It’s hot, an Indian summer. Shorts and T-shirts are back on. More than one Wythenshawe resident is mowing or strimming, maybe for the last time this year. Like many estates, this one gets noticed for all the wrong reasons but, having worked around here, I know the majority are stigmatised by the few.
Frances’ accommodation is, from the outside, unremarkable, which is probably intentional. A brick, two-storey block behind a row of shops. The razor wire and detritus of the shops are on one side and a large lawned area with children’s play equipment on the other.
There are spikes and grilles at the front and one of those half sphere security cameras above the door. On the street, at the entrance to the small car park, there’s another camera, less subtle, on a bare metal pole.
Frances comes to the door to meet me. She tells me she is tired, the baby is keeping her awake at night. I sign in and follow her upstairs, along the corridor to her flat. I’m impressed: a suite of rooms as big as any of those city centre apartments with their canalside views and latté cafés. There are two bedrooms, a bathroom, and a living room with kitchenette. It comes with two brand new sofas, tables and chairs, a double bed, a single bed, a wardrobe, chest of drawers. “It’s partly furnished,” says Frances, “the rest I’ve brought from home.”
There are another nine flats here, all for young mums, all supported by the staff in the downstairs office. “I haven’t started my weekly meetings with them yet,” explains Frances, “they are letting me settle in, calling me to see if everything is okay.” Her neighbours have been friendly but, “I’m not ready to make new friends just yet.”
Hassan has been staying but is out now, and baby Mia (that’s Me-a and not My-a) is asleep in the bedroom. I take a peek. I fear Frances was asleep too, before I pressed her buzzer.
“How’s it going?” I ask, as she gets me a glass of coke from the tidy kitchenette.
“I like it here. Yeah. It’s a bit far when I want to go back down there, that’s the annoying part. Backwards and forwards all the time.”
Frances’ mum has been in hospital, and is going in again soon. “She keeps getting blood clots,” explains Frances. “First she had her toe amputated and they thought they could stop it spreading and then she had half her foot cut off and now they need to cut her leg open. She needs a bit of help now and then, which is why I go down to make sure everything is going okay.”
I hear nothing, but Frances is tuned in, ready. “She’s waking up,” she says as she goes next door into the bedroom. The nineteen-day-old has her eyes open, grizzling gently.
“Tell me something about her personality,” I ask as Mia is brought into the living room.
“She’s funny,” says Frances. “She’s been giggling lately. It’s cute when she smiles. I always try to take a picture but she stops just as I go to take it.
“She’s dead good and a proper daddy’s girl. She likes to sleep next to him, it makes her feel safe.”
Frances tells me the midwife visited until Mia was 13 days old. She has a health visitor from the Family Nurse Partnership which, its website says, is a ‘preventive programme for vulnerable young first time mothers. It offers intensive and structured home visiting, delivered by specially trained nurses, from early pregnancy until age two.’
“My health visitor is dead nice. She’s called Jane and she does everything for me. She comes about once a week and weighs Mia. She helps me out with everything I need. If I need to ring somewhere I’ll just text her and she’ll ring up for me.”
The Family Nurse Partnership is an idea imported from the US where evidence has shown that early, targeted intervention can save ‘from $17,000 to $34,000 per child by the time they reach 15, with a $3-5 return for every $1 invested.’ Sounds interesting.