NSPCC NI highlights the situation of the youngest and most vulnerable members of society
By Caroline Cunningham (Senior Policy Researcher at NSPCC NI)
There is no doubt that the pandemic has been an exceptionally tough time for many parents and children. Lockdown has presented significant challenges for new parents, not least due to increased stress caused by the pandemic and decreased family, community and statutory supports, as well as for school-aged children and their parents due to the closure of schools.
However, largely invisible during the crisis of the last year have been the youngest members of society, and in particular, babies. That’s why NSPCC Northern Ireland is supporting Infant Mental Health Awareness Week which runs from 7-13 June and gives us the opportunity to raise awareness of the importance of the social and emotional development of our very youngest children; an issue which is more pressing now than ever.
Babies are a group of children that are uniquely vulnerable to physical and emotional harm because of their fragility, their complete dependence on adults for their care and protection and their inability to seek help. We know that almost 40% of children on the child protection register in Northern Ireland are under the age of five and more than 10% are under the age of one.*
There is extensive evidence showing that the quality of early experiences and relationships set the foundation for future health and wellbeing. As we move toward recovery from the pandemic, it is crucial that no parent or baby is left behind and the services they need are there to support them – wherever they live.
It is increasingly clear that a long-term approach to prevention, promotion and support for the mental health and wellbeing of infants, across the full spectrum of need is required in Northern Ireland. Through the NSPCC’s Fight for a Fair Start campaign, we have been calling for families to have access to the support that parents and babies need for a healthy and happy start in life. As part of this, we need a clear recognition within the Northern Ireland Government’s new high-level, ten-year mental health strategy of the need to promote and support both infant mental health and the parent-infant relationship.
We are asking for continued support for our Fight for a Fair Start campaign, and are calling on the public to back the NSPCC’s petition for change. Over 1,000 people in Northern Ireland have already taken action to support our campaign asking that all families have access to the support that parents and babies need for a healthy and happy start in life. I urge you to sign up and help us work to ensure the brightest of futures for our youngest members of society
For more information on Fight for a Fair Start, visit:
* Figures referenced from Department of Health (2021) Quarterly Child Protection Statistics for Northern Ireland: January – March 2021. Belfast: Department of Health. Available at: