THE future of a unique specialist service in Newcastle-upon-Tyne run by the charity Children North East has been assured, thanks to People’s Postcode Lottery players.
NEWPIP (Newcastle Parent Infant Partnership), which provides parent-infant psychotherapy and therapeutic help to parents to support the development of a sensitive bond, was launched five years ago with financial backing from the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government, but just last month, it almost had to close its doors after funding ran out.
Thankfully, support from People’s Postcode Lottery players will ensure those core elements of the service can continue. Since players of the lottery began supporting the charity 12 years ago, Children North East has received just over £3.1m to aid its mission helping the region’s babies, children and young people grow up to be healthy and happy.
Chief Executive of Children North East, Leigh Elliott, said she was delighted to announce the additional award thanks to People’s Postcode Lottery players during Infant Mental Health Awareness Week this week (7-13 June).
“We are so grateful to players of People’s Postcode Lottery as we know from our beneficiaries that the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the mental health problems some expectant and new mothers are facing.
“In the last year alone, NEWPIP has helped 277 families, so this ongoing support is really valuable. The importance of developing a strong bond in the first 1001 days of a child’s life cannot be underestimated. Research shows that early intervention provided by specialist parent-infant teams helps babies experience nurturing early relationships and start school best equipped to make friends and learn. This increases the chances that they will achieve their potential in later life and contribute to society and the economy.”
Researchers at Newcastle University, who are part of the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Applied Research Collaboration (ARC) for the North East and North Cumbria, have produced an independent report featuring the views of parents who have recently used the service. It concluded that the NEWPIP approach ‘supports parents to build a better bond with their baby and provide a safe space for parents to heal through their relationships.’
One mother told the University’s researchers how engaging with her NEWPIP therapist helped her:
“I just used to just sit on the sofa in a dressing gown in a little ball, and then, by the end of it, I felt more back to myself.”
“It has really fundamentally changed how I parent.”
Whilst another said of NEWPIP:
“It felt like quite a safe space to just say all those things which you shouldn’t feel as a mother.”
Stacey Wilson, mum to baby Skye, received support from NEWPIP during Lockdown last year and featured on BBC Radio 4’s File on Four programme about being pregnant during the pandemic.
She said she was pleased for other parents in similar positions that funding had been found to continue the NEWPIP service:
“I was anxious, once the pandemic hit, about leaving the house or even going to the local supermarket. Most of the weeks of pregnancy I spent at home and didn’t even venture out of the garden.
“NEWPIP was invaluable for me. It helped calm my anxiety with impending motherhood. Also, once Skye was born and a whole new set of worries set in, the service continued to provide me with mental health support along with other help like food parcels.
“Skye and I are great now. We are very in sync with one another and happy in each other’s company. We’re looking forward to celebrating Skye’s first birthday, which will be on the 16th of June! The year has flown by so quickly.”
Most families in the UK live in areas where there is little support like this for babies and their care givers, but in Newcastle, Children North East runs the only parent-infant relationship team in our region, the nearest other projects being in Leeds and Bradford. NEWPIP also provides high-quality training for health and other professionals working with babies in the region.
The Parent Infant Foundation, the national body supporting the development, growth and quality of specialised parent-infant relationship teams, welcomed the news that NEWPIP’s work can continue.
Sally Hogg, Head of Policy and Campaigning at the Parent-Infant Foundation, said:
“This Infant Mental Health Awareness Week, we are calling on everyone to include infants in children and young people’s mental health. Children and young people’s mental health should refer to the mental health of all children from 0-18 and beyond, but too often, it is focused on older children. There is a ‘baby blindspot’ and more needs to be done to address this gap in policy, funding and services for our youngest members of society.
“Specialist parent-infant teams and services such as Children North East’s NEWPIP can help fill this gap and offer vital, highly-skilled services to support babies’ emotional development. The Parent-Infant Foundation believes that all parent-infant services should form a core part of public service provision. Until that is the case, though, we are very grateful for other funders, such as The People’s Postcode Lottery, who are stepping up and helping to ensure that local families will continue to get this critical support in order to give them and their babies the very best start in life.”