mother and daughter talkingHealth and education leaders, including Labour MP Luciana Berger, in Liverpool have called for families across the City Region to be given access to parenting programmes to improve the mental health of the region.

The call was made at a summit on parenting, where it was said that parenting programmes could improve the life chances of young people in the city by allowing for early intervention – something especially important at a time when mental health services are under intense strain nationally.

Berger, Labour’s former Shadow Cabinet Minister for Mental Health, was joined by senior figures working in the health, education, and charity sectors across the City Region in supporting parenting programmes to improve the mental health of the region.

The summit comes as Prime Minister Theresa May is expected to publish her key priorities for this parliament, with sector experts awaiting the publication of the government’s Life Chances strategy, which was originally due to be published during the summer by former Prime Minister David Cameron.

With 82,000 children in the Liverpool City Region living in poverty, health and education experts across the region are looking to the Life Chances strategy for direction on how to improve mental health and public services for children and their families. Life Chances is expected to support existing Local Transformation Plans, in which clinical commissioning groups have set out how they will improve mental health services. 

After a government review showed that less than 25-35% of children a diagnosable mental health condition accessed support, senior figures working to improve the health and education of people in Liverpool City Region held this debate on how parenting support can help to improve mental health provision. Delegates included representatives from Liverpool, Wirral, Sefton, and St Helens Councils, charity and school leaders, academics and union chiefs.

“This high-level debate was clear on what needs to happen to make the government’s promises of better support for children and their families a reality here locally,” said Berger. “We have to act now to improve services for those most in need, and a crucial part of this is transforming the system to ensure early intervention is always available and accessible.

“Children need to be supported from birth, but it is vital not to overlook parents. Evidence-based parenting support can help our families and communities create a more happy, healthy and beautiful region in which no one is left behind. The roundtable was an important step towards this goal, and we must now follow up to ensure parenting support is available to all.”

Professor John Ashton, CBE, president of the Public Health Section of the Royal Society of Medicine, said: "From a public health perspective, it is crucial that parents are given access to parenting support programmes, which give them and their children the tools for success. Happy and healthy families are the secure building block for more resilient and cohesive communities, which we can all benefit from."

Cllr Ian Francis, deputy chair of education and Children's Services Committee at Liverpool Council, said: "The prevention work needs to start now, and it needs to come from a whole range of partners such as schools, youth workers, health professionals, and social workers, to bring together communities like an extended family so any issues can be dealt with.

“One way of starting this is with our young people, so that they know whether they are receiving proper parenting. There should be a campaign to get people talking to each other, so that people are not afraid to tell each other how they are feeling."

Lesley Dixon, chief executive of PSS in Liverpool, said: “We think it’s vital that the first 1001 days are at the forefront of conversations around family mental health. As a new life begins we want to start with a solid foundation which allows both parents and the child the best chance to have a happy and healthy future.”

The Summit was convened by Triple P UK – Positive Parenting Program, a support provider to parents, which is used by local authorities across the UK to refer parents to online support, light-touch interventions, and solutions for more serious behavioural and conduct issues.

Matt Buttery, CEO of Triple P UK, said: “As a provider of positive parenting programmes, we see every day how tailored support options can help entire families and communities significantly improve their quality of life. And our programmes have been shown to help take pressure off wider public services, by providing support early enough to prevent problems escalating and requiring more specialist CAMHS services.

"The government has reserved £1.4 billion to support and improve the emotional wellbeing of children and young people. This important investment offers a once in a lifetime opportunity to transform mental health and community services here in the Liverpool City Region – if we make it possible to intervene at the earliest possible opportunity and offer evidence-based support for parents.”