The NCT has been in the news quite a lot this week after their president resigned. Seána Talbot handed in her resignation stating a shift in the focus of the charity.
For the past 60 years, the NCT has been the go-to charity for parents looking for antenatal education and breastfeeding support. In recent years, however, the charity has shifted away from the focus on birth and breastfeeding. Instead, it appears to prioritised increasing revenue over supporting parents.
A change in direction
As a former NCT volunteer and trainee practitioner, I have seen first hand the change in NCT’s direction. This has been much to the chagrin of the volunteers and students. When I first signed up as a volunteer, I was excited to be involved in a grassroots support network where I could make a real difference to mums on the ground. As a breastfeeding mum, I recognised the value of the NCT in supporting those who needed that little bit extra.
Don’t get me wrong, breastfeeding is a very personal choice and one every parent should make within the context of their own situation. I don’t judge any parent on their feeding choices. Breastfeeding was right for me, but it might not be for others and there is no judgment of either method. However, parents who choose to feed their babies formula are already massively supported. Bottle-feeding has become the societal norm, but also there is an entire industry supporting parents who bottle-feed.
Breastfeeding mothers don’t have this backing and many areas lack crucial support services and funding. The NCT used to be one of the main sources of support through their breastfeeding helpline and practitioners. This is just one of the areas that they have moved away from.
As a former student on the NCT Birth & Beyond degree course, I was very impressed by the course content and felt really proud to be associated with the charity. As time went on, I began to notice things that made me feel very uncomfortable. Articles began to appear on the charity’s social media such as how to get back to your pre-pregnancy figure (since been removed after an uproar from practitioners). The charity is there to support parents, not heap on the pressure!
From my few interactions with the executive team, I was left feeling like money was the main goal of the NCT. Supporting parents has been moving further down the list of priorities. Instead of putting parents at the heart of the services, the NCT seems to be competing with other antenatal class providers to increase revenue. This has been to the detriment of those families who need something extra, something which the charity was set up to provide – a community of support and guidance.
Seána Talbot’s resignation
As for Seána Talbot, I’ve had the privilege of knowing her both personally and professionally. I’ve watched her struggle for the past few years against an executive team who have consistently gone against the wishes of their members and created a toxic environment for anyone who raises their hand in concern.
Seána has been volunteering with NCT and other great causes at grassroots level for over 25 years. She is a fantastic advocate and champion for women and families. She chairs the NI Maternal Mental Health Conference Association of which I am a member. Our association delivers an annual conference highlighting the issues of mental health in expectant and new parents and campaigns for improved services.
The fact that she has shown such dedication, devoting most of her adult life to the NCT should demonstrate what a difficult decision it must have been for her to take the decision to resign. The NCT have truly lost an asset and have made a terrible mistake in letting things get so bad.
For my part, I have also resigned as a member and volunteer of the NCT and have decided to focus my efforts to support parents elsewhere. I can only hope that the charity sees the error of its ways. They need to get back to the true ethos of supporting parents through birth and breastfeeding as their founder, Prunella Briance intended.