A CHARITY which offers support to new and expectant parents has expanded into north Essex - and it has also just won a prestigious award.

Parents 1st Essex's peer support programme has been operating in south Essex since 2008, helping parents cope with the inevitable changes that becoming a parent brings. 

It already covers other areas such Basildon, Billericay, Wickford, Thurrock and Canvey Island but will now be taking referrals for parents in Jaywick and Tendring as of January 2024.

Parents 1st also leads on the Essex Peer to Parent Network, a support collaborative which works across the whole of Essex and links parents up with other peer support organisations.

Emma Stewart, north Essex programme manager, said: "Recently it has became clear there is a huge need for support in the north of Essex.

"So, by expanding our programme, we aim to be able to be give more parents in this area hope, reassurance and the confidence to give their babies the best possible start in life.”

Parents 1st Essex has also just been awarded the The King’s Award for Voluntary Services. 

Originally named the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Services, the prize recognises outstanding work by volunteer groups which benefit local communities.

Parents 1st Essex is one of more than 200 charities across the UK who have received the prestigious honour.

Celia Suppiah, founder and chief executive of Parents 1st, said: “We are absolutely delighted that our amazing volunteers are being recognised in this way. Their role is unique and priceless. 

“They build the confidence and wellbeing of families in their communities during pregnancy, birth and beyond.

“What makes them special is that they are local parents who listen, reassure, and encourage, even during labour and birth for as long as it takes. 

“This is a sincere “thankyou” to our volunteers for helping parents to give their babies the best possible start in life.”

To help meet the demand for support, Parents 1st is now on the lookout for virtual volunteers.

The role involves helping mothers and fathers feel supported, build their confidence, prepare for challenges ahead and feel less stressed.

Parents 1st Essex will be running volunteer training courses in the new year.