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Start for Life review must result in action to ensure a better future for all children, says BPS

25 March 2021

We welcome Andrea Leadsom’s thorough review of the Early Years and we look forward to working together to ensure improvements for babies, toddlers, parents and families. We want to see funding plans in place to ensure the review is turned into action to give all children the best start in life.

The findings of the review, published today by Andrea Leadsom MP, recommend a ‘Start for Life’ package of services that brings together the support available in their local area. Whilst this is encouraging, we want to see a detailed timeline of action, with spending commitments to fund the action areas.

There is no mention of what will happen in areas where no support services are currently in place, and this comes against the backdrop of a decade of local authority budget cuts which have impacted on community services. Research from Action for Children in 2019 found that local authority spending cuts have driven a 20% fall in the number of youngsters using Sure Start children’s centres in just four years.

This review should act as the catalyst to ensure a dedicated Early Years Minister is in post as a matter of urgency to deliver a comprehensive early year’s strategy which works across government departments.

Funding for community-based services and interventions must be ring fenced and protected, as well as funding to recruit, train and retain the early year’s workforce. Evidence shows that psychological wellbeing for children and their families is best supported by engagement with other people and feeling part of a community, and psychologists can provide consultation, supervision and support to health visitors and ensure families with more complex needs get the support they require.

This is a welcome start, but more work and resource will be required to ensure that the ambitions set out in this review become a reality for families. 

Dr Abigail Wright, from the Division of Educational and Child Psychology, said:

“It is encouraging to see the Start for Life Review echo many of the things we have been calling for as psychologists working with the early years and supporting children and families.

“Often parents and care-givers can feel it is ‘all on them’, so we must build awareness that caregiving and supporting children’s development requires a community of people, and we need to have services in place to support this. These services need to be accessible to all so we empower families in supporting their children using strengths based, solution focused approaches where psychological consultation can be key.”

Professor Nicola Doherty, from the Division of Clinical Psychology, added:

“This is an opportunity for the government to seriously assess the current state of early years services and care, and to make change to ensure all babies, parents and children are properly supported.

“To ensure families are supported we need the right people in the right roles, with the right training and information, working within joined up systems. Community services are vital to ensure children flourish, and that is why we must ensure the funding for these is protected and the whole approach is led by a dedicated Early Years Minister.”

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