'Best Start in Life' children's service is visited by Dame Andrea Leadsom

A ground-breaking service which aims to give children the Best Start in Life has been visited by Dame Andrea Leadsom, who saw first-hand the difference it is making to families' lives.

Minister and MP Dame Andrea is one of the founders of two charities which help parents to bond with their babies, the Parent Infant Partnerships (PIPUK) and Northamptonshire Parent Infant Partnership.

During her visit to Lancashire County Council's Ribbleton Family Hub on Thursday (January 25), she met parents with their babies and toddlers, staff and councillors.

Minister for Public Health, Start for Life and Primary Care, Dame Andrea Leadsom was invited to visit the Hub as part of her current work as the Government’s Early Years Healthy Development Adviser and Chair of the Early Years Healthy Development Review. The Review's findings were published alongside six action areas for change in the Best Start for Life Vision in March 2021.

The Lancashire County Council Best Start in Life scheme aims to increase the number of children reaching the required standard in English and Maths by the end of reception.

The latest data shows that there has been an 18% increase in the number of families taking up places on the scheme between January 2021 (62%) and January 2023 (80%).

Areas spotlighted in Dame Andrea's visit included sharing innovative practice locally such as the team's work on integrated working with maternity services and health visiting, and supporting children to access early years education and  school readiness.

Another area highlighted was the scheme's speech and language pilot, which has taken place in Hyndburn and is now being rolled out to other areas of the county including Preston, Rossendale and Pendle. In the pilot, a 100-child waiting list was cut to zero between December 2022 and May 2023.

Dame Andrea said: “It was wonderful to come to Lancashire to see the important work being done and a real focus on getting support to where it is needed to give every baby the best start in life.

"Working with babies, parents, and carers has always been vitally important to me and I was delighted to hear from families in Lancashire who have been helped to access these services that are so vital in these critical early years."

County Councillor Michael Green, cabinet member for Health and Wellbeing, said: "It was really great to meet Dame Andrea and show her these services that we are so proud of.

"It means such a lot to us to see such incredible work being done where it is needed the most.

"Lancashire County Council recently opened Family Hubs across the county to help children, young people and families link into a variety of services offered by the county council and partnering organisations.

"We are very proud of these ground-breaking hubs which offer support on a range of needs, from midwifery and mental health to groups for expectant parents and support for young people.’’

County Councillor Cosima Towneley, cabinet member for Children and Families said: "We believe it is very important that families are offered seamless support through the Best Start in Life service, ensuring they have all they need in one place.

 

"We want children to be ready socially, cognitively and emotionally for school.

"By taking an early intervention approach, this scheme is turning around children's futures. This would not have been possible without key services coming together and working collaboratively to target inequalities."

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