Using real life scenarios, the RCM’s guidance aims to help midwives and maternity support workers to spot the signs of homelessness or those at risk of it.
“As midwives we have a unique relationship with the women in our care”
The Homelessness Reduction Act (HRA) came into force in England on 3 April 2018 to prevent and stop homelessness by offering early support to those at risk of becoming homeless or who are homeless.
Under the Act, health services, including maternity, have a duty to help those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.
The new guidance, launched at Ingleside Birth Centre in Salford by the mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, is designed to act as a tool to help midwives live up to this duty and support those in need.
The document states that, as a midwife, it is important to recognise the signs of homelessness and so provides information about how to refer women, with their consent, to housing services that can help them.
Under the guidance, the RCM suggests that if a midwife suspects a woman is at risk, they will “ask open questions specifically relating to the woman’s current housing situation” on at least four occasions during certain points in their pregnancy.
It stated that this should take place during the first appointment with the midwife, then at 28 weeks, 36 weeks and on postnatal discharge, to remind women that a referral can be made to their local housing authority.
The royal college also highlighted that the document recognises that when booking into maternity services, it may be a woman’s first time disclosing their homelessness to a professional.
“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”
Commenting on the guidance, Gill Walton, chief executive and general secretary of the RCM, 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,” she added.
“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,” she said.
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,” she added.