Spotlight on Parents' Views

Based on an article in Safety Education, Summer 2011

RoSPA has been host to its fourth Changemaker's Young Advocate, Zahida Begum, who investigated home safety ideas among young parents. Zahida produced a report highlighting the views of young parents and making recommendations for RoSPA and other home safety professionals.

Four focus groups and safety workshops were carried out with 26 parents who are or were teenage parents. The aim of the project was to gain an insight into the attitudes towards safety in the home and to gain an idea of how safety messages could be better tailored to meet the needs of this target group. The sessions received a high satisfaction rate and the researcher was able to conclude that educating young parents is pivotal to raising awareness of potential risk and dangers.

RoSPA feels that this research will help towards its aims of working with young people i.e. young advocate, to break down the barriers which can often hinder delivery of safety messages to one of the highest risk groups, teenage parents.

Zahida's report, 'Educ8 2 Keep Myn Safe' makes the following recommendations:

  • Increasing media coverage of home safety messages via channels which will reach young people, such as social networking
  • Implementing home and child safety sessions for 14-16 year-olds in schools
  • Encouraging young parents to design useful gadgets containing safety messages, such as fridge magnets
  • Including information about safety equipment in a bounty pack which pregnant women receive
  • Introducing an automated text message service providing information and advice
  • Training young parents to spread safety messages to their peers.

Zahida organised four focus groups Birmingham Rights of Children, Bromford Housing Group, St Basils, St Michael's Fellowship (young fathers). During the sessions, held in Birmingham and London, young parents said that it is "often easy to forget" about safety issues; and that although information was provided through health visitors and midwives it often didn't get through.

Some participants said they felt 'desensitised' when they had been exposed to "too many" safety messages.

What is considered to be a risky situation among young parents?

A 'Draw and Write' task was used to identify what the parents considered to be risky in their homes and what they could do to make this situation safer for their child.

The most common responses mentioned in all groups at least once included the cooker; because it was hot, and the child could often reach up and grab handles which were hanging over the cooker; the stairs because the child could easily fall and plug sockets because the child was likely to put their fingers inside and risk electrocution.

Other hazards which the parents reported included the dangerous naked flame of a candle, cleaning products stored in a child-accessible cupboard, sharp corners on furniture, fireplaces, unlocked front doors, hot drinks left within reaching distance and untidy wires.

On parent described a situation where she was 'straightening her hair' while smoking a cigarette, she noted that she was not watching her child therefore she would put the child in the cot to reduce the risk of an accident occurring; this instance is discussed further in the full report. Overall parents demonstrated a high ability to identify these hazards and demonstrated initiative in reducing the presented risks.

Eighteen of the parents were aged 19 and above, while eight were aged 17-18. Two of the parents had children who were aged above four, and three had children aged below six months. Seventy seven per cent of the parents had children aged between one and four years.

Only two of the parents considered themselves to have a disability.

Twelve of the participants were white-British, three were of black African origin, another three were white and black Caribbean, five were black Caribbean and two were white-Irish.

All of the parents from 'St Basils' classed themselves as homeless (9/26), while all of the parents from 'Rights of Children' group classed themselves as 'in or leaving care'; however, the majority of St Michaels fellowship and Bromford housing group regarded themselves to be of low income (66 per cent in both cases) only two of the parents saw themselves as lone parents.

Eleven of the parents were unemployed at the time of the focus groups, three were in some form of training, eight were in education, (two of these eight were also either employed or self-employed) and one parent was self-employed. Twenty three per cent of the parents had no qualifications of any form while 35 per cent had NVQ's, 19 per cent had qualifications above level 2 (GCSE's at grades A*-C, including maths and English) and only 15 per cent of the parents had A-levels.

The 'Better Safe Than Sorry Report' notes that "there is a significant social class gradient in the death rate of children from injury or poisoning. For children of parents in 'routine occupations' (National Statistics Socio-economic Classification class 7), the death rate is 2.6 times higher than that of children of parents in 'higher managerial and professional occupations' (NS-SEC class 1).

However, the greatest difference in mortality is between children of parents who are employed and children of parents who are not. The death rate of children of parents who have never worked or are long term unemployed (NS-SEC class 8) is 13.1 times higher than that of children of parents in NS-SEC class 1.

The children of the father's group at St Michaels spent the majority of their time at the mother's residence. During that time the father did have access to the child, it appeared that most of this time would be spent at a grandparent's house, where the father felt there was a safer environment for his child.

Zahida said: "I feel the project was very important in relation to the community and our society especially during these difficult economic times. Many home safety projects have had funds cut. I strongly disagreed with this because I feel that one of the most effective ways to save public money would be to invest in accident prevention rather than to deal with the expense incurred after accidents, as these costs are not only tangible but cause thousands of people long term psychological and emotional distress."

Tom Mullarkey, RoSPA's chief executive said: "This was a great piece of original work, thoughtfully scoped and expertly delivered. It has added to our knowledge and provided real insight into one of the most hard-to-reach issues we tackle at RoSPA, the real-life impact of our efforts. Zahida is to be congratulated on her excellent rigour and professional delivery."

Sheila Merrill, RoSPA's home safety manager for England, who commissioned the research, said: "Zahida was friendly and enthusiastic. She carried out a very challenging piece of work with professionalism providing RoSPA with an excellent piece of research."

Accident injuries are the most frequent cause of death among children aged over one year. The home is the most common location for an accident, with young children being particularly vulnerable. Half a million under-fives visit A&E in the UK each year after suffering an accident at home. Every year they leave many thousands permanently disabled or disfigured for life.

Zahida's full report can be found at young-parents-report.pdf. Changemakers works with organisations which want to improve or increase the ways they engage with young people.

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