An interagency response to support the development needs of the growing number of children living in or born in to homelessness has won a 2019 Irish Healthcare Centre Award.
Dublin City North Children and Young People’s Services Committee (CYPSC) raised concerns that babies had limited space for their social, play and physical development needs due to confined spaces in emergency accommodation, such as hotel rooms. As a result, parents found it difficult to find adequate space to interact with their babies in a suitable play environment or to provide opportunities for important developmental activities such as tummy time.
With thanks to Healthy Ireland Funding, Dublin City North CYPSC, aligned with its Health and Wellbeing Action Plan co-ordinated and funded an interagency response to this need in partnership with local Area Based Childhood Programmes (ABCs)* , Dublin Region Homeless Executive and Focus Ireland.
My Place to Play– A Resource for Babies Living in Emergency Accommodation was developed as a mobile play mat for parents to use with their babies that increases quality time between parent and child; promotes baby's sensory and motor skills development; and encourages identity and belonging. The mat and materials were specifically packaged and chosen to meet these goals and to be suitable for small, confined spaces. The design of the play mat was drawn from undergraduate research of Marion Byrne, working with the Early Learning Initiative.
The collaboration with interagency partners between 2018 and 2019 has enabled dissemination of over 220 play mats to families living in emergency and homeless accommodation. Information and training has been provided to over 100 frontline practitioners working with homeless families. The training has increased awareness of the importance of play, tummy time and risks such as “flat head”, a condition associated with continued pressure on one side of the baby’s head. Feedback from practitioners highlights that this practical resource has demonstrated improved outcomes for babies and parents alike:
“…they improved a lot in their own play with their child….marked improvement in the child positioning and head control, and appreciate seeing the smiles on the child’s face experiencing this kind of play”
“ their baby (6 months) loved their time on it [the mat]. She particularly loved the feet and hand rattles and it definitely increased her awareness of her hands and feet!”
The My Place to Play Initiative comes with a parent handout and explanation of the benefits and contents of materials. Dublin City North CYPSC will continue to work with partners to seek opportunities for the expansion of this important initiative to help young infants reach their full potential.
This valuable interagency work was recently recognised at the Irish Healthcare Centre Awards where it won the award for Child Health and Wellbeing 2019.
The award was presented to CYPSC partners by Marty Whelan, MC, for their child homeless initiative “My Place to Play – A Resource for Babies in Emergency Accommodation”.
Click here to download the My Place to Play leaflet.
Click here to download a Guide to the My Place to Play mat contents, benefits for babies and tips for parents.
For further information, please contact Cliodhna Mahony, Dublin City North CYPSC Co-ordinator.
*Local Area Based Childhood Programmes from Ballymun, Darndale, Dublin Docklands and East Inner City, and Finglas.
The Healthy Ireland Fund is supported by the Department of Health, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and the Department of Rural and Community Development.