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Childbirth charity boss resigns in row over mental health care

Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings. The president of the country’s leading charity for new parents has resigned, claiming that its focus has shifted from breastfeeding and maternity support to mental health issues.Seána Talbot says she believes the National Childbirth Trust (NCT) is being taken in the wrong direction.She accused the charity of changing its emphasis away from its central mission towards postnatal mental health.In her letter of resignation, Ms Talbot, who had been president since 2017 and on the board since 2009, said the NCT was “no longer the ‘go-to’ charity”.“Others have taken our place or, worse still, there is silence where women’s voices should be,” she said. Ms Talbot also claimed there was “a profound lack of trust” within the organisation and a “culture of fear”.She states: “I have now concluded that those responsible for NCT’s direction and strategy are determined to lead the charity in a direction I cannot support.”In 2013, Kirstie Allsopp, the presenter, described the NCT, which has more than 320 branches nationwide and 5,000 local volunteers, as “a very politicised, dogmatic and, in my experience, scary organisation”.Ms Talbot was elected president after a row in which she claims she was pressured to resign as a trustee in 2016, following the death of a baby in a cot endorsed by the NCT, despite an inquest finding it was not to blame.She claimed her complaints about “bullying and coercion” that she says she suffered at the time were never investigated and a wider review by senior staff had been wrong to conclude there was no bullying in the charity.It is also understood that 38 of the NCT’s practitioners have written to the charity to voice concerns. During the past five years the charity’s annual income has fallen from £17.6 million to £15.6 million, although it says it has made a surplus of £1.6 million.But the NCT has hit back, saying it had not abandoned its core purpose, but that it was right to also focus on mental wellbeing.Jessica Figueras, the chairman of trustees, said: “We know we can do more to support parents postnatally.”The organisation rejected Ms Talbot’s claims that it operated amid a climate of fear and there was a culture of bullying.Ms Figueras said: “We want everyone to be treated with dignity, courtesy and respect and we will not tolerate bullying or harassment of any kind. We are not complacent and we treat any allegation of bullying with the utmost seriousness.”She added: “In June 2018 Seána formally submitted a complaint to the board centring around a decision taken in December 2016 to ask her to resign.“Trustees took this complaint extremely seriously and in response took a number of steps, including appointing a QC … and following the QC’s advice to work with a mediator to discuss the process of moving forward. This work was ongoing in the week Seána resigned.” read more

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