Monday 14 December 2015

Primary school classroom

​The University of Northampton’s critical role in bringing the importance early years care for children to the forefront of politics will result in the relaunch of the 1001 Critical Days Manifesto ahead of a debate in the House of Commons.

Dr Eunice Lumsden, the Early Years Academic Co-ordinator for the 1001 Critical Days Campaign and Head of Early Years Education at the University of Northampton, welcomes the cross-party manifesto today (14 December) which highlights the importance of acting early to enhance the outcomes for children. A debate in the House of Commons will follow on Thursday.

Dr Lumsden – who has been instrumental in offering academic and practical guidance to the organisations and Members of Parliament around the ways in which the pledges outlined in the manifesto can be implemented – said: “Investing in the early years is vital for the economic future of any county and the first 1001 days is crucial.   What we know is every interaction counts, early experiences last a life time and we can shape a different future if we act upon the growing evidence base, prepare future parents, recognise when support is needed and intervene early.

“The work of the Early Years division with the 1001 Critical Days campaign has long been geared up to support many of the Changemaker Challenges as outlined within the new Transforming Lives, Inspiring Change strategy, bringing together academic experts Government bodies and clinical and industry experts to lobby for positive change which support the health and wellbeing as children and young people flourish and learn.”

Members of Parliament from across eight different parties have now thrown their weight behind the relaunch of this key policy commitment which aims to foster better provision for perinatal mental health and stronger attachment between babies and their parents right from the start. The main sponsors include former Children’s Minister and Conservative MP Tim Loughton, Shadow Children’s Minister and Labour MP Sharon Hodgson, former Minister for Mental Health Lib Dem MP Norman Lamb and representatives from the SNP, Plaid, SDLP, DUP and Green MP Caroline Lucas.

The 1001 Critical Days Manifesto takes its title from the period from conception to age two when a baby’s brain is developing fastest and he or she is most susceptible to forming strong bonds of attachment with a primary carer, which will have a lasting impact and certainly set a child up for the best start in life, in school and into adulthood if we get it right.

The goal is for every baby to receive sensitive, appropriate and responsive care from their main caregivers in the first years of life with more proactive help from the NHS, health visitors, children’s centres and other public bodies engaged in a joined-up preventative strategy to affect great change, as pregnancy and the birth of a baby is a critical window of opportunity.

In a report published by the All Party Parliamentary Group for 1001 Critical Days earlier in the year, entitled ‘Building Great Britons,’ the group identified the cost of poor perinatal mental health and child neglect as more than £23bn a year let alone the social cost that ensues.

The new manifesto draws attention to a variety of concerning statistics, not least that around 26% of babies (198,000) in the UK are estimated to be living within complex family situation, of heighted risk where there are problems such as substance misuse, mental illness or domestic violence, whilst 36% of serious case reviews involve a baby under the age of one. The best chance to turn this around is during the 1001 critical days.

All Party Group Chairman Tim Loughton MP commented: “The Government have done a good job of dealing with the problems of dysfunctional families through the Troubled Families Programme but what we need is a ‘pre-Troubles Families Programme’ which deals with the causes of poor attachment and the resulting diminished life chances that flow from. It really is false economy not to be dealing with this earlier and I am glad that ministers are at last waking up to the fact that this is a problem which can be dealt with at relatively modest cost if we have a coherent programme that can get stuck in early.

“The benefits to babies and parents are immense and our society as a whole will be greatly enriched if we can get such a programme engrained into the mind-set of how we do our public health and children’s social care across Government nationally and locally.”

The relaunch event takes place on 14 December at a House of Commons Reception, supported by The Right Honourable, The Countess Spencer, who founded Whole Child International in 2004, and was recently elected an Ashoka Fellow.

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