Not enough is being done to ensure that babies and young children in care grow up in positive, nurturing settings.
At present, mental health services for babies and infants in care are virtually non-existent.
In a new report, Case for Change, the NSPCC says the impact of infant mental health has been vastly under-estimated across the wider care system.
Children in care are four times more likely than their peers to experience mental health problems and behavioural issues in later life.
Through the formation of secure and stable relationships with their parents and care-givers, children are more likely to grow up not experiencing serious mental health difficulties.
But 20 per cent of children in care in England are under five years old.
And between 2010-11 and 2015-16, there was a 31 per cent fall in spending by local authorities on early intervention services for children and young people.
The NSPCC’s Case for Change brings together a wide range of research and practice from the UK and internationally and suggests how we must rethink our approach to infant mental health in the care system.
The report indicates that there is hope of recovery for infants and young children in care.
But it needs to happen during infancy when a baby’s brain is developing at a rapid rate.
The NSPCC’s Case for Change is being launched during the UK’s first Infant Mental Health Week, organised by the Parent Infant Partnership (PIP UK).
Acting early can have significant benefits to future life outcomes.
Yet public money is mostly spent on ‘late intervention’, rather than preventing problems occurring in the first place.
It is time to rethink the way we work together across agencies to better identify and address the mental health and well-being needs of infants and young children.
Regional Head of Service, London and South East, NSPCC, Curtain Road, London
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