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Maternity and Early Years

Volume 507: debated on Tuesday 16 March 2010

The Government have announced today the launch of a strategic vision for the further transformation of maternity services and early years services. “Maternity and Early Years—Making a Good Start to Family Life” has been placed in the Library and copies are available for hon. Members from the Vote Office.

The document has been developed jointly by the Department of Health, the Department for Children, Schools and Families and the Prime Minister’s strategy unit, drawing on the views of mothers and fathers, children’s centre staff, local health practitioners and children.

“Maternity and Early Years—Making a Good Start to Family Life” makes the clear case for helping families to give their baby the best possible start in life and sets out a vision of renewed and more integrated maternity and early years services that put the excellent clinical care already available at the centre of a wider network of family support:

with commitments to consult on new entitlements for women to access maternity services early in pregnancy and make important choices around where to have their baby;

where local services will join up so that families have continuous care and support from early pregnancy to at least the child’s sixth month—with a named Sure Start children’s centre contact offered to parents early in pregnancy who will invite them into the children’s centre, and access to a health visitor for every children’s centre;

where families will also be offered more help to prepare for parenthood so they can give their baby the best possible start in life—with new antenatal education opportunities rolled out in settings that suit parents and with a further focus on the opportunities for fathers to get more involved—including an invitation for both parents to attend a family start meeting at their children’s centre and an opportunity to agree a parents’ plan together; and

understanding that families will have very different needs, and that some may want more support in preparing for parenthood, with extra support for those families that need it —for instance by expanding the family nurse partnership to help young, vulnerable first-time families.

With over 3,500 Sure Start children’s centres now established across the country, in addition to the existing network of GP surgeries and health centres, we are well placed to reach all families, and to make sure all families can draw on the support they want in preparing for and bringing up their baby.