Review: The best start for life

Rt Hon Andrea Leadsom MP chaired a review into improving the health and development outcomes for babies in England. Andrea was appointed to lead the Early Years’ Healthy Development Review in July 2020.

The early years review – The best start for life: a vision for the 1,001 critical days focused on the 1,001 critical days through pregnancy to the age of two. These critical days are when the building blocks for lifelong emotional and physical health are laid down.

The impact of the past year has been devastating to the mental health of the nation. The first two years of a child’s life are critical for strong development and growth.

The review aims to support families in giving their baby the best start in life. Key actions that the Government highlighted include:

  • Local authorities will be encouraged to publish a clear Start for Life offer for parents in their area – a single publication making parents and carers aware of what support they can expect in their local area.
  • A welcoming hub for families: this builds on the Government’s commitment to champion family hubs, making them a place for families to access Start for Life services, such as childcare, early education and healthcare, as well as advice on jobs and training.
  • Designing digital, virtual and telephone services around the needs of the family, including digitising the personal child health record, commonly known as the ‘red book’.
  • Start for Life workforce: developing a modern skilled workforce to meet the changing needs of families with babies, looking at new ways to support and empower staff to increase retention of health visitors.

The chair of the Early Years Healthy Development Review, Rt Hon Andrea Leadsom MP, said:

‘Ensuring that every baby gets the best start for life has been my passion for more than 20 years, and I was delighted when the Prime Minister asked me to chair the Early Years Healthy Development Review last year.

‘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 support and care for the very youngest.’

Purnima Tanuku OBE, chief executive of NDNA, said:

‘This is a vital review for early childhood as we know a child’s earliest years are a crucial stage of development that determines their chances later in life. Families have struggled during the past twelve months with babies born during the pandemic and some young children spending most or all of their lives living under lockdown conditions.

‘The impact this will have on Covid babies in terms of attachment and socialisation with other children is of great concern, especially where they have not had the usual social contact with their wider families and other children.  High quality early education and care is important for all children to gain the skills for the future and lifelong learning.

‘As we look to any Covid recovery plan for children’s development and education, it is clear that early years has to be a priority and a key area for support.

‘With over a million children in nurseries and pre-schools across the country, it’s important that investment is made to enable high quality care is deliverable in a sustainable way. This will ensure that every child in the nursery community gets the best start in life.

‘The Government could take this opportunity to provide additional investment in children’s early years and develop a family-centred system. To level up opportunity and address inequalities we need to see more support for families and providers in less advantaged areas who are being hit hard by chronic underfunding and the impact of Covid-19.’

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