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Why Parent-Infant Relationship (PAIR) Services are important, and how to commission them

Why Parent-Infant Relationship (PAIR) Services are important, and how to commission them

Quick-read summary

Parent-infant relationship services work with parents who might be struggling to bond with their baby for many reasons.

These services to help parents to strengthen their bond and develop supportive relationships with their babies. They work with families until the child’s second birthday – a key time for babies’ brain development, especially for laying down mental health foundations.

However, access to parent-infant specialised teams across the country is patchy, with less than 40 in England and significant gaps across the country, especially in the North.

This new toolkit, which is based on research, aims to address these gaps in the system, by supporting local commissioners to put parent-infant relationship services in place.

Who is this information useful for?

Anyone who commissions early years services, and anyone who has an interest in infant mental health.

What is the issue?

Stresses increase the risk that a parent will find it more challenging to provide a safe and secure parent-infant relationship, and if that happens the baby can develop distress. If left unaddressed, this distress can develop into disturbance and later down the line, an attachment disorder.

Parents can be experiencing stress and adversity from their current circumstances (for example poverty, domestic abuse, housing problems, mental health problems) or from past experiences such as trauma in childhood.

There is a clear link between parent-infant relationship difficulties and later mental and physical health difficulties for the baby. The quality of a parent-infant relationship also has a significant impact on the baby’s brain development, social and emotional development and other aspects of development.

Commissioning interventions, services and support for parent-infant relationships can have a positive health impact in the short term and the longer term.

How does this research help?

Researchers from Newcastle University worked with the Parent-Infant Foundation to carry out workshops with commissioners, where the barriers to commissioning PAIR services were explored.

In this research, commissioners said they needed easier access to evidence about the impact of parent-infant relationships on children’s outcomes, in order to support the commissioning of services. This toolkit sets out that evidence.

It also explains why supporting good attachment is important.

It also provides commissioners with a step-by-step framework for analysing their local needs and planning services to meet those needs.

Why is this important?

  • The toolkit provides commissioners with a sound evidence base which can be used for decision making
  • The toolkit provides a detailed guide to the processes involved in commissioning PAIR services, including how to carry out an analysis of local needs, planning and evaluation.
  • Ultimately, the toolkit aims to increase the availability of PAIRs support across the UK, especially in those areas where there are big gaps – and lead to better mental health outcomes for babies in the short and long term.

What’s next?

Commissioners are invited to use the toolkit to analyse their local needs, and plan and commission PAIR services where they’re needed.

Get in touch about this research

The PAIR Services Toolkit is a collaboration between the Parent-Infant Foundation, Newcastle University and the NIHR Applied Research Collaboration (ARC) North East and North Cumbria (NENC).

If you’d like to find out more, please email the lead researcher, Dr Bronia Arnott – [email protected]

Access the free toolkit

Access the toolkit via the Parent-Infant Foundation website

Or download the Toolkit below.

Parent-Infant Relationship (PAIR) Services Commissioning Toolkit