Andrea Leadsom MP is chair of the Early Years Healthy Development Review, which has just published a six-point action plan.
Campaigning for every baby to get the best start in life has been my passion for more than 20 years. From founding parent infant charities to help families who are struggling with their new baby, to establishing the 1001 Critical Days Manifesto with cross party parliamentary support, I am profoundly aware that the period from conception to the age of two is the foundation of our lifelong potential as human beings.
Babies cannot fend for themselves at all until they are at least two years old, making them uniquely susceptible to the environment around them. Most families provide the loving attentive care that their baby needs, but for every new family it is a challenging and often exhausting time, and for some, problems ranging from poor mental health to substance misuse, and from deprivation to domestic violence will get in the way.
Better support for every family can transform those earliest experiences, and that’s what the Vision for the 1001 Critical Days will achieve.
Securely attached infants are much more likely to go on to become adults who cope well with life’s ups and downs, build strong relationships at work and at home, and are better equipped to raise their own children.
There is no doubt in my mind that we must invest in universal, joined up Start for Life services, so I was delighted when the Prime Minister asked me last July to chair the Early Years Healthy Development Review.
When we started work on the Review, I was clear that the needs of the baby must be at the heart of everything we do. 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 health and care provision for the very youngest in our society.
Our plan sets out 6 key areas for action:
1. Seamless support for families: a coherent joined up Start for Life offer available to all families.
2. A welcoming hub for families: Family Hubs as a place for families to access Start for Life services.
3. The information families need when they need it: designing digital, virtual and telephone offers around the needs of the family, including a digital version of the Red Book for every new baby.
4. An empowered Start for Life workforce: developing modern skilled workers able to meet the changing needs of families.
5. Continually improving the Start for Life offer: enhancing data, evaluation, outcomes and proportionate inspection.
6. Leadership for change: ensuring local and national accountability and building the economic case for more investment in the start for life.
The implementation phase begins now, and I will continue to lead the work on behalf of the Government for the next year, in close collaboration with local partners across England.
Investing in the 1,001 critical days will have a truly transformational impact on our society, and I am confident that delivering this Vision will help millions of families to give their baby the very best Start for Life.