This event took place on Thursday 30 November. You can watch the recording below.

Poor mental health in children is on the rise. The Anna Freud centre has reported that before the coronavirus pandemic one in eight children aged between 5 and 19 had at least one diagnosable mental health problem. During the pandemic this had risen to one in six. The picture is even more complex for particular groups of children: around 60% of children in care are reported to have an emotional or health problem and young people who identify as queer are more likely to have a mental health problem.

Despite the mounting challenge, families are not getting the mental health support they need for their children. And the problem is even more stark for children with additional needs. Children with learning disabilities are more than four times more likely to develop a mental health problem than average, but experience disparities in the way in which they are referred to professionals and services.

At Nesta, we know that the first years of life are crucial to a child’s future trajectory. We also know the importance of high-quality home and learning environments to children’s mental development and wellbeing. For families living in disadvantage, early years services are critical to support the wellbeing of children and families.

How can we better support families with their children’s wellbeing? And how can we take an intersectional approach to providing mental health services that support all children, including those living in disadvantage and/or with additional needs?

Dr Abigail Miranda is the Head of the Early Years and Prevention department at Anna Freud, a world-leading mental health charity for children and families. As an educational and child psychologist, Abigail has worked more than 10 years across local authorities in London, supporting them in developing effective early-years support. Her expertise spans from her background in educational psychology to practical experience in working with children, parents and practitioners  – all of this committed to supporting the next generation of young people in the UK. 

Abigail joined our fairer start Deputy Director Tom Symons to explore how to improve children’s wellbeing. Abigail and Tom explored the relationship between high-quality early years experiences and child mental health, support, the positive work in the sector that’s already been done and the challenges ahead.

Why you should watch the recording

This free online event was for children’s voluntary and community sector professionals, academics, mental health campaigners and anyone interested in the intersection of mental health and early-years education.

The opinions expressed in this event recording are those of the speaker. For more information, view our full statement on external contributors.


Abigail Miranda

Dr Abigail Miranda

Dr Abigail Miranda is the Head of the Early Years and Prevention (EYP) department at Anna Freud. Anna Freud is a charity that aims to build the mental wellbeing of the next generation, with office bases in London and Manchester. The aim of the work of EYP is to support children in the early years and to intervene early when there are relational challenges, to prevent the escalation of mental health challenges later in life. This involves research, clinical work and working with policymakers, including through the National Centre for Family Hubs. Abigail is an educational and child psychologist (EP) who specialises in supporting children in the early years, with a focus on special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). Before joining Anna Freud, she worked in local authorities in London in various roles including educational psychology, early support and connections in a youth offending service. Working in an outer London local authority, Abigail developed training for staff in private, voluntary, and independent settings, maintained nurseries and childminders to help with identification and support for children with SEND and to help parents understand how to help their child. Abigail has co-designed sessions on anti-racist practice alongside an EP colleague and addressing intersectional challenges faced by children, families and practitioners is a key aspect of her work.