Leadsom outlines emerging findings of the Government’s review into babies’ healthy development

Nicole Weinstein
Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Preliminary findings of the Early Years Healthy Development Review were outlined by Andrea Leadsom MP at the APPG on Conception to age two meeting, held yesterday.

Andrea Leadsom
Andrea Leadsom

Speaking at the online event, in which the First 1001 Days Movement ‘s Working for Babies: Lockdown lessons from local systems report was formally launched, Ms Leadsom said that the report findings ‘chime’ with what the Early Years Healthy Development Review has found.

The report highlighted the ‘hidden harms’ to babies during the spring 2020 lockdown and how there are often ‘baby blind-spots’ where babies’ needs are overlooked in policy, planning and funding.

The First 1001 Days Movement is calling for Governments across the UK to focus on how they can develop clear and committed leadership; mature and strong local partnerships; and professionals who are connected to each other and to their communities and empowered to meet families’ needs. 

Ms Leadsom’s
Review, which will now be published at the later date of the end of February, will look at issues around joining up services; improving the use of digital services to reach parents; data sharing and local leadership.

She told attendees that evidence is emerging that services for babies have been ‘
particularly better’ since the latter part of last year, when second and third lockdowns took place, largely because staff were not moved away as much as they had been in the first lockdown.

The Working for Babies report found that services for babies were ‘heavily depleted’ just at the moment of need. Half of respondents said they were not able to continue supporting all the families they usually worked with and 18 percent said their service ceased to provide support to all or most families.

Recommendations

The Early Years Healthy Development Review will give six recommendations, Ms Leadsom said, which, by the time it is launched in February, she hopes will gain the approval of all the political parties so that this early years review will be ‘the one that sticks and endures’ for many years to come.

Ms Leadsom talked about the possibilities of harnessing the benefits of digital technology to provide consistent and joined-up support to new parents.

She said, ‘The one thing I would highlight is the fact that professionals were very clear that for many of them it was a great opportunity to meet colleagues to discuss particular families in a much more fleet-of-foot way. Whereas in the past you would check diaries and arrange a meeting in three weeks’ time and then someone would pull out so it gets rescheduled, now, during the pandemic, people have got used to this new way of convening, which enables service providers to provide speedy support.’

The use of data-sharing will enable professionals to provide ‘much more focused support on what families need’ and less time will be spent for parents retelling their story to different professionals, she explained.

The fact that babies have had ‘little social contact’ during the first lockdown is clearly a ‘bad thing’, she said and the repercussions are yet unknown. Tackling some of the ‘awful’ experiences for babies during lockdown and looking at how families can benefit from some of the positive experiences will be at the ‘heart of the review’, Ms Leadsom said.

Ms Leadsom thanked early years professionals ‘who have done so much to support new families in such difficult period’ and to reassured them that ‘these lessons would be learnt’ and reflected in the Early Years Healthy Development Review.

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