Organisers met at Coley Children’s Centre to mark the arrival of the sessions which are funded by a three-year charity agreement and will see 130 families receive help.

Oxford Parent Infant Project will run the weekly sessions at the Coley, Ranikhet and Sure Start Whitley Children’s Centres which are aimed at parents who may have experienced health problems including post-natal depression and drug or alcohol issues.

Councillor Jan Gavin, children’s services leader, said: “It is a very personalised service and these are qualified therapists so what happens in the sessions stays in the sessions.

“The first few years together are such an important time for parents and children to form a strong relationship, but outside influences and circumstances may threaten this process. This therapy programme will help parents to overcome obstacles and build a more stable family life.”

Parents who could benefit from the assistance of the therapy sessions will be referred from the town’s health and social care professionals and the programme is funded by the Trusthouse Charitable Foundation.

Staff will work with parents and babies to help build their confidence and improve their responses to the child’s needs as well as giving advice to children’s centre staff about infant mental health.

Adrian Sell, OXPIP’s executive director said: “We are delighted to be extending OXPIP’s much needed parent-infant therapy to Reading Children’s Centres.

“The first two years of a child’s life is a crucial time and we know that we can make a difference. In 2014, we helped over 400 families, 75 per cent of whom saw an improvement in the quality of their parent-infant relationship and over two thirds of mothers saw an improvement in their mental health.”