Early years support forms the basis for future healthy lives, but important services with proven effectiveness, such as support for the first years in life, have seen their funding reduce.
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- Early years support forms the basis for future healthy lives, but important services with proven effectiveness, such as support for the first years in life, have seen their funding reduce. Redeploying updated models of support, with enhanced digital offers and a focus on community assets, peer support and positive mental health in families, should be a priority.
- The Leadsom Review into improving outcomes in the first 1001 days is an excellent opportunity to build on the support already offered by councils to ensure we are addressing health inequalities from the outset. Councils are keen to expand and improve their ‘Start for Life’ offer, as put forward by the review team. However, many will struggle to increase and maintain support for new parents and infants without additional funding.
- Whilst we agree that the First 1001 Days (zero to two) is a critical period in healthy child development, we will not break generational disadvantage and tackle health inequalities without taking a life-course and family-based approach to improving outcomes for disadvantaged children. This is why we are calling for a cross-Government strategy for children and young people to ensure they are at the heart of the national recovery and can thrive, no matter where they are from or their background. We are also calling for the introduction of ‘children and young people impact assessments’ to ensure that the needs of children are central to all new policies and legislation.
- As we highlighted in our On-The-Day briefing, it was pleasing to see the Autumn Budget and Spending Review include investment in the Start for Life offer for families, with funding reaching an additional £66 million in 2024/25, including breastfeeding advice and parent-infant mental health support. We look forward to understanding more about how these funds will be allocated. It is vital that councils have the flexibility to target resources and build on what works locally.
- Whilst the additional funding is a step in the right direction, with spiralling demand on children’s social services and future cost pressures in children’s social care set to increase by an estimated £600 million each year until 2024/25, councils face continuing to have to overspend on their budgets, which is clearly unsustainable.
- We also welcomed the small amount of additional resource (£18 million) to help develop Family Hubs in 2024/25 as announced in the Spending Review. Councils know their local areas best and are best placed to target new investment where it is most needed and build on local strengths and community assets.
- We would like to work with the Government on a children’s workforce strategy to support the development of a well-qualified, well-resourced workforce with the appropriate knowledge, skills and experience to work in a preventative way. This needs to be an integrated strategy between local authorities, health, education and community and voluntary sector partners, which links effectively with established programmes, such as Supporting Families, Sure Start and Family Hubs and puts the child’s journey at the centre. The workforce plan must be fully resourced.