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Health: Children and Young People

Volume 707: debated on Thursday 12 February 2009


My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (Ed Balls) made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

Today my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Health, Alan Johnson, and I are announcing the publication of Healthy Lives, Brighter Futures: The Strategy for Children and Young People’s Health.

A healthy start in life is at the heart of a happy childhood and the ability of every young person to achieve their potential and grow up well prepared for the challenges of adolescence and adulthood.

Children and young people are healthier than ever before, but we now have the opportunity to go further. We need to do more to achieve world-class health outcomes and minimise health inequalities, offering services of the highest quality and an excellent experience for the young people and their families who use them.

We know that we must do more to provide mothers and fathers with the support they need to give their children the best start and to help young people to make healthy choices as they grow up and take more responsibility for themselves.

Our two departments have come together to produce this long-term strategy to improve health outcomes for all children and young people from pre-birth to 19. It is a direct response to the views and concerns of young people, parents and professionals working with children and families.

Healthy Lives, Brighter Futures sets out how we will work in partnership with local authorities and primary care trusts and those working across children’s health services to build the quality of support for families at key stages in their children’s lives—during pregnancy and the early years of children’s lives, for school-age children as well as young people. Our package of support for children and young people with acute and additional health needs is backed by a total of £770 million funding over three years to 2010-11, the largest ever investment in these services.

Investing in children’s health from the early years through childhood and adolescence will benefit children, families, society and the NHS.

We have met many children, young people, parents and practitioners in the process of putting this strategy together. Children and young people want easier access to health services to support their psychological as well as physical health. Parents and carers want better information about what services are available locally, with better links between the services that their children use. Front-line staff want help with providing excellent, integrated health and healthcare services for children and families.

Through High Quality Care for All: NHS Next Stage Review Final Report we set out how the NHS would meet the challenges of the 21st century. Healthy Lives, Brighter Futures sets out how we will continue to deliver improvements in children’s physical and psychological health, building on existing policies such as the National Service Framework for Children, Young People and Maternity Services and the Every Child Matters reforms.

The strategy builds on work already in train to improve the quality and consistency of services, support and opportunities that families and children can expect in their local area. Services already aim to promote healthy lifestyles, intervene early where health problems arise and deliver support tailored to families’ needs: easily accessible support in pregnancy and early years of children’s life through Sure Start children’s centres and GP practices; helping children to take increasing personal responsibility for their health during their school years and young people to deal with the health challenges of adolescence; good access to urgent care; and specialist support for children with complex and long-term conditions, so that every child can reach their full potential.

Through the strategy, we are making commitments to improve this existing support for children, young people and families:

during pregnancy and the early years of life, more health visitors, and a strengthened role for Sure Start children’s centres with each centre having access to a named health visitor; further expansion of the successful family nurse partnership programme for vulnerable first-time mothers; and the development and testing of a new antenatal and preparation for parenthood programme for mothers and fathers;

for school-age children and their families, a core health programme, the development of a healthy child programme to set out what services should be available to parents, children and young people from five to 19 with schools supporting pupils’ health and well-being, and pilots to test the impact of extending free school meals to a greater number of pupils; and

for young people, more opportunities for sport, access to health services that are young-people friendly, and a new campaign to increase young people’s knowledge of effective contraceptive methods, backed by increased investment of around £27 million a year from 2008-09 for contraceptive services in a range of settings.

The strategy emphasises the need to ensure that high-quality, timely and accessible support is available for children and young people with acute or additional health needs and their families. We are making new commitments to strengthen that support:

confirmation of £340 million in NHS allocations over three years to improve the experience of disabled children and their families through better access to short breaks, community equipment and wheelchair services, including £30 million for palliative care and end-of-life care, in addition to the £340 million revenue funding already announced by DCSF for the Aiming High for Disabled Children programme and the £90 million capital funding announced in the Children’s Plan; and

we will test innovative approaches to the provision of community equipment and make sure that by 2010 all children with complex health needs have individual care plans to support co-ordinated care.

Improving children’s health from birth to 19 is an ambitious agenda. In order to drive change in every area, we know that we need stronger joint leadership to plan, commission and monitor the delivery of excellent services. The strategy sets out how we will help those on the front line to make a reality of this vision.

The strategy sets out a clear expectation that children’s trust partners are to provide children and families with accessible and comprehensive information about the services, advice and support available locally. New commitments to support local provision include action to:

promote stronger joint leadership and local accountability arrangements, with statutory children’s trust boards to include GP members as well as primary care trusts;

ensure all organisations with responsibility for child health and well-being are fulfilling their statutory responsibilities for safeguarding children;

develop the child health workforce, with a particular early focus on health visitors;

deliver a support programme for local authorities and PCTs to commission child health services;

strengthen the information available to help plan, monitor and improve services; and

give a stronger voice for children and young people in assessments of healthcare organisations, and robust arrangements to promote and ensure the quality of health services.

With schools, GP practices, hospitals, Sure Start children’s centres, the voluntary sector and government all playing their part in support of families, we can ensure that every child has a healthy start in life and a brighter future. Working together, we can continue to work towards our goal to make this the best place in the world to grow up.

Copies of Healthy Lives, Brighter Futures: The Strategy for Children and Young People’s Health and the accompanying guidance on joint commissioning will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.