Local parent-infant service a ''rare jewel''


A report launched in Westminster today has named a local service working to promote parent-infant bonding, as a “rare jewel”.

The ‘Rare Jewels’ report, published by charity Parent Infant Partnership UK (PiP UK), explains what specialised parent-infant relationship teams are and why they matter. These are multidisciplinary teams with expertise in supporting and strengthening the important relationships between babies and their parents or carers.  Today’s report, refers to these teams as ‘Rare Jewels’ describing how they are small, scarce, but – where they do exist – incredibly valuable.


The report contains the most up-to-date analysis of provision across the four nations of the UK and calls for nationwide provision of these services in the next decade. The report highlights how there are just 27 of these valuable services across the UK – including one in Northern Ireland, called ‘ABC PIP’.


The ABC PIP service, launched in 2019, aims to form stronger bonds and positive relationships between parents and infants by focussing on promoting attachment, bonding and communication (ABC). The service is a strategic partnership between Barnardo’s Northern Ireland, South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust, PiP UK and TinyLife. Based in Ballygowan, it is unique in that the team is multi-sectoral, bringing together a range of expertise in a strategic partnership model to support parents of infants across the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust area.


Dr Karen Bateson, Head of Clinical Strategy and Development at Parent Infant Partnership UK, said:

“It is now widely recognised that what happens in the first 1001 days of a child’s life, from conception to age two, is key to enabling that child to thrive. During this period of rapid brain growth, babies are shaped by their environment, particularly their relationship with their parents. Healthy brain development depends upon babies having secure, responsive relationships with their parents or caregivers. Evidence shows us 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 NI, said:

“We are delighted to be recognised in this report by PIP UK. We know that conception – 24 months is such a critical time for social, emotional and cognitive development and the relationships formed in early years have a real impact on a child’s life outcomes. Barnardo’s Northern Ireland is committed to ensuring children get the best start in life, with child and infant mental health and wellbeing a priority area for our organisation. We believe that children should grow up feeling happy, resilient and confident to take on life’s challenges, and early years experiences is crucial to achieving that.

“We are excited to be working in a strategic partnership with South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust to deliver ABC PIP to parents across the South Eastern area, providing practical support to promote positive relationships and stronger bonds between parents and their infants.”


Janine Dougan South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust, said:

“The South Eastern Health & Social Care Trust is delighted to work in partnership with PiP UK and Barnardo’s NI. We have received support and encouragement from these organisations around this vital area of work which will benefit many families within the South Eastern Trust area.”


After a comprehensive exploration of parent-infant relationship teams in the UK, PIP UK could find only 27 of these teams in the whole of the UK at the moment. But their value is being realised, and an increasing number of commissioners are funding new services - despite the difficult economic climate.

The full report was launched in Parliament on Monday 10th June with Minister Jackie Doyle-Price and MPs Tim Loughton MP (Con), and Paul Williams MP (Lab), and calls for Specialised parent-infant relationship teams available to support all families who need them by 2030. The Report’s launch on Monday 10th June coincides with the start of national Infant Mental Health Awareness Week.