NICE publish draft public heath guidance for social and emotional wellbeing in young children


This new guidance from NICE is aimed at people responsible for ensuring the social and emotional wellbeing of children aged under 5 years.

It will be of interest to professionals who plan and commission children’s services, as well as midwives, health visitors, GPs, paediatricians, practitioners working in child and adolescent mental health services, social workers, teachers, staff in children’s centres, nursery nurses and child minders.

The guidance is still at a draft stage and won’t be officially issued until later in the year, but it still contains a set of key draft recommendations including the following:

  • Health and wellbeing boards should ensure the social and emotional wellbeing of vulnerable children features in the ‘Health and wellbeing strategy’, as one of the most effective ways of addressing health inequalities. The resulting plan should include outcomes for ensuring healthy child development and ‘readiness for school’ and for preventing mental health and behavioural problems
  • All health and early years professionals should develop trusting relationships with vulnerable families and adopt a non-judgemental approach
  • Others who are in contact with a vulnerable child and his or her family (such as family welfare, housing, voluntary services or the police) should be aware of factors that pose a risk to the child’s social and emotional wellbeing. They should raise any concerns with the local GP or health visitor (working in the context of local safeguarding policies)
  • Health visitors or midwives should offer a programme of home visits by specially trained professionals to women assessed to be in need of additional support. For example, they could refer first-time teenage mothers to the Family Nurse Partnership from early pregnancy onwards. They should also offer to provide similar intensive support themselves to other vulnerable women, such as young mothers-to-be presenting late in pregnancy and postnatally to those experiencing domestic violence and abuse
  • Health visitors or midwives should consider using interactive video guidance to improve maternal sensitivity, mother-infant attachment and the child’s behaviour. (For example, this might be necessary when the mother has depression or the infant shows signs of behavioural difficulties)
  • Ensure all children have the opportunity to attend high quality childcare and early education services outside the home on a part- or full-time basis. Attendance times should be flexible so that parents or carers (including those from vulnerable families) have the opportunity to take on paid employment.
  • Those involved in early education services should ensure vulnerable children have the opportunity to attend high quality preschool education (from the age of 2 years) to enhance their social and emotional wellbeing and build their capacity to learn

Professor Mike Kelly, NICE Director of Public Health, said:

Our draft recommendations are based on the best available evidence and we feel they have the potential to make a real difference to ensure all children get the best possible start in life. As always with our draft public health guidance, we welcome and encourage comments from stakeholders and look forward to receiving feedback. This will help us to shape our final guidance which we expect to publish in October this year.


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