Giving Babies the Best Start in Life

One of my biggest passions in life, and a reason why I sought to become an MP, is improving the life chances for our children and grandchildren. The first 1001 critical days, from conception to age two, is the most important period of a child’s development. A secure attachment, or lack thereof, between a baby and his/her primary caregiver at this crucial time has a determining influence on a huge range of factors in later life, including emotional intelligence, mental well-being, likelihood of long-term problems with physical health, and even ending up in the criminal justice system.

To begin to tackle this, I established the Northamptonshire Parent Infant Partnership in 2011. NorPIP is a family therapy charity supporting parents-to-be and parents with children under two to form stable relationships. It works with mums and dads who suffer from anxiety, depression, postnatal depression and other issues like domestic violence to help parents establish great relationships with their children to get them off to the best start in life.

In 2012, I founded PIP UK as a national body to support this work and expand the network of PIPs around the country. To date, in addition to OXPIP (which started in Oxford in 1998) and NorPIP, PIP services have been set up in Liverpool (LivPIP) and Enfield (EPIP) in 2014, Brighton (BrightPIP) in 2015, Croydon (Croydon Best Start PIP) in 2016, and Newcastle (NewPIP) which started earlier this year.

I am very proud that the Conservatives in government will be bringing forward a new Mental Health Bill this parliamentary session, which will update and replace the now-outdated 1983 legislation. Earlier this month, the Government published its public consultation on transforming children and young people’s mental health provision which sets out proposals to improve mental health support, with a particular focus on earlier intervention and prevention. This includes a section on families, and the importance of both early years brain development and perinatal mental health.

In 2013, as the founder of the 1001 Critical Days: Conception to Age Two All-Party Parliamentary Group in Westminster, I launched the 1001 Critical Days Manifesto with cross-party support at each of the main political conferences, and its policies now have the backing of Members of all of the parties currently represented in the Commons. I would encourage you to read through the Manifesto yourself, as it outlined a number of changes focused around a holistic approach to all ante, peri and postnatal services for families.

I am hugely excited about the opportunities presented by the upcoming Bill to ensure that we achieve our shared vision as set out in the Manifesto.