Early Years Parenting Unit

  • Who we help

    The Early Years Parenting Unit (EYPU) is a specialist service offering assessment and therapy for parents with personality disorders/difficulties with babies and children under the age of five who are subject to a Child in Need or Child Protection plan, or who are on the edge of care.

    Parents with personality difficulties experience significant problems regulating their emotions and behaviours and this impacts on their capacity to provide safe, consistent parenting. Difficulties sustaining stable and enduring interpersonal relationships typically lead to problematic relationships with professionals who frequently report considerable problems in engaging these parents, with associated delays in decision making for children at risk of harm.

    The EYPU offers on-going liaison, consultation and support to social work teams, helping them to think about and manage their work with these complex families. This promotes cohesive working, leading to enhanced safeguarding and fewer delays in decision making.

    To be eligible the family must have an allocated Social Worker. We work mainly with Islington, Hackney and Camden Children Services, but also take referrals from other London boroughs.

  • How we help

    After an initial assessment period, families attend the day unit for 2 full days a week for up to 18 months. Using a Mentalization Based Treatment (MBT) approach, parents are helped to begin the process of reflecting on their own and their children’s mental states. Parent-child work helps parents to become more aware of and responsive to their children’s needs which leads to more emotionally attuned parenting, more secure attachment relationships, and an associated decrease in child protection concerns.

    The service is completely integrated with Children’s Social Care and Adult Mental Health, with frequent liaison and regular reviews of progress. EYPU workers attend core groups and case conferences, and provide regular reports. In cases where families are unable to improve their parenting sufficiently to meet the needs of their children, evidence gathered at EYPU leads to early decision-making and alternative placement for children.

    The service also aims to reduce reliance on and use of statutory and other services including Health and Social Care by helping parents to build more adaptive help-seeking behaviours.

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    How we learn and develop

    To ensure that we continue to provide the highest quality of care and continue to improve the service, the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families regularly evaluates the effectiveness of the unit. To do this we routinely collect information from the families who attend. These include a range of assessments of parental functioning, measures designed to assess children’s global development and attachment styles, service user evaluations, and the impact of the EYPU’s involvement on social workers’ confidence and competence in working with complex cases.

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    How we train others

    The EYPU programme leads also provide training sessions to social workers, which helps them to identify, think about and manage their work with families in which one or both parents present with a personality disorder/difficulties. Please contact eypu@annafreud.org for details.

    The programme leads regularly run a training course ‘Personality Disorder and Parenting’ which is suitable for CAMHS clinicians, social workers and adult mental health professionals interested in working with parents with personality disorders and their children.

    For a full list of the training courses offered at the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families please click here.

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    How to find out more

    For all enquiries, please contact Leonie Graham, Coordinator for the Early Years Parenting Unit:

    Telephone: +44 (0)20 7794 2313 

    Email: eypu@annafreud.org

    Please note that all referrals must be made through Children’s Social Care.