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This is how our early years work in Tower Hamlets complements the new Royal Foundation Centre for Early Childhood

Posted on: 29 July 2021

Last month, the Duchess of Cambridge launched The Royal Foundation Centre for Early Childhood and its Big Change Starts Small campaign to highlight the essential work being done to support positive early childhood experiences.

The foundation centre aims to support work on how experiences in early childhood are often the root cause of today's hardest social challenges such as addiction, family breakdown, poor mental health, suicide, and homelessness. The Big Change Starts Small campaign report details its mission to transform society through improving early childhood experiences for all.

It's long been recognised that promoting early positive experiences during a child's early years (0-5) shapes the developing brain. Positive physical, emotional and cognitive development during this period is so crucial in establishing the building blocks and laying the foundation in childhood to help provide greater resilience to deal with future adversity in adulthood.

The GP Care Group welcomes this campaign as it complements the work, we are doing in Tower Hamlets through our Health Visitors (HV) and Family Nurse Partnership Nurses (FN) to deliver the Healthy Child Programme (HCP) to every new parent-to-be and to those with children under five.

We work closely with our GP and Midwifery health colleagues and share an interest in promoting the best start in life for our clients and infants and their healthy development and future wellbeing.

Relationship and rapport building

This is essential to developing a trusting relationship between HV/FNs and parents and is an opportunity to use some of the softer skills in public health nursing. Our HV/FNs show respect and work in partnership with parents so that they can be experts in their own children's upbringing.

HVs and FNs assess needs, share relevant information and deliver skilled and targeted health promotion to support parents to learn about their developing baby antenatally, and as newborn infants. They teach and show new parents some of the basic elements of how to develop a loving, responsive relationship with their babies and of the lifelong importance and impact of doing so.

Through the experience of and in a discussion about the positive value for their child's health development in developing relationships, managing emotions, and developing the skills to being able to empathise, parents can more fully understand the value in providing the opportunities for their infants within and throughout their parenting role and in working on and in developing these skills.

Furthermore, helping parents to expose their children to and also by helping them to experience and learn about these building blocks, helps to provide greater resilience to deal with future adversity.

Extra support

Some parents may need more support, especially if they are struggling themselves or may not have had exposure to positive experiences to help them develop strong foundations from their own childhood experiences. In addition, the impact of poverty and deprivation can affect the ability to see what is needed amongst other more pressing concerns of housing and or mental health issues and/or domestic abuse. This links to the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) agenda, local work on developing a Trauma-Informed Approach to service delivery across Tower Hamlets, and the Five to Thrive approach across the Tower Hamlets Together community.

Starting early

The window of opportunity and support is available/presented to new parents during the early years, especially in pregnancy and when their baby is newborn, when they naturally realise that they want the best start for their infant and developing child. Through the delivery of the Healthy Child Programme 0-5 years, parents are supported and helped to offer their child every opportunity and access to these essential building blocks for their child's happy, healthy, and mental wellbeing development with the potential to shape the adult they will become in the future.

Early Years support across Tower Hamlets

Locally across Tower Hamlets, our Early Years and Children and Families Service Partners offer additional opportunities to access support and services in all of our 12 Children and Family Hubs across the borough.

Provision includes Healthy Child Clinics, stay and play, an invitation to play, Bookstart, infant massage, early learning for two-year-olds and Little Talkers to name a few sessions available across the borough. HV and FNs work closely with our Early Years colleagues and support attendance and referrals to these sessions.

In summary

The best investment for long-term health, wellbeing, and happiness of our society is to support access to these positive experiences through providing public health nursing across 0-19 services in Tower Hamlets and working in partnership and collaboration with our health and Early Years colleagues.

We are all working together across Tower Hamlets to bring about positive and lasting change for generations to come.

Watch this TED talk here from 7-year-old Molly Wright on "How every child can thrive by five"

Jenny Gilmour RGN, Dip Nurse, RHV, PGC Man, FiHV
 0-19 Service Development Lead