A new study, supported by the NIHR ARC North East and North Cumbria’s Open Funding Competition for 2020, is set to explore how to support the delivery of more parent-infant mental health services in our region. It is jointly-led by Newcastle University and the Parent Infant Foundation.
Mental health emerges in infancy and acts as a protective, or risk, factor for future wellbeing.
Parent-infant relationships are central to infant mental health, and if difficulties emerge it can have far-reaching consequences for a child’s future wellbeing. Parent-infant mental health teams can promote positive parent-infant relations – however in the North East and North Cumbria, there is just one parent-infant mental health team.
This project led by Dr Bronia Arnott (Newcastle University) and Dr Karen Bateson (Parent Infant Foundation) seeks to address the inequalities parents in the North East and North Cumbria face in accessing parent-infant services, through the co-development of a commissioning support tool.
The work aims to support the delivery of more parent-infant services in our region, and ultimately enable more infants and families to get the support they need during such a critical period of child development.
What is the challenge?
Infants are the most vulnerable members of society – yet are the most neglected in mental health; 42% of Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services in England and Wales make no provision for under-twos (according to the recent ‘Rare Jewels’ report from the Parent Infant Partnership). This project addresses the marginalisation of infant mental health.
Difficulties in parent-infant relationships increase with adversity, including low-income and maternal substance use 43% (according to the Parent-Infant Foundation Toolkit) with families experiencing multiple factors at the highest risk.
Parent-infant teams have been commissioned in some areas to address parent-infant relationship difficulties and infant mental health but currently the North East and North Cumbria has only one parent-infant team – the Newcastle Parent Infant Partnership (NEWPIP) delivered by Children North East – and this can only be accessed by families within Newcastle.
What will the work involve?
This project, which runs until July 2022, will involve:
- Identifying relevant commissioners through a mapping exercise
- Exploring how commissioners decide which services should be commissioned, how they are commissioned, and the facilitators of and barriers to commissioning parent-infant services
- Regional workshops to facilitate the co-creation of a commissioning support tool
The project has been funded by the NIHR Applied Research Collaboration North East and North Cumbria through the Supporting Children and Families theme as part of its Open Funding Competition for 2020.
What do we mean by a ‘commissioning support tool’?
Commissioners review the services that are needed by people who live in an area, and make sure that those services are available and appropriate. They have to balance quality and value for money with what needs to be achieved. They often have to balance competing demands and needs within limited budgets.
A commissioning support tool could be used to make it easier for commissioners to deliver appropriate parent-infant mental health services for our area, and within budget. Through qualitative interviews and workshops the research team work with commissioners to co-develop a tool which will enable them to plan the right support for families, enabling a significant improvement in prevention of infant and childhood mental health challenges.
Collaboration throughout the project
The voice of families is high on the agenda for this project and Public Involvement and Community Engagement (PICE) activities will ensure that the voice of families informs the research. Through creative engagement with families the researchers seek to understand narrative stories of parent-infant relationships and access to services to help understand what data could inform the commissioning decision-making process.
What we hope to achieve
The project aims to support access to more parent-infant services in our region, reducing inequalities, and ultimately ensuring more infants and families get the support they need during such a critical period of child development.
The commissioning tool, if successful, could also be used nationally.