Guest Blog by Anne Scott, Early Years Programme Manager at Scottish Borders Council who talks here about how investment in the early years contributes to a healthier Scotland.
“The purpose of our Scottish Borders Early Years Strategy 2012-2015 is to break the cycles of poverty, inequality and poor outcomes in and through the early years for children and families. This continues to be a priority for us and reflects all that we are doing across health, education and social care in the Scottish Borders to improve children’s life chances and build the capacity and confidence of parents and carers.
“As the most recent Growing Up in Scotland report Tackling Inequalities in the Early Years highlights, supporting parenting skills can help protect against the impact of adversity and disadvantage and improving the physical and mental health of mothers is likely to have a positive effect on the health and development of children. And as the financial Impact of Early Years Interventions in Scotland highlights, investment in the early years improves the lives of current and future generations and makes the best use of resources.
“As part of our Early Years Strategy, we set up four Early Years Centres, with start-up costs funded through the Early Years Change Fund – a partnership fund between the Scottish Government, local government and health. The centres are each based in schools within data zones of high Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation but are open to all. Our school staff, health visitors and social workers – those most likely to recognise children in need of some extra support – all work together to encourage families to participate in the activities of our early years centres.
“Langlee Early Years Centre covers the Galashiels area, providing an open door, all year round service within a safe and relaxing environment, in a school setting. Families feel comfortable dropping in for advice and support and to participate in the range of activities that cover healthy pregnancies, breastfeeding, cooking and healthy eating, welfare and benefits advice, parenting support, play and literacy skills – for both parents and children.
“When Langlee first opened in August 2014, around 40 children and families attended. Using improvement methodology learned through our involvement in the Early Years Collaborative and our local networks, we have now achieved over 3500 visits by local children and families with around 130 now attending weekly. In the future we hope to promote integrated delivery of parenting supports in other locations and schools in response to identified needs.
“At the core of all our services, is Getting it right for every child which puts the needs of children and families at the centre. Langlee, like our other family centres, is effectively a ‘one stop shop’ where parents and carers can get the support they need before any difficulties reach crisis point. This is early intervention in action. Parents have said that though Langlee, they have gained a better understanding of what they need to give their children the best start in life, that they understand their children’s health and educational needs better and that they are now more able to cope with the challenges of being a parent.
“As well as being the right thing to do, supporting families with children in the early years makes good financial sense. Helping families become more resourceful, healthy and confident and children to learn though play and reading does improve outcomes and increase children’s ability to do well at school and beyond. This means that more expensive interventions are less likely to be needed as children grow up or even later in life.
We all want to close the attainment gap and make Scotland the best place for children to grow up. The Scottish Borders is full of opportunity a great place for children to grow up. It’s great to see our Early Years Strategy making such a positive difference to the health, wellbeing and aspirations of our children and families.”