Government publishes review to improve babies’ and children’s healthy development

The Department of Health and Social Care has today published a review and mission to help improve the first years of development for babies and young children.

It aims to help reduce inequalities in the first 1,001 days of life, and sets out a vision for the health system.

Led by early years health adviser Andrea Leadsom MP, the review has highlighted six themes of focus:

  • Seamless support for families: 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, including services they should expect to receive like health visits, and localised and specialist services, such as help to quit smoking and intensive parenting support.
  • A welcoming hub for families: this focuses on creating 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.
  • The information families need when they need it: designing digital, virtual and telephone services around the needs of the family, including digitising the personal child health record.
  • An empowered 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.
  • Continually improving the Start for Life offer: health services for families and babies must improve data, evaluation and outcomes to ensure they are meeting a family’s needs. Work will continue across the system to hold local services to account, including through proportionate inspections, giving parents and carers confidence and assurance that services are working in their area.
  • Leadership for change: work will begin to encourage local areas to nominate a leader and to ensure the delivery of the review is overseen at a national level.

The Department of Health and Social Care said it plans to prioritise the work to digitise the ‘red book’, aiming for every new birth from April 2023 to have their information, growth and development on the digital system.

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.

“The six action areas will have a transformational impact on our society, and I am looking forward to the implementation phase of the review where we will continue to work closely with families and the early years sector. I am confident that delivering this vision will help millions of families to give their baby the very best start for life.”

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