Maternity Mates in Big Lottery Win

Big Lottery Funding awarded
to Maternity Mates

Grant will enable project to expand into surrounding boroughs,
ensuring more mothers from disadvantaged communities
have a positive experience during pregnancy and birth

Maternity Mates, the innovative project developed by WHFS to provide practical and emotional support during pregnancy to vulnerable women in east London, has been awarded funding by the Big Lottery’s Reaching Communities Programme to increase our service over the next three years.  In 2015 alone, Maternity Mates supported more than 350 mothers in Newham and Tower Hamlets.  With this grant WHFS will be able to increase support to women in these boroughs, as well as expand the programme into Waltham Forest

Programme Manager, Jasmin Begum said:

“I am thrilled Maternity Mates has been recognised by the Big Lottery Fund.  Our volunteers provide invaluable support for disadvantaged women at a critical time in their life and the funding will enable us to train 240 more Maternity Mates, allowing 480 more vulnerable women to access the programme.

In 2010, WHFS started Maternity Mates in Tower Hamlets in response to the urgent need for tailored support for vulnerable women - launching in neighbouring Newham in 2015 – both with funding from the NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups for each borough, with whom we continue to work closely on this project. 

Funding from the Big Lottery will enable us to deliver the Maternity Mates programme in Waltham Forest for the first time, as well as:

  • Extend the support we offer in Newham and Tower Hamlets to women following the birth of their baby;
  • Evaluate the clinical effectiveness of the programme;
  • Increase awareness of the service among disadvantaged communities;
  • Develop pathways to employment for volunteer Maternity Mates;
  • Explore further opportunities in health services to support pregnant women.

Maternity Mates needed more than ever

These three east London boroughs are amongst the UK’s most deprived areas and research shows women who are vulnerable and disadvantaged - including those affected by female genital mutilation /cutting (FGM/ C), domestic violence or with mental health issues - are 20 times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related complication than the general population.  Maternity Mates supports pregnant women who have been affected by these issues, as well as women who have had a previous traumatic birth, lack English language skills or do not have a suitable support network.

All women have the right to a positive pregnancy and childbirth experience, and this is sadly not the case for many mothers in east London today. The Lottery funding will help us get even closer to reducing the current health inequalities that exist.” (Jasmin Begum, Programme Manager)

Vital support for pregnant women in east London

WHFS recruits and trains local female volunteers as Maternity Mates and pairs them with pregnant women from within the same community to provide culturally sensitive, emotional and practical support during pregnancy, childbirth and the early weeks of motherhood. This includes being at the birth, signposting to local services and providing support on issues such as birth planning, pain relief, breastfeeding and healthy lifestyles. 

Mothers who have used the confidential service report significantly better birth experiences, improved physical and emotional wellbeing and fewer visits to health services:

“My English is so poor so I feel without my Maternity Mate there would be lots of misunderstandings between me and the professionals.  Their presence helped a lot, to ease the communication between both parties.”  (Translation of feedback from mum supported by Maternity Mates)

Essential skills and job satisfaction for Volunteer Maternity Mates

Maternity Mates is a forerunner in community maternal care, with all volunteers receiving accredited training specifically developed by WHFS, which may help towards the Access to Nursing and Midwifery Course.  This new funding builds on our current work, allowing us to increase the skills support we offer to volunteer Maternity Mates. 

“It is not only mothers who will benefit from the grant; through training as a Maternity Mate our volunteers gain valuable skills for employment and education and more than a quarter have gone on to further education or employment in the health profession."  (Jasmin Begum, Programme Manager)

Midwives give their verdict

Midwives also say Maternity Mates have positive impacts going beyond the initial support:

“I have referred quite a few of my clients to Maternity Mates and they have all reported fantastic experiences!  One lady particularly who I saw this week told me that she felt empowered and confident about her pregnancy and birth as a result of the involvement of her Maternity Mate, and this has had a really positive impact on other aspects of her life as well.”  (Midwife)

Further information

Please click on the links below for further information on Maternity Mates:


Please click here for contact details for the Maternity Mates team.

Big Lottery Fund

The Big Lottery Fund is the largest funder of community activity in the UK.   It puts people in the lead to improve their lives and communities, often through small, local projects.   It is responsible for giving out 40% of the money raised by National Lottery players for good causes.  Every year it invests over £650 million and award around 12,000 grants across the UK for health, education, environment and charitable purposes.