Early years review will help families give babies best start, Government says

Baby looks at milk bottle (PA Archive)
0:01am, Thu 25 Mar 2021
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A review of healthcare support for children’s first 1,001 days will “help millions of families to give their baby the very best start for life”, politicians have said.

Personalised child health records will be digitised and local authorities encouraged to publish what support is available to families under proposals in the Government’s review into early years care.

The Best Start For Life: A Vision For The 1,001 Critical Days details six areas that could improve young children’s health development.

These include support for families well publicised by local authorities, a hub where parents can access services and advice, as well as developing a skilled workforce to help meet the needs of families with babies.

In addition, the personal child health record, also known as the Red Book, will be digitised for every child born from April 2023, to protect it against loss and make it easier for medical staff to share information.

Everybody should have a solid foundation on which to build their health and we are determined to level up the opportunities for children, no matter their background from or where they grow up

The review has been welcomed by Action For Children, which says that “for too long, the youngest children have been overlooked in government’s policy and funding decisions”.

The charity’s director of policy and campaigns Imran Hussain additionally said that “lifeline services” such as children’s centres “are being hamstrung by funding cuts and a lack of prioritisation within government decision-making”.

He said: “Investing in services which step in early to support families should be a core part of the ‘levelling-up’ agenda.

“It would be irresponsible to have an NHS offering only A&E departments but no primary care or public health services, yet this is the short-sightedness we’re facing in children’s services.

“A system geared only for crisis guarantees more children will end up in crisis.”

Review chairman Andrea Leadsom MP said : “the needs of the baby must be at the heart of everything we do” in the work.

She added: “The coronavirus pandemic has put even more pressure on already struggling families and, just as we need to level up economic opportunity across the country, we need to level up the support and care for the very youngest.”

She went on: “I am confident that delivering this vision will help millions of families to give their baby the very best start for life.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “I believe in the value that every single person has to offer, and I want every child to reach their full potential.

“Everybody should have a solid foundation on which to build their health and we are determined to level up the opportunities for children, no matter their background from or where they grow up.”

Health minister Jo Churchill added: “Most babies are born healthy and enjoy a safe and nurturing childhood.

“However, some do not, therefore I am committed to removing barriers so all children are supported and nurtured so they are ready for life.

“This vision document sets out key areas for improvement to ensure every child has an opportunity to thrive and achieve their potential, regardless of their background.”

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