THE BABY BOX, a new initiative from The Children’s Foundation, launched in the North East this week, with the aim of giving every child in the North East the best start possible, with the hope that the scheme will then be rolled out across the whole of the UK.
The Baby Box has been created by listening to children, parents, midwives, family nurses, GPs and experts on the 1001 critical days movement, to understand how important these early years are for shaping the rest of our lives. Each Baby Box is packed with books and developmentally stimulating toys with a focus on laughing, reading, singing, playing and counting, as well as essential items to get families started and support with the rising cost of living.
The North East has the second-highest rate of low income and deprivation after Inner London and these boxes are the first of their kind in the world to take a developmental approach to the baby, rather than focusing on solely physical needs.
The event, held at Helix development in Newcastle, was a chance for high-profile guests from the region, and across the UK, to hear more about the significance of the project for babies and families, see the boxes up close and hear from the team at The Children’s Foundation on the significance of this project being founded here in the North East.
Six-year-old Jake opened the proceedings by reading a poem entitled ‘How You Can Help Me Build My Brain Today’, written by Close Knit CIC in Newcastle. This was followed by a stirring speech by leading children’s physician and first children’s commissioner Sir Al-Aynsley Green who celebrated the initiative, discussed the importance of a focus on child development and called for the North East to come together as a community to create change.
Guests included Diane Buggy (MBE), The Worshipful Mayor of Gateshead, Councillor Dot Burnett ad The Lord Mayor, Councillor Karen Robinson, alongside other influential guests from both healthcare and business.
Alongside the books and toys, the project also provides parents and carers with access to everyday tips and advice to help make everyday moments matter, developed through a partnership with NSPCC Look, Say, Sing, Play and BBC Tiny Happy People.
Sean Soulsby, CEO of The Children’s Foundation said “Bringing a newborn home from hospital is an exciting, but often overwhelming time, and we want to remind parents, families, and carers that they are not alone during those critical early days.
“The Baby Box campaign comes at a time when more families than ever need our support. The Baby Box has been designed to level the playing field when it comes to child development in our region and give newborn babies in vulnerable families the best start in life – raising the aspirations in the North East and creating a future of happy, resilient and creative community.
“Far too many North-East children are born into poverty and our region has fallen behind others in terms of school attainment and health inequalities. The Baby Box is a great way to support healthy baby development through simple every day moments. Infant mortality in the North East is higher than the national average The Baby Box may be a cost-effective scheme to help reduce inequalities in the North East and, in time, we hope that the scheme will be adopted across the whole of the UK.
“Positive experiences early in life are closely associated with better performances at school, good emotional development, improved work outcomes, and better lifelong health. Tackling these issues is vital to levelling up.
“We are appealing for individuals and businesses to help to raise the funds to get The Baby Boxes into the hands of as many families in need as possible. Your support will have a direct impact for newborns who need it most and be a huge help to families struggling with the cost of living. Caring for babies is a really important, but very difficult job, and it takes the whole community to make a difference.”
The Children’s Foundation, based at the RVI in Newcastle, pioneered the ‘Little Red Book’ that all parents across the UK will be familiar with, right here in the North East. The aim is that The Baby Box will be adopted by NHS Trusts nationally in the same way and made a staple part of supporting every child, whatever their circumstance, to achieve their potential.
The boxes are currently available to vulnerable families in Newcastle and Gateshead and the charity has a target of raising £1 million to make sure every child in our region gets the support that they need to thrive. Businesses in the region are invited to pay it forward by purchasing a box as a gift for expectant parents as they head off on maternity and paternity. For every box purchased The Children’s Foundation gift an additional box to a vulnerable family right here in the region.
Individuals who would like to support the campaign and improve the health and well-being of children and young people in the North East can donate £3 by texting ‘MAM to 70450. To learn more, visit: www.thechildrensfoundation.co.uk.