Early Years

On the 12th July 2016 Peter Dowd spoke in and supported the Westminster Hall Debate about Early Years Development.  Here is his full speech

We all recognise that the achievement of development goals in the early years is the foundation for a healthy life, whether that is socially, psychologically or economically. Given that, it is all the more important that state agencies and voluntary, community and faith sector schools, in partnership with and in support of families, do their utmost to play their part in ensuring that our children get the best start in life.

In my professional career as a social worker—I started in a day nursery—I never ceased to be amazed by the capacity of children to gain so much from play, social interaction, direction, encouragement and simple kindness. Children’s first smile, first wave, first frown, first crawl and first “no” are all part of the development process that brings joy to families. Of course, there are the downsides to child development, such as the sleepless nights, the tantrums, the crying, the sickness, the worries—and that is just the parents

Notwithstanding the significant amount of research over the years in the whole field of child development, it is clear and self-evident that a loving and caring environment in which to grow is the most important gift that can be given to a child. I am sure that many parents in the room would do things differently in how we brought up our children, and I am no exception to that, but one key aspect for a child is the consistency of the care given to them by their parents or carers. At the other end of the spectrum, it is also important to ensure that parents or carers feel that they have a consistent economic environment in which they can nurture and help their children grow. It is therefore the responsibility of Government to ensure that the wider economic conditions in which families bring up children are as stable as possible. There also has to be the effective use of policy drivers, as many Members have alluded to.

It is the responsibility of us all to ensure that we have a nation of healthy children who have been given the best start in life, who live in a safe environment and who have good support and social systems there to help them. In particular, for those children who are not fortunate enough to have a stable, loving, caring family, it is all the more important that we do everything we can to ensure that they have as good a chance as possible to develop into mature, socially and personally confident children whose self-esteem is not damaged by their circumstances.

I hope this debate helps to play a part in keeping this very important issue on the agenda. I thank the Hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (James Berry) for giving us the opportunity to say these few words of support. I also thank such organizations as Action for Children and Save the Children, which remind us of our responsibilities in this crucial area of social policy.

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