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Centre receives funding for its Early Years Programme

The Department of Health and Social Care announced an investment of £3.3 million in 23 local community projects across England – one of which is the Anna Freud Centre’s Early Years Programme.

The funding will come from the Health and Wellbeing Fund to help expand and evaluate already successful, innovative projects that adopt community and person-centred approaches to improving the mental health of children and young people aged 0-25 years.

The three-year project enables the Centre to expand our existing early years work in the boroughs of Camden and Wandsworth to create a fully integrated infant mental health pathway. This pathway provides a continuum of early years provision from universal to targeted to specialist services and a shared language of understanding and intervening with families and young children across all front-line early years’ professionals. Across Camden and Wandsworth, this will include workforce training and supervision, direct delivery of therapeutic interventions such as parent-infant therapy and toddler groups, as well as specialist consultation for social workers when infants are in families on the edge of care.

NHS Digital’s children and young people’s mental health survey reported that 5.5% of 2-4 years olds in England were identified with a mental health disorder in 2017.

In recent years there has been an emerging consensus around the importance of the first critical 1001 days for long term child development, with a focus on preventing infant mental health problems to help children get the best start in life.

Professor Peter Fonagy, Chief Executive of the Anna Freud Centre, says: “The Anna Freud Centre is delighted to have been awarded this grant, and with the funding we will be able to engage a wider breadth of the most vulnerable families who currently fall through the gaps between health and social care and are not engaging in infant mental health services.

“All children deserve the best start in life. We know an infant’s earliest experiences shape their brain and can have an impact on their mental health into adulthood. Infanthood is a sensitive period during which babies’ socio-emotional and cognitive development is adversely impacted by the stressful life events that this programme is trying to target, including couple conflict or domestic abuse, worklessness, unstable housing and mental health difficulties.

“By supporting the parent-child relationship at this crucial early stage we can have a positive impact on mental health outcomes for all families.”

The projects will be fully funded through the scheme in their first year and the Anna Freud Centre has been awarded £139,483. Additional joint funding from Camden and Wandsworth Local Authorities has been agreed for the final two years.

See a full list of all projects receiving funding.