The importance of an early start

By Rachel Dickinson | 11 December 2019

The first 1,000 days of life, from conception to age two, is a critical phase of a child’s development. The greatest opportunities to make a tangible difference to children’s outcomes occur when they are very young. Growing up experiencing material hardship such as food insecurity and poor-quality housing can have a lifelong impact on health and development. Babies born into poverty are more likely to have a low birth weight and by the age of three, poorer children are on average nine months behind in developmental terms than their wealthier peers.

All recent Governments have focused on early years policy with the twin objectives of giving children a better start in life while supporting and increasing the number of working families. Total spending on the early years has risen significantly over the last three decades, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, and investment in the expansion of 30 hours ‘free’ childcare (including for households earning up to £199,000 a year) is set to reach £6bn per year in 2020. Despite this level of investment, there are still concerns in the childcare sector about underfunding. Some providers are closing or being forced to ask parents to pay for meals, nappies and trips to meet shortfalls – and concerns remain about the quality of provision.

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Childrens services Education Early intervention Poverty

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