UNICEF open letter

Thousands urge Prime Minister Rishi Sunak for better support for babies, young children, and parents.

Today more than 80 leading charities including PTSD UK, NSPCC, and Save the Children UK, experts in early childhood development, and UNICEF Ambassadors and high profile supporters have added their support to UNICEF UK’s call for the UK Government to commit to a National Baby and Toddler Guarantee, which would help families with babies and young children across the UK.

Studies show that the prevalence of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) following childbirth is around 6% and so the correct mental health care for pregnant people, parents and babies and young children is vitally important.

It is crucial for healthcare professionals, particularly midwives, to be aware of the risk factors of PTSD and implement appropriate preventive measures, screening, and timely treatment to mitigate the long-term complications associated with postpartum PTSD. 

As such, we’re proud to have signed an open letter to the Prime Minister, urging him to ensure the government takes urgent action to support families that are struggling to access the vital services that they need. This includes maternity, health visiting, mental health, affordable and high-quality childcare and Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) support.

The letter to the Prime Minister says:

‘Families in Britain need your help now. Summer holidays are just around the corner and instead of looking forward to fun-packed, carefree days, many families are faced with the worrying reality of not being able to put food on the table [1] as they struggle to make ends meet.

‘The latest Government data shows that child poverty in the UK has increased by 300,000 in a year, bringing the latest estimate to a staggering 4.2 million [2] – but behind these figures are real children and families. Last year, the UK Committee for UNICEF (UNICEF UK) polled parents of children aged 0-4 years and 66% told us that the cost-of-living crisis has negatively impacted them as they struggle to afford food, pay their bills and cope with increasing childcare costs [3]. To compensate, many said they are having to cut back on buying books, toys, and other items for their children.

‘Basic support services like maternity care, health visits, mental health support, affordable and high-quality childcare and support for Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND), can offer a vital lifeline to parents at this crucial time in their children’s lives – especially when they’re struggling financially.

‘We know that with reduced funds and prices rising, Local Authorities have been forced to make impossible choices [4]. Across the country, children’s centres and childcare settings have closed their doors, health visiting appointments have been missed as staffing has reduced and caseloads increased, mental health support for parents and children is hard to come by, waiting lists are long and provision is patchy across the sector [5]. The universal services that many new parents desperately need are not there for everyone.’

More than 48,000 members of the public have signed UNICEF UK’s petition calling for the Government to commit to a Baby Toddler Guarantee that would ensure equal access to vital early childhood services. More than 300 parents explained why this issue is so important to them including Claire from Northamptonshire, “I have twin boys who I found myself being a single parent to and they saw a health visitor just once before their second birthday. I had massive post-natal depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, and I was forgotten. It wasn’t until I called begging for help that finally something was done, and support was sent. It does need to be free and open to everybody because it is terrifying, absolutely terrifying to be left on your own. I’m just lucky that I have the friends and family that I have.”

Jon Sparkes, Chief Executive of UNICEF UK, said: “Every child deserves a bright future, but as families recover from the impacts of the pandemic and face unprecedented rises in the cost of living, this future is under threat.

“Basic services like health visits and mental health care provide essential support that households need during these turbulent times. They should be there for every baby and young child during their vital early years, but across the country, this isn’t the case and urgent action is needed. Together with leading organisations, experts and families across the country we call on the Prime Minister to deliver a Baby and Toddler Guarantee, to ensure all children get the support they need no matter who you are or where you live.”

Jacqui Suttie, CEO and Founder of PTSD UK said, “At PTSD UK, we understand the profound impact that maternal mental health has on both parent and child, and with studies showing that PTSD affects approximately 6% of people following childbirth, this further emphasises the critical need for proper mental health care during this period. By prioritising these services, we can ensure that every parent and child receives the support they deserve, regardless of their circumstances.”

Sign UNICEF UK’s Early Moments Matter petition calling on the UK Government to introduce a National Baby and Toddler Guarantee here: https://unicef.uk/early-moments-campaign’

 


PTSD UK are also proud members of The Maternal Mental Health Alliance (MMHA), a UK-wide charity and network of over 100 organisations, dedicated to ensuring everyone affected by perinatal mental problems have access to high-quality comprehensive care and support.

Find out more about the link between birth trauma and Post Natal PTSD here (And for partners too).

