Today a report was publishsed by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health saying child health in the UK has improved over the last 30 years. ‘But seven years after the Marmot Review, “Fair Society, Healthy Lives”, it is tragic that the future health and happiness of a significant and growing number is in jeopardy because of an alarming gap between rich and poor.’
What I’m going to say is probably not going to be popular but it comes from experience of bringing up children in London over the last 20 years and retaining a high level of contact with expectant and new parents and child health professionals through my work at Nappy Ever After.
The truth, I’m afraid, is that if we leave child health in the hands of government, local authority and health professionals and just keep measuring how bad things are getting and saying more money will solve the problem, we, as families, as communities indeed as a country will be the losers. The money isn’t there. The last Labour government invested in early years. It worked to an extent. But the trouble was that those in least need were the main beneficiaries – yes, including me and my family.
My view is that those who are capable of providing services for each other must do so. Local authorities are closing children’s centres. There’s no reason why local parents can’t get together and create facilities like shared childcare for themselves. We may need some relaxation of regulations that prevent us from doing it but we need to recognise that the majority of us can look after ourselves. State and local authority resources need to be targeted at those in dire need, who are extremely vulnerable and need help.
Life changes dramatically when you have a baby. In many cases you find you don’t want to return immediately to the career you’ve left but move into a new space that opens up for you when you have a baby. What’s missing is the knowledge and tools and confidence to empower new parents to get on and look after themselves. This is what is lacking and it harms us all. There are parents who set up their own nurseries and creches in the 1980s when childcare facilties had experienced a period of long and harsh cuts under Thatcher. Find them and ask them how to do it.