Update w/c 19th June

While it may seem that the campaign has gone quiet of late, this does not mean we have given up on the fight to retain a Star Buddies Breastfeeding Peer Support service for Blackpool, and there is plenty still going on behind the scenes!

Here are some updates on what has happened in June:

– Zoe Walsh interview for Radio Lancashire

– Protest in Bickerstaffe Square outside council offices – on a grim northern seaside town day for weather, valiant protestors turned out and made their voices heard – resulted in Blackpool Gazette and Granada Reports coverage.

– 2 hour meeting with Director of Public Health and one of the staff involved in commissioning the Star Buddies and the Infant Feeding role and Baby Friendly Accreditation work, via the Breastfeeding Network – Shel Banks and Zoe Walsh for the campaign, plus Blackpool Councillor Paul Galley. Discussions around new Health Visiting Service and how the council propose breastfeeding support will be provided going forward, and around statutory commissioning documents and best practice for breastfeeding peer support.

– Contacts have been made with new MPs and other Blackpool councillors

– Documents being drafted for further council meeting, date TBA

– Blackpool’s Maternity Services Liaison Committee requested input from the campaign at their meeting so this is being provided

– Plans for Star Buddies recognition event

And of course we will continue to keep you updated here with events needing public input, which there will be plenty in the coming weeks and months. Your voice as a local resident, is so important.

Statements from those standing for election on June 8th

We asked for feedback about the loss of the Blackpool breastfeeding peer support service, from the candidates in the GE 2017 for the two Blackpool constituencies – here are their responses: (in order of receipt)

Chris Webb standing for Blackpool North and Cleveleys (Labour)

“Thanks for getting in touch. I’ve raised this issue with the Council and Councillors and highlighted my concerns. We need to ensure services like this continue to do the excellent work with new mothers. If elected tomorrow I will do all I can to help.”

Paul Maynard standing for Blackpool North and Cleveleys (Conservative)

“I am a supporter of the scheme. My view has always been as that however scarce money for public health might be, it should be focused on the area’s biggest challenges. Maternal health remains a real challenge in this town and I’ve seen many examples of excellent practice, not only via the Star Buddies peer scheme but also via the Family Nurse Partnership and others down the years. It seems foolish to cut funding in areas of public health where the outcomes are often poorest. Both perinatal and antenatal health in Blackpool are major public health concerns so I share your disappointment at the decision made by the local Labour Council. The local NHS take the view that ‘breast is best’ and have been keen to recruit and train more midwives and health visitor in this area, they are in full support of the scheme. The Star Buddies not only had paid staff but also many volunteer mums who are keen to continue helping locally and have received accredited training, so whether the service continues under the Star Buddies brand or via some other means I am keen to ensure the help continues. I am hoping to set up some meetings with the Council post election on this matter and will do my best to try and reduce the gaps in service.”

Gordon Marsden standing for Blackpool South (Labour)

“Thank you for the email you sent me on the withdrawal of the Star Buddy Support Service in Blackpool. When this was first brought to my attention – in mid-May – I wanted to try and get a response and explanation from the Director of Public Health as to the reasoning for this decision.

My office contacted his office and received a general statement to the effect that although the service was well-liked and highly regarded, that because it had not been able for whatever reason to expand the number of mothers choosing breast feeding, they needed to look at other avenues via the new Better Start partnership and additional investment in the health visiting service.

I wanted to see more details on this and therefore pressed the department further for more detail and strategy.  I have recently seen this and while it does essentially repeat the original argument, there are further questions I would like to pose to the new Children’s Services Director as well as the Director of Public Health.

I intend therefore after June 8th to seek a meeting with them if I am re-elected as a Blackpool MP to take those questions further.  I certainly believe that those women who have contributed their time and effort to the Star Buddies volunteer scheme should be fully recognised for their contribution and be further consulted as to what role there might be for them in the future.  Their enthusiasm and experience should not in my view be discarded, and though I hope that their expertise and comments were taken into account in the original ‘stakeholder feedback’ which I am told was requested, I will press the Director of Public Health further on this.

It is I am afraid a fact that Government has withdrawn £450 million of grant funding from Blackpool’s care services since 2010 which has meant they have forced many difficult decisions to be made locally.  Despite this however I am told that the Better Start funding will enable enhanced investment in Health Visitors. I and my party have incidentally pledged that we would review in Government the funding and not least for outreach services in children’s centres which this Government’s cuts have affected.”

Protest outside council offices, 6th June

The weather forecasts were dismal – 100% chance of rain and up to 50mph winds – and being residents of Blackpool and the surrounding areas we are all very well aware of how the weather can be!

BUT! undeterred, a small but passionate band of families staged a protest in Bickerstaffe Square Blackpool over lunchtime on Tuesday 6th June,  for between 30 minutes and 2 hours, with brief spells in the nearby coffee shop to warm up and refuel!

Here are some photos taken relatively early on in the event, by local photographer Richard Hardwick – some of us were in the cafe and some of us had not yet arrived! All of us had been almost blown to smithereens !

Granada Reports came to report on us, with a segment going out on the evening news, as did The Blackpool Gazette – we’ll link here where we have that coverage.


Remember if you have not yet signed the petition you can do so here

Over 1000 signatures to the petition!

