1001 critical days
Sue Ranger, consultant clinical psychologist, within our Infants Mental Health team was invited to help develop the 1001 Critical Days Report, which was launched recently. Here she shares details of her experience...
"Tim Loughton, MP and former Children’s Minister, said that tackling child mental health issues and maltreatment in the first two years of life should be no less of a priority for politicians as defending the realm.
He made the comments ahead of the launch of an Inquiry conducted by the All Party Parliamentary Groups for Conception to Age 2- first 1001 days into perinatal mental health and child maltreatment. It suggests that the cost of failing to deal with these issues is estimated to be £23 billion, half of annual defence spending of £43billion, and that poor parental / child attachment can be passed down from one generation to the next, creating a vicious cycle and damaging environment in which to grow up.
The report is the culmination of months of inquiry sessions, which took evidence from a committee panels of experts and parliamentarians, to investigate the various factors that affect the emotional and social development of children from conception to age 2. The report was launched on Wednesday 25 February at the Speaker’s House in Parliament where a number of leading academics, clinicians and policy makers in the field were in attendance.
The over-arching inquiry pulls together previous research in the area to offer two main conclusions:
One is that to deliver socially and emotionally capable children at age 2, local policies need to be based on a commitment to primary prevention. The evidence presented in the Inquiry strongly indicates that identification of need should take place before the child is harmed, not after. Therefore, inspection should look closely at primary prevention measures which would deliver this result.
The second conclusion is that, without intervention, there will be in the future, as there has been in the past, high intergenerational transmission of disadvantage, inequality, dysfunction and child maltreatment and the economic value of breaking these cycles will be enormous. In addition, the report offers nine recommendations, which it says are practical, achievable but, above all, the minimum essential if society is to tackle these issues.
I was lucky enough to be one of those invited to contribute to the process of gathering evidence and opinion to inform the new ‘Building Great Britons’ report on the vital importance of supporting infants and their families in the period from conception to the child’s second birthday. My involvement meant attending a series of several meetings in the beautiful wood panelled meeting rooms in the Houses of Parliament over a period of five months from September 2014 to February 2015 and providing verbal and written comments on the importance of early attachment relationships and support for infants and their families in the earliest days of a child’s life.
A significant and rapidly growing body of research now exists to support the clinical evidence that tells us that an infant’s environment and experiences in utero and in the care they receive in the first months of life will dramatically influence outcomes throughout their lives. If babies have positive and loving care before and after birth from parents who are physically and emotionally healthy then they will grow healthy brains and become secure and resilient children who make good progress and do well in school and beyond. Relationships are a key part of this process and that includes the relationships that parents have with professionals and services to support them in caring for their babies and young children. Proactive and preventative services are less costly in the long term than reactive services to address established difficulties so the policy makes good economic sense too.
I was formally invited to attend the launch of the 1001 Critical Days Report on Wednesday 25 February, along with various others including our local CCG Children’s Commissioner, Jane Mischenko, by the Rt Hon Frank Field MP and Tim Loughton MP who chaired the APPG meetings. Speakers at the launch included Mr Speaker, The Rt Hon John Bercow MP, The Rt Hon Paul Burstow MP as well as MPs Tim Loughton, Sharon Hodgson and George Hosking OBE, CEO and Research Director of the WAVE Trust. It was quite a line up! The surroundings of the state rooms at Speaker’s House at the House of Commons were equally grand and impressive. Even gaining access to the event required airport style security checks and an escort to the Speaker’s House!
The grandeur of the setting only served to emphasise the importance of the agenda and the significance of this report for me as an Infant Mental Health practitioner in Leeds. Our city is one of few in the UK to have already acknowledged the importance of the first 1001 Critical Days and to already have in place a Best Start Strategy that prioritises proactive and preventative services to support families through pregnancy and the first two years of a child’s life. Indeed, we held an excellent conference in October 2013 on this very subject at which I was able to present a paper on the ways that Leeds is delivering services for infants and their families to promote infant well-being and outcomes. We were lucky enough to have several brilliant national speakers on the podium at the conference including George Hosking from the WAVE Trust.
A number of services and initiatives are already in place in Leeds doing sterling work in supporting these families and the infants who are the most vulnerable of our citizens. These include Early Start teams, Family Nurse Partnership Team, Preparation for Birth and Beyond, BabySteps, and the Infant Mental Health Service, to name but a few. An ambitious programme of training and consultation to support practitioners to support families is well underway.
The ‘Building Great Britons’ report is an inspiring and exciting publication that very much endorses the Best Start Strategy in Leeds and the commitment we have made to the first 1001 Critical Days. It has been a privilege to be part of the process of making a little bit of history happen in such an important area of policy. Getting things right for infants produces positive outcomes for them and for society. Truly an investment in the future!"
Sue RangerConsultant Clinical Psychologist
More information can be found at www.1001criticaldays.co.uk