Latest news

network icon
8 Jun 2021

Supporting access to more parent-infant relationship teams in under-served areas.

Baby with dad

A new study, supported by the NIHR ARC North East and North Cumbria’s Open Funding Competition for 2020, is set to explore the delivery of more parent-infant relationship teams in our region, and beyond.

The project is jointly-led by Newcastle University and the Parent-Infant Foundation and will involve the co-development of a commissioning support tool, which could be used nationally.

Project summary

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 relationship teams can play a critical role in promoting positive parent-infant relations.

However, many regions are under-served – and in the North East and North Cumbria, there’s just one parent-infant relationship team that can only be accessed by families in a specific area.

This project is led by Dr Bronia Arnott (Newcastle University) and Dr Karen Bateson (Parent-Infant Foundation) and seeks to address the inequalities parents 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 under-served areas, 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 (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.

Find out more about the Parent-Infant Foundation.

Related Twitter profiles




Related resources

Rare Jewels – a report into specialised parent-infant relationship teams in the UK (by Sally Hogg, Parent Infant Partnership UK, 2020)

The Parent Infant Foundation Toolkit – learning, information and advice for commissioners of parent-infant relationship teams

The Newcastle Parent Infant Partnership (NEWPIP) delivered by Children North East

News article – further funding secured to continue NEWPIP service from June 2021

Independent evaluation of the NEWPIP service by Newcastle University and the NIHR ARC North East and North Cumbria (May 21)