 


List of signatories
Charities, organisations and experts in early child development:

4in10 London’s Child Poverty Network, Katherine Hill, Strategic Programme Manager

Action for children, Paul Carberry, Chief Executive

Ambitious about Autism, Danae Leaman-Hill, Director of External Affairs and Development

Association of Mental Health Providers, Kathy Roberts, Chief Executive

Baby Talk and Play, Debbie Brace, Early Language and Behaviour Consultant

Barnardo’s, Lynn Perry MBE, CEO

Blackpool Centre for Early Child Development, Clare Law, Director

BME Volunteers CIC, Yannick Nyah, Director

Carey Oppenheim, author on families and children

Coram, Dr Carol Homden CBE, CEO

Coram Family and Childcare, Megan Jarvie, Head of Coram Family and Childcare

Council for Disabled Children, Dame Christine Lenehan, Director

Dingley’s Promise, Catherine McLeod MBE, CEO

Early Years Alliance, Neil Leitch, CEO

End Child Poverty Coalition, Joseph Howes, Chair of the End Child Poverty Coalition

Family Action, David Holmes CBE, CEO

Family Gateway, Julie Marriott, CEO

Family Links the Centre for Emotional Health, Peter Leonard, Chief Executive

First 1001 Days Movement, Tamora Langley, Convenor

Home-Start UK, Peter Grigg, CEO

Institute of Health Visiting, Alison Morton, CEO

Intergenerational Foundation, Liz Emerson, Co-founder

Kids Matter, Dr Eli Gardner, Co-Founder & Executive Director

Knowledge Change Action, Catherine Gordon, Director of Learning

Leeds Beckett University, Dr Nathan Archer, Director, International Montessori Institute

Little Village, Sophie Livingstone MBE, Chief Executive Officer

Magpie Project, Jane Williams, CEO

Maternal Mental Health Alliance, Laura Seebohm, CEO

National Children’s Bureau, Anna Feuchtwang, Chief Executive

National Counselling and Psychotherapy Society, Jyles Robillard-Day, CEO

NCT (National Childbirth Trust), Angela McConville, CEO

Nip in the Bud, Kitty Nabarro, Co-founder, Chair and Director

North London Music Therapy, Marianne Rizkallah, Founder and Director

NSPCC, Sir Peter Wanless, Chief Executive

Parent-Infant Foundation, Keith Reed, Chief Executive

Partnership for Children, Hannah Baker, Co-CEO

Play Included C.I.C, Dr Gina Gomez de la Cuesta, Clinical Psychologist & Director

Power 2, Julie Randles, CEO

Pregnant then Screwed, Joeli Brearley, CEO

PTSD UK, Jacqui Suttie, CEO and Founder

Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, Dr Helen Stewart, RCPCH Officer for Health Improvement

Royal College of Psychiatrists, Dr Trudi Seneviratne OBE, Registrar

Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, Steve Jamieson, CEO

Save the Children UK, Becca Lyon, Head of Child Poverty

School and Public Health Nurses Association, Sharon White OBE, CEO

Social Workers Union, John McGowan, General Secretary

Speech and Language UK, Jane Harris, CEO

St Vincent’s Family Project, Andy Varley Chief Executive Officer

The Aim Foundation, Caroline Marks, Chair

The Association of Child Psychotherapists, Dr Lynne Taylor, Chair

The British Youth Council, Zara Khan, Chair

The Children and Young People’s Mental Health Coalition, Amy Whitelock Gibbs, Chair

The For Baby’s Sake Trust, Lauren Seager-Smith, CEO

Think Equal, Leslee Udwin, President

Together Trust, Mark Lee, Chief Executive,

UCL Institute of Health Equity, Professor Sir Michael Marmot, Director

University of Oxford, Prof Edward Melhuish OBE, Emeritus Professor of Human Development

University of Surrey, Professor Michael Pluess, Professor in Developmental Psychology

Visyon, Beverley Goodwin , Therapeutic Client Lead/Counsellor

Women’s Budget Group, Dr Mary-Ann Stephenson, Director

Ygam, Dr Jane Rigbye, Chief Executive Officer,

Young Lives vs Cancer, Rachel Kirby-Rider, Chief Executive

Youth Sports Trust, Alison Oliver MBE, Chief Executive Officer

Dr Abi Miranda, Educational and Child Psychologist

Sally Hogg, Senior Policy Fellow at the University of Cambridge

Sources
  • Shaban Z, Dolatian M, Shams J, Alavi-Majd H, Mahmoodi Z, Sajjadi H. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Following Childbirth: Prevalence and Contributing Factors. Iran Red Crescent Med J. 2013 Mar;15(3):177-82. doi: 10.5812/ircmj.2312. Epub 2013 Mar 5. PMID: 23983994; PMCID: PMC3745743.
     
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