Friday, 13 September 2013

Children's Early years and Why we must get it right

News from Ben and Ipswich ConservativesSeptember 2013

Month Year
This is one of the most important subjects, in my opinion, and interests me not just as a politician but also in my work, and I'm so pleased to see the cross party working it has finally encouraged. Even before the years where they start school, we have a more crucial period in which politicians national and local, can make a huge difference. 

Here's Ben Gummers post

Why children's early years are so important
Below this column you will see the most important photo in British politics today.

It shows scans of two three-year-old brains.  The larger, fully developed brain is that of a child who has enjoyed a healthy upbringing.  The smaller, less developed brain is that of a child that has suffered extreme neglect.  What I want to talk about today is the recent explosion of interest in the early years of a child's life, the advances in what brain science tells us about their importance and the excitement that this is generating in Westminster.

Yesterday morning, I was involved in the launch a decisive new cross-party manifesto, 'The 1001 Critical Days: The Importance of the Conception to Age Two Period'.  This is the brainchild of my colleague Andrea Leadsom MP, the Conservative Member of Parliament for South Northamptonshire.  Andrea and her team have been doing great work compiling this manifesto, which highlights the crucial importance of the early years to the rest of a child's life.

By the 1001st day, the brain has reached 80 per cent of its adult weight, making this period vital for healthy development and for ensuring that babies achieve the best start in life.

From birth to age eighteen months, connections in the brain are created at a rate of one million per second.  It is during this period that a baby's social and emotional development in later life is shaped by the quality of their attachment to their parents and carers.  

This much is clear.  But as is so often the case, policymakers have lagged behind, slow to change their policies to account for new scientific insights.  Despite spending hundreds of billions of pounds in the last fifteen years in the battle against poverty, we have done tragically little to secure every child the healthy start in life that they deserve.  One in every four babies born in the UK has a parent affected by domestic violence, mental health or drug and alcohol problems.  

So what's different about this manifesto?  As well as Andrea Leadsom, it has also been written by Labour MP Frank Field, by Liberal Democrat former Health Minister Paul Burstow MP and by the Green Party MP Caroline Lucas.  What this shows is of enormous importance: for the first time, political parties are coming together to form a consensus on how governments must transform their approach to early years policy.  Representatives of all parties are now united in calling for essential services and assistance to be provided to all at-risk families and those experiencing difficulties.  

We are beginning to respond to what is now beyond doubt: that fighting long term poverty requires more than just transferring money from one group to another through tax and benefits.  We also need much better services, targeted at those who actually need them.  We need this debate to rise above party politics, so that the best policies are implemented by whichever party is in power.  To those of us who are committed to promoting the importance of early years policy, it is encouraging that we are making real progress.  

Ben in the Pub

On Wednesday 18th I will be holding one of my regular Ben in the Pub evenings.  Join me for a drink at the Royal George on Colchester Road between 7 and 9 pm if you have any questions or concerns you would like to put to me.

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