Alice Haynes

Dr Alice Haynes is Development and Learning Advisor for A Better Start


I am a Development and Learning Advisor on the A Better Start programme. A Better Start is a major strategic programme focussed on developing and testing new approaches to prevention in pregnancy and the first three years of life. The programme is funded by the Big Lottery Fund and aims to improve three key outcomes in young children: i) social and emotional development; ii) diet and nutrition; and iii) communication and language. 

Previously, I was a Senior Policy and Research Analyst at the NSPCC, working in Children’s Services, Development and Delivery. I specialised in child neglect and the perinatal period. 

I completed my first degree in Politics at the University of Nottingham, and then worked at the Monroe Family Assessment Service as a family support worker, and at a middle school as a pupil-specific teaching assistant. I joined the CRCF at the UEA in 2009 on the MA in Child and Family Research programme. Following on from this, I gained a studentship from the University for my PhD, which I completed in the summer of 2013. 

PhD Research
Threatened identities: The mothering experiences of asylum-seeking and refugee women

A qualitative study of twenty-two asylum-seeking and refugee women was undertaken to explore their mothering experiences in England, with a specific interest in maternal identity. 

You can read my thesis through the following link:


Homelessness in the Perinatal Period Dr Alice Haynes

The Fabric of Life evokes a sense of both safety and fragility. On the one hand, the richness and warmth of the colours coupled with the suggested softness of the fabric conveys security, and on the other, the delicacy of the hand-stitched work brings to mind fragility; a break in the stitching could unravel the whole piece. Babies are inherently fragile and they need to be, and feel, safe. Having a home is an important part of this, yet the NSPCC estimates that around 15,700 0-2 year olds live in families who are classed as statutorily homeless. This is likely to be a significant underestimate.

How can homelessness affect pregnancy and babies? Babies are healthiest and happiest when their mothers are physical and mentally well in pregnancy (Glover & Barlow, 2014) and when, once born, they get care that is consistent, loving and responsive to their needs (Centre on the Developing Child, 2015).

Adults who are homeless often have a history of adversity, many experiencing child maltreatment, domestic abuse, poor mental health or substance misuse (Department for Communities and Local Government, 2008; Shelton et al., 2009). Parents may be coping with these past experiences and at the same time, trying to manage the tremendous pressure and challenges that homelessness itself brings, all making it harder to provide nurturing care for children (Gilbert et al., 2008; NSPCC, 2014).

Too often, the poor standard of accommodation for families who are homeless means that babies do not have a safe and stimulating home within which to grow and develop (Hogg et al., 2015; Shelter, 2015). Housing can often be small, dirty, damp, mouldy and ill-equipped, with a lack of clean and safe space in which babies can learn to crawl or food can be prepared.

New parents need and benefit from the help of family, friends (Leahy-Warren, McCarthy & Corcoran, 2012) and services, but with multiple moves from place to place, parents can become disconnected and isolated. They may struggle to find their local maternity services or feel it is not worth registering for healthcare, and they may lose contact with friends (Hogg et al., 2015).

We know that babies living in homeless families are some of the most vulnerable in our society. It is time we made sure that families get the right support at the right time, so that all babies live in a safe, nurtured environment, as depicted in Barbara Shaw’s illustration. What can you do as a policy maker? For policy and practice recommendations, please see: Hogg, S., Haynes, A., Baradon, T., & Cuthbert, C. (2015). An Unstable Start – All Babies Count: Spotlight on homelessness. London: NSPCC.


Centre on the Developing Child. (2015). Key concepts: Serve and return. Harvard: Centre on the Developing Child.

Department for Communities and Local Government. (2008). Statutory homelessness in England: The experiences of families and 16 year olds. London: Department for Communities and Local Government.

Gilbert, R., Spatz-Widom, C., Browne, K., Fergusson, D., Webb, E., Staff and Janson. (2009). Burden and consequences of child maltreatment in high-income countries. Lancet, 373, 68–81.

Glover, V & Barlow, J. (2014). Psychological adversity in pregnancy: What works to improve outcomes?, Journal of Children’s Services, 9(2), 96 – 108.

Hogg, S., Haynes, A., Baradon, T., & Cuthbert, C. (2015). An Unstable Start – All Babies Count: Spotlight on homelessness. London: NSPCC.

Leahy-Warren, P., McCarthy, G., & Corcoran, P. (2012). First-time mothers: social support, maternal parental self-efficacy and postnatal depression. Journal of Clinical Nursing. 21(3‐4), 388-397.

NSPCC. (2014). Housing services: Learning from serious case reviews. London: NSPCC.

Shelton, K.H., P.J. Taylor, Bonner, A., & van den Bree, M. (2009). Risk factors for homelessness: Evidence from a population-based study. Psychiatric Services. 60(4), 465-472.

Shelter. (2015). This is no place for a child: The experiences of homeless families in emergency accommodation. London: Shelter


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