Northern Ireland news

Co Down service helping parent-infant bonding is 'rare jewel', UK health minister told

Promoting attachment, bonding and communication is key to enabling youngsters to thrive

WORK helping parent-infant bonding for Co Down families experiencing "challenging and complex" social pressures has been singled out as a "rare jewel" in a report launched at Westminster.

Launched yesterday with British health minister Jackie Doyle-Price and cross-party MPs, the report by Parent Infant Partnership UK (PiP UK) calls for similar specialised teams to be available across the UK for all families who need them by 2030.

The ABC PiP service, which was unveiled in Ballygowan in January, is one of just 27 and has been called a rare jewel because they are "small, scarce, but - where they do exist - incredibly valuable".

The Northern Ireland project helps form "stronger bonds and positive relationships between parents and infants by focussing on promoting attachment, bonding and communication (ABC)".

It brings together Barnardo's, South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust, PiP UK and TinyLife and is the only one of its kind to include that range of expertise.

Dr Karen Bateson of PiP UK, said there is evidence "that if babies do not have healthy relationships with their parents, this can cast long shadows - resulting in risks to their emotional wellbeing, academic achievement, and in the worst case scenarios physical and mental ill-health throughout their lives".

Roberta Marshall, children's service manager of ABC PiP for Barnardo's stressed from conception to 24 months is "such a critical time for social, emotional and cognitive development".

While a "comprehensive exploration" of parent-infant relationship teams in the found just 27, an increasing number of commissioners are funding new services across the UK.

Yesterday's launch coincided with the start of national Infant Mental Health Awareness Week.

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