Last night the petition went over 1,000 signatories, which gives us a chance to look back at the some of the amazing comments people have left about their shock and disbelief about this essential Blackpool service closing:

“You cannot close a vital support group like this. My daughter is due to give birth next month and as she’s only 18 she was hoping to have their help and support as she has chosen to breastfeed. Keep the support in place for all future mums and their children.”

“I didn’t breastfeed and didn’t intend to but for people who did this is such an awful thing to lose! I know from my friends experiences they would have been lost without the support of star buddies!”

“I really don’t understand where the support will come from if this service disappears? Midwives and Health Visitors are stretched enough as it is and would need extra training to fulfill this requirement. My twins and I had a 2 week stay in Blackpool Paediatrics after 14 weeks in NICU at Preston. Star Buddies were great at coming to see me and my girls to check our breastfeeding, as I was panicking after leaving NICU and having 24/7 support there.”

“I had my son last week and wanted to breastfeed. I struggled a lot in the hospital but had a visit from a star buddy who gave lots of great advice. After I was finally discharged, I really struggled and was in tears! A star buddy came to my house within an hour and made me feel so much better and more confident. This service needs to carry on as I would have given up by now if it wasn’t for them”

I am so sad to hear about this. This is such a vital service. I have managed to breastfeed 2 of my babies with the help and support from the star buddies. They gave me so much advice, support and a listening ear. They were there when I hurt the most and I had no idea what I was doing. Thanks to them, I had the confidence to go out in public, knowing I was doing the best for my baby.
Please don’t end this service”

“Vital service especially for mums like me who delivered prematurely. Breast feeding is a whole different ball game when you have to express and try and keep your supply there for weeks on end till baby is ready to feed. Star buddies were ace for me”

“Star buddies came to teach me how to collect and store colostrum in advance of babies being born. Without their support and advice I wouldn’t of been able to store my milk in the fridges in the nicu in advance of my twins prem birth.”

“This is such an amazing service…and supported me with breastfeeding my 2 children. Without their support I would have felt alone and given up! Not only did they support breast feeding, the ladies supported me through the early days of being a mum! I have recommended this service to so many new mum’s! I hope the council change their decision. Such an amazing and unique support service!”

There are many many more comments on the Facebook thread too – see this link 

Expert thoughts on the Star Buddies Service

Expert Voices

“I have seen the difference peer supporters make to new mums. This is a vital service that should not be cut in any locality, but in Blackpool where breastfeeding rates are so poor it is absolutely vital.”  – Professor Helen Ball, University of Durham Anthropology Dept

“As a former midwife I know how this service is desperately needed in Blackpool.” ET – Blackpool

“Supporting women to breastfeed saves money in both the short and long term – fewer hospital admissions and GP visits for breastfed babies and a 4% reduction in breast cancer rates in women who breastfeed for one year.” – Mindy Noble – Chair of Hampshire Maternity Services Liaison Committee

“Breastfeeding support contributes to maternal mental and physical health and helps provide a healthy start for babies. I believe Blackpool’s families should not be denied this quality service, and cuts will put pressure on the Health Visiting and Primary Care service.” – Dr Louise Santhaman, GP

‘After my discussion with the Blackpool paediatricians last year I was more convinced than ever of the need for exactly such a service as this provides. These low-cost initiatives by women who understand breastfeeding save taxpayers and ratepayers money as well as improving the health of families and babies in this generation and those to come. Any town lucky enough to have such a service should cherish it. So many women fail to breastfeed because they do not get the support they need when they need it.’ – Author and Health Historian  Maureen Minchin,  infantfeedingmatters.com (titles: Milk Matters 2015, Breastfeeding Matters 1985, Food for Thought 1982)

“Star Buddies has been a beacon example of how to support new mothers. Breastfeeding matters to mothers, to babies and to the greater health economy – we know this from research.  Mothers deserve evidence based support focused on their needs.” Dr Wendy Jones, Pharmacist

Gazette coverage, Thursday 1st June

Mums are ready to protest Blackpool Council’s decision

A group of mums is ready to mount a protest outside Blackpool Council’s headquarters after the authority axed funding for breastfeeding support services.

The Save Blackpool Breastfeeding Support group was set up following a decision by Blackpool Council to cut funding for the Star Buddies volunteer scheme. They are due to stage a demonstration outside Blackpool Council’s Bickerstaffe House headquarters at 11.30am next Tuesday.

Mums concerned about the loss of the service got together last week at a cafe in Layton to discuss their concerns. And they were clear about the support the Star Buddies had given them, Leanne Lesson said: “I had a bad experience trying to breastfeed my first child as at the time there wasn’t the help that there is now and I ended up giving up. “Without this help many mums like myself would not be able to successfully breastfeed their babies.”

Stacey Mallam said: “To end this service is such an injustice to all mummies and mummies to be. Please Blackpool Council – reverse your decision.”

Star Buddies are trained peer supporters and mums who have breastfed their own babies. In the last 10 years, they have helped thousands of mums and babies in Blackpool. They see mums before they have their babies, in the first two days after they’re born at Blackpool Victoria Hospital, and then they call them and visit them at home for the next six weeks to help them with any problems. The service has been highly praised by Unicef UK Baby Friendly.
Blackpool Council says more funding will go into the resort’s general health visitor service.

Read the report on the Gazette website here

We also welcome Dads, Aunties, Uncles, Grandmas and Grandads to the protest, as well as other concerned Fylde Coast residents.

For more information see our Facebook event  and see our Facebook page and to sign the petition and leave your comments, see the petition page