD young parents, 43% smoke and a quarter of WILD pregnant young mums smoke; both statistics reflect a national trend among young parents. Smoking rates in pregnancy are also higher in Cornwall; 13.9% against the national rate of 11.4%. We know these rates of smoking are dangerously high, but we are making some ground. We’ve taken a holistic approach over the last 3 years, working with families on reducing risk of smoking to children, getting professional smoking cessation help and finding alternative ways to cope and relax (including our Knit and Quit project). Smoking in pregnancy has reduced by 7%, smoking overall by 11%, and we now have 92% families with smoke-free homes.


Cornwall’s report identifies that children living in poverty are more susceptible to poor mental health outcomes and that adults from the lowest income households are more likely to have mental health problems. Additionally, people with mental health problems are 3 times more likely to be in debt than the general population. At WILD, two-thirds of our young mums and a third of our young dads experience mental ill health. Of these young mums, 12% experience more complex mental ill health, such as Bipolar, BPD or psychosis. We work closely with health colleagues and Cornwall’s perinatal mental health service to support these families, as well as offering activities to build attachment and develop coping strategies. This includes music, arts, mindfulness and life story work.

We know we have challenges ahead, with a predicted further rise in child poverty and the impact of Universal Credit, but we are determined that we will work with our partners to achieve a healthy, safe and happy 2018 for Cornwall’s youngest families.

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