A guest blog post by Mandy Craig & Katie Hewitt
In September 2021, Sheffield Children’s Safeguarding Partnership hosted the National Dialogue on International FASD Day Conference, chaired by Sheffield’s Director of Public Health and with over 700 people attending to hear professionals, politicians, and experts-by-experience share their knowledge and passion for improving the lives and opportunities of people with FASD.
The journey to the conference introduced Sheffield to some incredible people and organisations that work throughout the country and are fundamental both to improving recognition and support for children and adults with FASD and to promoting the message that when it comes to drinking alcohol, for those who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, there is no safe time and no safe amount.
Many of the people in this inspirational group had been working with the Department of Health (DHSC) on the FASD Health Needs Assessment for England, which was published on the same day, and the author and a representative from the Department of Health presented it to the conference. The Needs Assessment gave an overview of the then current picture and identified key issues that required attention across different sectors, inclusive of all stakeholders. It is a call to action.
For Sheffield, the conference, the Needs Assessment, and our involvement with the subsequent roundtable discussions that informed the ‘The Time is Now’ report have been transformative. Whilst we would still say we are at the beginning of our journey, with much still to achieve, we are developing our pathways and services, and training on a basic understanding of FASD has been rolled out across services. We are signed up to the Drymester campaign to prevent alcohol-exposed pregnancy and we also have an all-age, multi-disciplinary steering group for FASD that is focussed on improving recognition and response for people with FASD.
So, now is the time for joined-up thinking and working, both across different services and areas, to drive forward change and ensure that recommendations from both the comprehensive the ‘Time is Now’ report and the Quality Standard are put into practice to help people with FASD and those supporting them, as well as ensuring that people with lived experience are at the centre of all discussions and developments.
As a Local Authority just beginning our FASD journey and developing our pathways and services, it felt like a real privilege to be part of the UK-wide roundtable discussions that informed the ‘The Time is Now’ report. These forums gave us an opportunity to listen to peoples’ ideas and experiences, and this really helped Sheffield identify our next steps to move the FASD agenda forwards.
The support that the publication of the DHSC Needs Assessment, the NICE Quality Standard, and the ‘The Time is Now’ report provided in highlighting ways, and the importance of, providing information to people about preventing alcohol exposed pregnancies has helped all services in Sheffield recognise their responsibility in this. They present a compelling case for all areas to examine their services and ensure they are informed about the harm caused by alcohol-exposed pregnancies, that they are listening to the experiences of those affected by FASD, and that they are pro-active in providing services that support children, adults and families affected by FASD. The Time is Now.