What Peer Support Means to Us – Early Years Scotland

Early Years Scotland (EYS) is Scotland’s leading national specialist supporting the youngest children from pre-birth to 5. We are committed to providing the very best start in life for each and every child in Scotland. Whilst multi-faceted, our work is highly focused on the one single goal of helping to give every child in Scotland a fair, equal and excellent start in life. Our services aim to strengthen and improve confidence, attachment, transitions, interactions, shared learning, the home learning environment, and attainment. We promote positive relationship allowing families and members to feel loved, nurtured and secure via our relational model of peer support.

We recognise and understand the importance of perinatal mental health care and the catastrophic outcomes which can occur if left untreated. This is a time of significant stress and transition, during which families have to adapt to significant psychological, physiological and social challenges. As a result, we believe strongly in prevention and intervention at the early years stages to ensure happy, healthy and positive relationships develop within families.

We are also acutely aware of the pressing need for good perinatal mental health care as a result of COVID-19. This pandemic has increased stress, anxiety, isolation and financial issues across the population. Many services were, and continue to be, suspended due to social distancing, which has had a significant impact on those who would benefit from the support provided by these groups. EYS has seen first-hand, via the families we work with, that the need for connection through these challenging times is greater than under previous circumstances.

We understand that poor maternal mental health can have a significant impact on infant mental health and early attachment. When a woman experiences mental ill health or high levels of stress and distress during pregnancy, this can, in turn, affect her ability to bond with her unborn baby. It is, therefore, also essential to provide early intervention at the pre-natal stage, to support parents and help to reduce the impact of the effects on attachment and bonding.

EYS believes that one of the ways to best improve mental health within families is by increasing levels of confidence, knowledge, skills, motivation and communication. Children and parents/carers benefit greatly from being supported in a friendly, comfortable, stimulating environment, where they are encouraged to gain skills and confidence in playing and learning together. This can then be transferred naturally into the family home and everyday life, with the overall aim of addressing and narrowing the pervasive attainment gap that exists in Scotland. EYS also firmly believes that a ‘whole family’ approach is essential when considering perinatal mental health.

Our Early Years Practitioners (EYPs) have a wealth of experience in providing this type of support. Our professional, peer-led services provide a non-clinical informal approach, built on relationships and meaningful connections. We have developed our service delivery plans with the real-life recommendations of support from our experienced team, all of whom possess core competencies that ensure they are confident and suitable skilled to identify needs and deliver support to families with mental health difficulties. EYS are extremely passionate about providing this essential service for families in need.

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