The Leadsom Review: Change or Status Quo?

Andrea Leadsom MP was charged by Boris Johnson to devise a plan to ensure that every child is afforded the very best start in life and the keenly-awaited ‘Leadsom blueprint’ has now been published.

‘The early years review – The best start for life: a vision for the 1,001 critical days’ is accessed on https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-best-start-for-life-a-vision-for-the-1001-critical-days and the Government has pledged that work on implementation will begin ‘in the coming months.’

There will be great interest from all who are involved in a professional or caring role with the welfare of young children (including members of the APPG on A Fit and Healthy Childhood) and Mrs Leadsom has long been a respected advocate of ‘getting things right’ in the first 1001 days; described as a unique ‘window of opportunity’ with the power to determine a beneficial life course.

Amongst other measures, the Leadsom review advocates:

  • Digitised health records for all children from birth (starting in April 2023) ensuring that unique personal developmental information is recorded, stored and readily accessible for medical staff use
  • Digital, virtual and telephone services designed around family need
  • Local authorities encouraged to publish Start for Life offers for parents detailing available services and specialist support both parenting and healthy lifestyle oriented ( such as clinics to help people to stop smoking)
  • An evolving and updated Start for Life offer with a modern, skilled workforce and measures to encourage the retention of traditional support workers such as health visitors
  • A network of family hubs enabling parents to access Start for Life services ( such as childcare, early education and healthcare) as well as providing advice on jobs and training
  • Encouragement for local areas to nominate a leader to oversee service development and roll-out and national leadership to assess the effect of the proposals in progress
  • The Department of Health and Social Care to work with Public Health England, local government, NHS England and Improvement on the Start for Life programme and a guaranteed ‘one stop NHS-branded online information shop’ for parents and carers to access over a range of child-centric matters

Helen Clark Lead Author of the APPG report ‘The Early Years’ welcomed the publication of the Leadsom review and added:

‘It is of course very much to be welcomed that the Government has formally recognised this essential period of childhood and that Ministers have understood that parents, carers and professionals who work with and care for young children need access to the best quality help and advice right from the outset.

Unfortunately, the care and nurture of young children is all too frequently influenced by the socioeconomic position and living circumstances of the child’s individual family, matters of geographical access, disability, cultural and ethnic diversity and political decisions taken by local and central government that may not be in the best interests of every child.

Many functions of the proposed family hubs for example, were originally carried out by Sure Start and Children’s Centres that were closed due to the implementation of Government-imposed austerity policies.

However, the affirmation of the precious and unique nature of a child’s first 1001 days is to be welcomed.

We now look forward to the Government announcing precise start dates for implementation, together with guaranteed and ring-fenced financial support and the assurance that systems will be put in place to evaluate the progress of the new plans in the interests of transparency and public confidence.

The APPG on A Fit and Healthy Childhood welcomes the comments of our members on this important matter.

Let us know what you think!’

Helen Clark, Lead Author for the All-Party Parliamentary Group on a Fit and Healthy Childhood

26th March 2021

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