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Report calls for early years "revolution"

By Rachel Lawler
baby first 1000 days
The government should develop a strategy to improve support for children in the first 1,000 days of their lives, according to a new report from the Health and Social Care Committee.
The report also calls for the current Healthy Child Programme to be expanded to include a focus on the health of the whole family, starting before conception.
Family support
Currently, families are entitled to five visits from the health service between the child’s birth and their second birthday. The report suggests that this should be extended to include an extra visit after their third birthday.
The report also calls for more support for children whose development is “off track”, based on the Flying Start programme in Wales and the Family Nurse Partnership in Scotland.
Early years revolution
The Committee is asking the government to address these concerns in its 2019 Spending Review – the date of which is still yet to be confirmed.
The report says: "We recommend that the government use the 2019 Spending Review as an opportunity to initiate the next early years revolution with a secure, long-term investment in prevention and early intervention to support parents, children and families during this critical period."
Dr Paul Williams MP, who led the Committee for the inquiry, commented: “Quite simply, I want this country to be the most supportive and caring place in the world that a child could be born into.”
Alliance concerns
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Alliance, said: "The importance of effective early intervention is no longer debated – but, as the committee’s report shows, there is still a long way to go.
"We have been waiting long enough to see this consensus turn into action. The integrated review should have been implemented in 2015 but, four years later, is nowhere near being fully rolled out. Instead, we have a programme implemented in some areas and not others with cuts to the very services, such as children’s centres and health visitor training, that make early intervention possible.
"It’s all very well for politicians to talk up the importance of social mobility but, until those words are matched with investment, then talk is all it will be. The fact is that, whilst SEND reforms and changes to public health commissioning duties have been put in place, it’s clear that government is more focussed on vote-winning funded entitlements than the more mundane work of ensuring these duties and reforms are working, let alone sufficiently funded.
"This report makes clear we’re a long way off seeing effective early intervention. That won’t change without a concentrated effort from ministers to ensure the integrated review becomes a reality for every young child. Without that effort, we will be stuck agreeing that early intervention is important, while some of those young children who need it most remain unable to access it."
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