Starcatchers welcome new Voice of the Infant Best Practice Guidelines

22 March 2023

Starcatchers welcome the Scottish Government’s new Voice of the Infant Best Practice Guidelines and Infant Pledge as important recommendations for the inclusion of babies and young children’s voices in every encounter they have in public life.

Co-produced by a short-life working group, on behalf of the Infant Mental Health Implementation and Advisory Group, which is part of the Scottish Government’s Perinatal and Infant Mental Health Programme Board, the new guidelines provide direction on how to take account of infants’ views and rights in all encounters. They offer suggestions on how those who work with babies and very young children can notice, facilitate and share the infant’s feelings, ideas and preferences which they have communicated through their gaze, body language and vocalisations.

Across our productions, community engagement and early years development work – as well as our groundbreaking research into The Voice of the Child – Starcatchers have a core commitment to putting the infant voice at the heart of all their activities. Artists and facilitators work with babies, taking on board their responses and preferences to inform the content and structure of activities. This practice of listening and reflecting-back supports emotional and social development of children, promotes bonding between babies and carers, and cultivates self-expression and creativity, equipping children from their earliest days with the skills they need to fully engage in all encounters in daily life and have their voices valued.

On the new guidance, Starcatchers’ CEO Rhona Matheson said:

‘This new guidance can help ensure that the voices of our youngest babies and children can be acknowledged and amplified. This is hugely encouraging and exciting, coming at a time when there is an increased focus on children’s rights in Scotland. The guidelines will help Starcatchers, as well as other professionals to further establish a model of best practice for listening to, and consulting with babies and young children. From day one babies have views and opinions and we believe that listening to, understanding, and taking these into consideration is just as important for the development and wellbeing of a 3-month-old as it is for a teenager, as it is for an adult.’

Starcatchers Artist, Kerry Cleland, who contributed to the new guidance, explained:

“Creating protected space, time and opportunities in our Starcatchers groups allows us to tune in to the cues of the infant and respond with care and attention. When we’re in the moment, open and truly listening to the babies, we not only create a more positive experience for the babies themselves, but also a more enriching and fulfilling experience for their adults- deepening connection and understanding for us all.”

Launching the guidelines formally today at the celebratory event for the Perinatal and Infant Mental Health Programme Board, Minister for Mental Wellbeing and Social Care Mr Kevin Stewart MSP said: 

“Supporting the mental wellbeing of infants and their families is the Scottish Government’s priority. It is key that the voices and experiences of women, infants and their families remain at the heart of the work that we continue to do. To help achieve this I am pleased to launch the Voice of the Infant Best Practice Guidelines and Infant Pledge which will help us to promote and advocate for infants and support a rights-based, respectful and reflective approach.” 

Another member of the working group, Vicky Armstrong from Art at the Start, said: 

“It has been wonderful to be involved in this important work to make sure the voices of babies are heard and valued. We can all tune in to their communication and take it seriously. This is a central part of our work in Art at the Start, helping babies to express themselves, to make their mark in the world through art materials, and helping the adults around them to notice their cues and preferences. Babies can tell us much more than we think! “ 

The Voice of the Infant Best Practice Guidelines and Infant Pledge can be found online here.