Celia Suppiah has been well known to me and to my colleagues for some five years now. She has been involved, virtually since the start, in our national health literacy programme Skilled for Health, a joint programme with DIUS and the national health and education charity ContinYou.


In Thurrock, working with the local community mothers group she was a pioneer for this community based learning intervention and as such she and her colleagues in this locality, through their testing of the concept have made a significant contribution to its success and growth from a series of modest local pilots to a national programme featured in DH White Papers and other major policy publications. I have no doubt she has the skills, professional knowledge and understanding of, and commitment to, community based interventions to make a success of her social enterprise.

Mike Horah
Head of Social Marketing and Health Related Behaviour Department of Health

Best practice

The following extensive evidence base and practice experience underpins the Community Parent model promoted by Parents 1st:

  • The value of ‘community mothers’ has accumulated since the early 1980s, particularly the Dublin Community Mothers Programme (Johnson et al 1993, 2000) and the Mothers Informing Mothers programme in the Netherlands (Hanrahan and Prinsen 1997, Prinsen 2000). Sustained benefits highlighted include parenting skills and maternal self-esteem. A further study (Molloy 2007) carried out in Dublin found that volunteering as a community mother provided a pathway into lifelong learning opportunities.
  • The Managing Director of Parents 1st (Celia Suppiah) has 25 years past experience of developing Thurrock Community Mothers (TCMP) in Essex since its inception as the first pilot in the UK from 1991 until 2008. This has provided the impetus for the development of other programmes across the UK and for establishing a national network for coordinators. External evaluations (Davison and Garlick 1999, DeBell 2003) identified TCMP as an excellent model of community outreach, user involvement and social inclusion in the parenting support field.
  • From 2005 – 2007 Celia led a two-year research project funded by the Health Foundation and sponsorship by the South West Essex NHS Research Consortium involving ten Community Parent Programmes across England, Wales and Scotland. The following questions were addressed: What worked well and in what circumstances? How could programmes be modified to improve effectiveness? A range of recommendations were made to modify and improve the effectiveness of Community Parent programmes. (See A Collective Evaluation of Community Parent Programmes for more information].

 DeBell D (2003) ‘Evaluation of Thurrock Community Mothers’ Anglia Ruskin University. Unpublished Report for Thurrock Primary Care Trust

Davison, C and Garlick, J. (1999) Evaluation of Thurrock Community Mothers. University of Essex Health and Social Services Institute. Unpublished Report for Thameside NHS Trust.

Hanrahan, M and Prinsen, B (eds) (1997) Community health, community care, community support. Utrecht: NIZW / MIM Cooperative.

Johnson, Z, et al (1993) Community Mothers Programme: randomised controlled trial of non-professional intervention in parenting. British Medical Journal, 306,  1449-52.

Johnson, Z et al (2000) Community Mothers Programme – seven year follow up of a randomised controlled trial of non-professional intervention in parenting. Journal of Public Health Medicine, 22, (3),  337-342.

Molloy M (2007) ‘Volunteering as a Community Mother – a pathway to lifelong learning’ Community Practitioner, May, Volume 80, Number 5, 28-32

Prinsen, B. (2000) Crossing the Border between Individual and Community: Community Based Parental Support in the Netherlands.

Suppiah, C. (1994) Working in partnership with Community Mothers. Health Visitor Journal,  67(2), 51–53.