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Innovative project to keep babies with their parents is showcased
An innovative service which has helped scores of babies, at risk of being removed, remain with their parents/families has been showcased to a Norfolk MP by Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT).  

Staff from the Parent Infant Mental Health Attachment Team (PIMHAT) and Norfolk County Council (NCC) met Norman Lamb, MP for North Norfolk, along with families who have been helped by the service. 

During the meeting, which took place at Mary Chapman House in Norwich, NSFT and NCC staff explained more about the support they deliver and the way the partnership between the two organisations works. Service users also spoke candidly about their experience of receiving care.

The visit was arranged to showcase the work of PIMHAT, which works intensively with families where a specific safeguarding concern has been raised, with the aim of reducing the number of babies being taken into care in Norfolk. 

Set up in 2015, the service offers families targeted mental health support and specialist therapy to encourage bonding and improve the relationship between parents and their infants. 

The service has proved a great success since its launch, with latest figures showing that 77% of babies whose families come into the service have remained with their parents, and safeguarding concerns have decreased for many infants. 

Dr Richard Pratt, Clinical Psychologist at NSFT and clinical lead for the team, said: “We were delighted to welcome Mr Lamb, who has a particular interest in perinatal mental health, to Mary Chapman House. 

"His visit gave us the chance to showcase the range of support which we offer to help parents form a strong attachment with their baby so that the baby feels safe, secure and able to explore the world as they develop.

“Our team has worked with 92 families and 111 parents, since the service launched in 2015. Offering intense support to improve attachment at what is a crucial stage of the baby’s development helps them to remain together. We work intensively with families as we recognise that forming safe relationships is the basis of change. 

"For those infants who are removed following our involvement, we have been able to support children’s services in identifying the issues and with some of the parents, and offer support following removal at a highly distressing time. 

"Most of the parents we work with have experienced neglect and harm in their own childhood and we have a duty of care to them as well as their baby.  

“Two parents who had received support from the service described how PIMHAT offered hope at a time when they feared that they would lose care of their babies. Over time, this enabled them to make the changes needed.
“We work closely with colleagues from NCC’s children’s services to deliver our service and are proud of the difference it has made so far. We hope that we were able to demonstrate the importance of maintaining and developing such services during Mr Lamb’s visit, as well as the need to ensure sustainability of the service in the longer term.”

PIMHAT is a small therapeutic team made up of professionals from a number of backgrounds including clinical psychology, psychotherapy and social work practitioners. Parents who require it are able to access mental health reviews from a psychiatrist. 

The team has over time developed professional networks with social work teams, health visitors, children’s centres and other key services, in the areas of Norwich, King’s Lynn and Great Yarmouth.

It was recognised that despite the successes of the service, a high proportion of children in Norfolk continue to be taken into care, significantly young babies, and that more needs to be done to understand the reasons for this and what further action is needed. It was agreed that further developing partnership working and joint ventures is essential. The recent visit showcased that PIMHAT is part of the solution. 

Norman Lamb MP said: “I was thoroughly impressed by this service. It is a brilliant example of collaboration between Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust and the County Council. 

“I was struck by the enthusiasm and commitment of staff within the attachment team. 

“The number of young children being taken into care in Norfolk is still alarmingly high, but this service has shown real promise in supporting new parents and I would like to see it expanded so that it can help keep more families together.  

“I was immensely impressed by the two parents I met who had each benefited from this ​service. 

“I hope that the attachment team builds on its early success and provides a model for future partnerships.”

Penny Carpenter, Chairman of the Children’s Services Committee at Norfolk County Council, said: “Our work with NSFT is helping to keep babies safe and supporting families to stay together.

“By providing therapeutic support and encouraging bonding between parents and their babies, the attachment team are helping to build resilience in families and give children a much better start in life.”

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