The official early years review, “The best start for life: a vision for the 1,001 critical days, “is currently the most ambitious plan that the government has announced. Since its focus is entirely on the country’s young children, the review has received public and critical acclaim. Led by Early Years Health Adviser Andrea Leadsom MP, the review underlined a vision for the health system to undertake best practices for the children to get the best life start.
The first 1,001 days
Child experts agree with the review stating that a child’s first 1,001 days play a crucial role in their future development, substantially impacting their health, well-being, and opportunities. Yet, a study in England discovered those children living in households belonging to the lowest socio-economic groups have distinctively worse health consequences than children from other groups.
Health Minister Jo Churchill said, “We know the 1,001 critical days are crucial for development and impact a child’s health for the rest of their life. 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.”
The health minister further added: “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.”
The six pillars
The government has devised six action areas to ensure the children and their families receive help and support to realise their potential in the future.
- Seamless support for families: the government will encourage the local administration to publish a Start for Life offer for parents in their area. The publication aims to spread awareness among parents and carers about the support to expect in their local area. These include health visits and localised and specialist services like helping quit smoking and intensive parenting support.
- A welcoming hub for families: the government intends to spread the concept of family hubs- a safe place for families to access Start of Life services like childcare, early education and healthcare. The hubs will also offer professional advice on jobs and training.
- The information families need when they need it: the government wants to design digital, virtual, and telephone services that address a family’s needs. A significant part of the process is to digitise the personal child health record, also called the ‘red book.’
- An empowered Start of life workforce: A part of the review describes a critical need to develop a modern skilled workforce that can fulfil families’ evolving needs with children. Further, the workforce should also look for the latest ways to support and sanction staff to boost retaining health visitors.
- Continually improving the Start for Life offer: The government wants the health services for babies and families to refine data, evaluation, and outcomes to meet a family’s needs. The authorities intend to hold local services accountable through scrutiny. The step will boost confidence among families that services are functioning in their community.
- Leadership for change: The aim is to push local areas to recommend a leader while the national level oversees the review’s delivery.
The review holds an astonishing amount of promise, with Health Adviser Andrea Leadsom MP putting in great effort and measures to bring about change. The first 1,001 days matter a lot in a child’s life, and we must ensure health services and opportunities reach them. All we have to do is wait for the government to implement it across the country.