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Closing the Gap

In January 2023 we convened the first meeting of The Emotional Health Alliance. A group of people and organisations working to improve the lives of individuals, groups, and communities, all of whom are interested in the importance and benefits of emotional health to themselves, those who benefit from their work and to society in general. This group of organisations has grown to forty five.  One thing which became very clear early on was that without addressing the problem of poverty then we were very much tinkering on the edges.

 

The UK has one of the highest rates of childhood poverty for developed countries, 29% of all

children in the UK live in poverty.”[1]  This is the stark first line of the ‘Closing the Gap’ report produced by NPC and Ethos Foundation earlier this year. It goes on to highlight that although this ought to be a source of national shame we have come to accept it as part of what society looks like now. The cost of living crisis, cuts and under investment in prevention and general austerity are making these rates increase yet further. This is the enormity of the challenge which the organisations within the Emotional Health Alliance are facing as a daily reality.

 

It's a systemic problem and what is apparent is that tinkering will not work – we need a whole system transformation. This will only come about with input and intervention from a wide range of sectors, organisations, and groups and this is what we are seeking to make happen at the Emotional Health Alliance.

 

The model[2] proposed for this in ‘Closing the Gap’ has at its centre a holistic, coordinated, support and service provision which addresses the full range of a child’s needs – whole family support – because “to meet the needs of the child it is necessary to meet the needs of the parent(s).”[3] At The Centre for Emotional Health, we would go further and say that ideally you meet the needs of all the adults in the life of that child, including for example grandparents, teachers, child minders etc. Our understanding of family matches that of the report, an inclusive word which means not only those connected biologically, it can include anyone who is special in our life.

 

When I was in my late teens, I undertook a sales and marketing course and one of the central tenets of this training was that ‘People buy people first.’ In other words, people are more likely to do business with someone they know, like, and trust. The same applies, if anything is even more important, with public service systems. “Building healthy relationships are similarly critical to breaking cycles of poverty, which are often perpetuated by trauma and poor-quality relationships.”[4]

In her excellent blog on the Platfform website, Dr Jen Daffin, clinical psychologist, highlights this connection between poverty and relational ill health[5].

 

We take a similar approach to emotional health. Our model of emotional health[6] contains seven components or assets which are both about us but also about those around us, so improving the assets which focus on us inevitably improve the assets which focus on others. In addition to creating emotionally healthy individuals we can create emotional healthy environments which contribute to emotionally healthy individuals which then contributes to an emotionally healthy environment….. and so a positive impact cycle is created.



This cycle of positive reinforcement leads to improved outcomes across a community, organisation or indeed a whole system. Everyone within it or who come into contact with it should consistently experience these healthy relationships. As an organisation we have four values, we are nurturing, empathic, transformative and playful. As part of our transformative value our aim is that every interaction with us builds good emotional health.

 

It is clear that there is a large task ahead of us if we are to close the gap, indeed change the system. As individual organisations it can feel too big, as if we are simply tinkering at the edge. However, when we come together much more feels possible and that is certainly our experience as The Emotional Health Alliance has grown. New partnerships are forming, ideas are sparking and what seemed out of reach is beginning to seem possible.

 

You can find the ‘Closing the Gap’ report and other resources here - https://www.thinknpc.org/resource-hub/closing-the-gap/

 

If you want to know more about The Emotional Health Alliance including how to become part of it then please contact our Partnership Engagement Lead, Hannah Partis via email -  hello@emotionalhealth.org.uk.


Peter Leonard, Chief Executive at The Centre for Emotional Health


 

[1] Closing the Gap, NPC/Ethos Foundation, January 2024, p3

[2] Closing the Gap, NPC/Ethos Foundation, January 2024, p7

[3] Closing the Gap, NPC/Ethos Foundation, January 2024, p7

[4] Closing the Gap, NPC/Ethos Foundation, January 2024, p28

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