The Maternal Mental Health Alliance (MMHA) warmly welcomes the launch of the Government’s Early Years Review – The Best Start for Life: A Vision for the 1,001 Critical Days.
Early Years Health Adviser Andrea Leadsom MP led the review, which details recommended best practice across the health system to ensure babies, children and their parents get the best possible start to their journey. Experts in child and perinatal health have been a key part of the review process, including many MMHA members.
The 6 action areas
To improve health outcomes in babies and young children, and provide adequate support to new parents, the review recommends six key action areas:
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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, commonly known as the ‘Red Book’. This will apply to every new birth from April 2023, bringing it forward a year.
4. An empowered Start for Life workforce
Developing a modern skilled workforce to meet the changing needs of families with babies. There will also be work to attract people into health visiting and ensure that health visitors are developed and supported.
5. Continually improving the Start for Life offer
Health services for families and babies must improve data, evaluation, and outcomes to ensure it is 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 services are working in their area.
6. 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 Chairman of the Early Years Healthy Development Review, Rt Hon Andrea Leadsom MP, said:
“The 6 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.”
Emily Slater, CEO of the MMHA, said:
“It is immensely encouraging to see this recognition at the government level as to the importance of supporting parents and babies in the first 1001 days of their lives together. I would like to personally thank Andrea Leadsom MP, for her tireless work in this area.
“The next steps will be crucial as ‘The Best Start for Life’ moves to the implementation phase, including securing much-needed investment and Ministerial responsibility and we look forward to seeing this come to fruition as early as possible.”
Dr Alain Gregoire, Consultant Perinatal Psychiatrist & Founder and Honorary President of the MMHA, said:
“We now know what support women, partners, babies and the whole family unit need in the perinatal period to give them the best and healthiest possible start together. I will personally be doing everything I can to support the implementation of these new early years policies.
“Alongside this, we need to work together to ensure the full delivery of existing commitments. I am convinced that this will make a big difference to the health and wellbeing of the next generation and our nation.”