Home-Start parent-infant mental health partnership

 Home-Start family

Why this matters

Many factors can affect how parents feel about their baby and themselves.  Having a baby or young child can be difficult at the best of times. Sometimes it can feel hard to cope with a baby’s feeding or sleeping patterns, or a baby who cries a lot.  Depression and anxiety in pregnancy or after the baby’s birth, a traumatic birth, mental health problems, events from the past or happening now, can affect how parents feel about their baby.  Parents may feel worried about some of the thoughts and feelings they are having.

These problems can affect anyone. We know the largest proportion of parents who struggle will fall into the group with mild to moderate mental health needs, and existing professional support for these parents is limited.

What we did

  • We developed this partnership in Tameside with Home-Start, the Early Attachment Service and health visiting
  • Support is provided within the home and community to promote parental engagement, positive parent and infant relationships and positive wellbeing
  • Developed a model of proactive parental engagement via weekly home visits from a volunteer so specialist resources are used more appropriately
  • Set up a training programme to help volunteers support parents with their emotional well-being and mental health and enhance parental sensitivity
  • Created a supportive ethos that has been integral to the success of this initiative meaning families have fully engaged with the support

“This partnership has allowed us to see more closely the struggles and needs of families from many perspectives”.

What the service provides

The three different services that have come together draw on each other’s expertise and experience and are able to work together to offer unique experiential training for home visiting support volunteers. The training draws on both psychoanalytic and attachment theory and the growing body of parent-infant mental health knowledge that has emerged over the past decade. The integration of the three services has ensured a ‘shared language’ and has kept this work “safe” through regular supervision and a joint passion for understanding early relationships across organisations. Volunteers can engage with the training at different stages and many have lived experience of a therapeutic journey. The training also supports them to think about their relationships with their own children and how they were parented.

What we’ve seen so far

The parent-infant mental health training is now in a manual and Home-Start have launched their Greater Manchester “Train the Trainer” package. This has now been rolled this out to partners in Stockport, Rochdale, Trafford, Salford and Manchester with each area recruiting key staff from health visiting, Home-Start and psychological services. Feedback has been very positive and with national interest there’s potential to roll this out further afield. This work has been evaluated in many ways. A survey to all Home-Start families showed that the group receiving parent-infant mental health support had enhanced levels of confidence around a number of aspects related to parent infant mental help, with significant improvements across a range of areas.

“I am now much more relaxed and don’t stress about all the little things I used too!”

“The volunteer helped me feel much better about myself and more able to care for my baby”

Our resources page has a range of resources for parent-infant mental health