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NSPCC calls for more action to support the mental health of babies and young children in care

6th June 2016

Today (Monday June 6th), the NSPCC launches its ‘Case for Change’ to highlight the importance of infant mental health and the need to do more to support that of babies and young children in care.

The charity has revealed that the impact of infant mental health has been vastly under-estimated across the wider care system, despite the fact that children in care are four times more likely than their peers to experience mental health problems and behavioural issues in later life.

Infant mental health refers to the healthy social and emotional development of babies and children under five, through the formation of secure and stable relationships with their parents and care-givers. Research shows that children who experience maltreatment and grow up without positive and stable relationships are at greater risk of mental health problems throughout their lives. Those in care are particularly vulnerable. Twenty per cent of children in care are under five years old, however, at present, mental health services for babies and young children in care are virtually non-existent.

The NSPCC’s Case for Change brings together a wide range of evidence from research and practice, from the UK and internationally, and lays out a series of solutions to how we can all rethink our approach to infant mental health in the care system. These include;

  • Developing interventions that focus on the attachment-relationship between the child and their caregiver;
  • Combining both health and social care expertise to create a consistent team of multi-disciplinary professionals;
  • Offering a bespoke treatment model tailored to the individual needs of each case;
  • Full liaison with other services that can support the needs of parents and/or children.

For the first time in the UK, the NSPCC is currently exploring a new approach to help improve the mental health of babies and young children in care who have been abused or neglected. Developed in America, the New Orleans Intervention Model puts a child’s attachment relationships at the heart of decision-making so they can experience a positive and nurturing care setting as early in life as possible and the model is now being tested by the NSPCC at two sites in Glasgow and London.

The NSPCC’s ‘Case for Change’ report is being launched during the UK’s first Infant Mental Health Awareness Week, organised by the Parent Infant Partnership (PIP UK).

Peter Wanless, NSPCC CEO said:

“The wider system has vastly under-estimated the importance of looking after infant mental health. Acting early can have significant benefits to future life outcomes. Yet public money is mostly spent on ‘late intervention’, rather than preventing problems occurring in the first place.  It is time to rethink the way we work together across agencies to better identify and address the mental health and well-being needs of infants and young children.”

Claire Rees, Executive Director, PIP UK said:

“Good mental health begins in early childhood. When a baby has the opportunity to form a secure bond with their caregiver, it can support their ability to form healthy relationships throughout life. The first 1001 days of life, from conception to age two, provide a crucial opportunity to influence this development.  We are really pleased that the NSPCC has chosen to launch its Case for Change during Infant Mental Health Awareness Week.”

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