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This conference focused on the priorities for supporting child development in the first 1,001 days of life.
It came as the key recommendations were rolled out following the acceptance by the Government in 2021 of recommendations in The Best Start for Life - A vision for 1,001 Critical Days review.
Delegates looked at the steps which need to be taken for implementation of the strategy’s six action areas, which aim to support parents and carers during the first two years of a child’s development.
We are pleased that Rt Hon Dame Andrea Leadsom MP, who chaired the review, was a keynote speaker at this conference, looking at progress made so far.
Areas for discussion included parental engagement and support; best practice in early social, emotional and cognitive development; and developing a joined up and coordinated approach to supporting early child development.
The conference was also a timely opportunity for delegates to consider the rollout of the Government’s Family Hubs programme and how the Government can work with local authorities to develop an effective Family Hub network within each local area, with the government committing a further £302m to the programme.
Abi Miranda, Head of Early Years and Prevention, Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families, which co-ordinates the National Centre for Family Hubs, delivered a keynote address outlining best practice in their implementation and delivery.
Further keynote contributors included Dr Michelle Fernandes, Academic Clinical Lecturer, University of Southampton; and Honorary Research Fellow, University of Oxford; and Alison Morton, Executive Director, Institute of Health Visiting.
Overall, those attending assessed progress and next steps for:
- creating a joined-up approach - coordinating and streamlining the offer of support for families - joint working between education and health services
- support for parents and carers - effective and timely information for parents and carers - assessing the current offer of free childcare
- children’s social, emotional and physical development - best practice - developing communication and early language skills - harnessing play-based learning
- early intervention - including provision for children in need of additional support
- developing the workforce - recruitment, development and retention - training and support
- quality and regulation - local and national accountability - use of data - health and development reviews and tracking children’s development - evaluation and inspection
The conference was an opportunity for stakeholders to consider the issues alongside key policy officials who attended from the DfE; the DHSC; and the NAO - as well as parliamentary pass-holders from the House of Commons.