IMHAW21 – New survey finds ‘baby blindspot’ in children and young people’s mental health provision
04 June 2021
As part of this year’s Infant Mental Health Awareness Week (7-13 June), The Parent-Infant Foundation is highlighting huge and concerning gaps in mental health services for babies and toddlers.
The Foundation is sharing results of an online workforce survey which shows that infants are too often overlooked and neglected in children and young people’s mental health provision.
We are calling on organisations and Government to ‘Include Infants’ in Children and Young People’s Mental Health policies and services and warn that leaving young children unsupported could have serious consequences later in their lives and create more demand for mental health services in future.
The results of the survey confirm that local children and young people’s mental health services often don’t even cater for or accept referrals for babies and toddlers.
Key findings show that:
· Only 9% of respondents felt there was sufficient provision available for babies and toddlers whose mental health was ‘at risk’ in their area.
· Just 36% of respondents reported that, within children and young people’s mental health services in their area, there are mental health services that can work effectively with babies and toddlers aged 0-2.
· Only 52% of respondents said their local NHS children and young people’s mental health service took referrals for children aged two and under. Many of these respondents told us that, while this was the referral criteria on paper, in reality, the service was not working with young children.
The survey results also underline concerning disparities in training, understanding and confidence levels for the professionals at the helm of children and young people’s mental health services.
Almost a third (31%) of Mental Health Practitioners who did the survey feel they don’t understand infant mental health, rating their understanding as only 1 out of 5.
The survey was completed by almost 300 practitioners working in NHS infant, children and or young people’s mental health services (CAMHS) from a wide range of professions. It marks the start of Infant Mental Health Awareness Week running from Monday 7 June, which this year has the theme of ‘Including Infants in children and young people’s mental health’.
As part Infant Mental Health Awareness Week, The Parent-Infant Foundation is delighted to announce that organisations including Home-Start UK and the Children’s Commissioner in Northern Ireland have made an important commitment to adopt the language of “infant, children and young people’s mental health”. The Foundation is calling on others to follow suit to help make an important shift in understanding, attitudes, policy and provision to consider and respond to the needs of our youngest children.
Sally Hogg, Head of Policy and Campaigning at The Parent-Infant Foundation said:
“It is clear from these new statistics, and our previous research, that there is a ‘baby blindspot’ and that infant mental health is frequently forgotten in children and young people’s mental health provision. The pandemic and lockdown have been traumatic for some families already experiencing many challenges so the need for specialised support is greater than ever.
To ensure that ALL children across the UK can access appropriate mental health provision, if and when they need it, we are calling for three actions:
· Policy and investment from national Governments to increase provision of infant mental health services.
· A drive within the NHS to hold commissioners and providers to account for offering mental health services for all children.
· A workforce development strategy to ensure there are trained professionals with the specialised skills required to deliver these critical services.
“Wide ranging research indicates that mental wellbeing during the earliest years of life lays the foundations for later health and wellbeing. Changing our language to talk about “infant, children and young people’s mental health” is a simple but powerful way to drive change. We hope that Infant Mental Health Awareness Week can focus attention on what is needed to help all babies, especially those in the most need, to have the very best start to their lives.”
To pledge your commitment to helping to include infants in children and young people’s mental health go to our new Pledge page here.