Core Principles - Digital Support
The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a requirement to change service provision to meet the need of families in a lockdown situation. In April 2020 the migration of in person to digital support provided an opportunity to test this method of delivering individual and group support.
Provision of online support brings opportunities and challenges:
Positive factors of digital support
Support – digital support can save time and travel costs and meet the needs of many mothers. This may also be the same for volunteers who can support mothers from their own home. This may be especially important for potential volunteers who live in remote areas and previously would have been unable to offer support.
There is a potential to offer a digital group covering a wider area, even pan-Scotland to meet the needs of particular groups:
- A group for young mothers
- Groups for mums whose first language is not English
- Partners or other family members
Supervision – Volunteer supervision can continue to be in person but recognising that digital may be more suitable for some volunteers following risk assessment
Training – digital training may widen opportunities for volunteering due to reduced time and travel costs.
There can be challenges with delivering online support, supervision or training. Some families may not have the necessary IT equipment or a good quality internet connection; women may also not have the privacy which allows for a confidential conversation. There may be language issues and the need for an interpreter which could result in a delay for support. Organisations should be aware of this and consider links with others such as Connecting Scotland who would support digital inclusion for all.
Safety and security
There are a range of platforms which can be used. Some platforms are secure and these are to be recommended. Where a platform is less secure mothers should be advised and safety measures put in place to mitigate risk and protect mothers and babies. Some examples are given in Appendix 6.
This support is complementary to and should not replace in person support which some mothers may prefer. However, provision of online support offers opportunities for collaboration between NHS Board areas and across Scotland, and may deliver an improved service.
Breastfeeding peer support is recognised as a valuable aspect of care provision to families and complementary to current NHS maternity and community universal services provision. These core principles for breastfeeding peer support volunteering in Scotland provide a structure for local or national work.
Adhering to these core principles will deliver a quality standard for recruitment, training, mentorship and supervision and ensure that volunteers meet the expected standards. Volunteers will be supported and encouraged to flourish and to develop in the role which could increase recruitment and retention. Importantly, these core principles will ensure that the care provided to families throughout Scotland is safe, effective and delivered by knowledgeable and skilled volunteers working in partnership with health professionals.