This week is Infant Mental Health Awareness Week.
Leaders of nearly 80 organisations, under the banner of the First 1001 Days Movement, have signed a letter to the Prime Minister calling on him to make the youngest children a national priority in order to mitigate the secondary and potentially long-term impact of the COVID-19 crisis.
The letter argues that there is an opportunity now to invest in the wellbeing of babies and toddlers and the parents that care for them, as part of efforts to build back a better Britain. The signatories ask the Prime Minister to champion a cross-government strategy for improving outcomes for all children, saying:
It is now time for a clear cross-government strategy for improving outcomes for all children, including a focus on the first 1001 days, from pregnancy, which lay the foundation for later development. This needs leadership from a dedicated cabinet-level Minister and to be supported by clear investment. It must set out a vision for how families with the youngest children will be supported to recover from the impact of COVID-19 and how the Government will begin to ‘level up’ and close gaps in the outcomes which have widened during the pandemic.Quote from the letter to the Prime Minister, 7 June 2020
You can read the letter in full here.
Helen Clark, Lead Author of the APPG, was delighted to hear this news as we in the APPG have been calling for a cabinet-level Minister for Children and Young People for some time. We realised through the reports we have produced over the past six years that firefighting on individual policy fronts is never going to be enough to reverse the continuing powerful negative trends. This realisation led to the formation of the campaigning group The Children First Alliance who continue to press for a Cabinet Minister. Helen says:
I am so pleased to hear this. We initiated this demand originally in our first Report (‘Healthy Patterns for Healthy Families’) and it was regarded as very cutting edge at the time because nobody before had ever said it. That report concluded: “If there is one recommendation above all that the All-Party Parliamentary Group on a Fit and Healthy Childhood would urge the incoming Government to adopt it is to appoint a Minister for Children to drive the policy and co-ordinate strategy across all Departments. This should be a Cabinet post.”
We have repeated the recommendation in the fifteen reports that have followed that first one and we remain convinced that it is only through the ownership of the issues at the highest level that solutions can be implemented across Departments.
Let’s hope this added voice with the endorsement of so many leading figures will have some impact on the Prime Minister.Helen Clarke, Lead Author of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on a Fit and Healthy Childhood