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Research conducted by 4Children, the national charity for children and families, reveals that the majority of people don’t believe that public services are family friendly, with only 33% and 28%, respectively, believing GP surgeries and hospitals are family friendly. The research comes amid growing concerns around obesity, mental health, poor diet, diabetes and the health prospects of future generations.
Families living in the poorest neighbourhoods in England, will, on average, die seven years earlier than those living in the richest neighbourhoods. It is therefore unsurprising that results from polling carried out by the charity showed that 27% of parents do not think their neighbourhood is a good place for their families to grow up in.
With major changes set to take place in the way health services are delivered over the next 18 months, including local authorities taking over the commissioning of health visitors and a variety of other services in 2015, and the introduction of new integrated checks for children at age two, 4Children is calling for a new approach to provide joined up, preventative health support for children and families at the heart of the community in and around extended Children and Family Centres. This would include ante natal classes, health visitor support, speech and language development, child psychiatrists as well as ongoing preventative and specialist support as children grow up.
Anne Longfield OBE, Chief Executive of 4Children says:
All of the evidence shows that health inequalities are interlinked, yet the majority of health diagnostics are still treated in isolation. Parents tell us that they struggle to access holistic health support or treatment, which means that children continue to have the symptoms of poor health treated, rather than the root causes.
If we are going to reduce the health inequalities that many families and children face, especially disadvantaged families, we need to put their needs first by offering joined up support in the community, near to home.”
In a new report published by the charity, Making Britain Great for Children and Families, 4Children calls for radical changes to our public services, to build a new system of support that is responsive to families; available early to prevent problems developing; and committed to working with the strengths of families if crises occur.
4Children is calling for national and local leaders to sign up to a Family Commitment across a range of areas, these include the following calls to action:
• Put the needs of the family first: This future approach to providing services needs to put the needs of the family not the service first, working with the whole family in a coherent way and, importantly, joining up support and help.
• Integrate health with local community services for children and families
We need a “holistic” approach to children’s health from the earliest stages, including world class pregnancy, antenatal and postnatal support; specialist helps to support children with specific health needs – including specialist health support and intensive turnaround for teenagers in trouble.
• Intervene early and prevent problems before they emerge
Providing information, advice and support before problems become crises has public health benefits for children, young people and their families, with the associated financial benefits that brings.
• Children’s Centres at the heart of local authorities’ and Health and Wellbeing Boards’ early intervention and preventative strategies and also playing a central role in the delivery of the Healthy Child programme, as well as having access to a named health visitor.
• Local Children and Family Centres in every community, and at the heart of local Health and Well-Being Boards’ health commissioning strategies. This should include increased collaboration, integration and joined up delivery between Children/Family Centres and other local service providers, to maximise the effectiveness of health interventions during the critical early years of a child’s development
• Government commitment to extending the pupil premium to early years, with immediate additional investment
• Healthier communities, to ensure children and families grow up in environments which enhance their health, including public spaces and parks that are designed and run with families in mind and are safe places for children to play
• A major new programme of affordable social housing, including to replace poor and sub-standard housing that has a damaging impact upon people’s health
• A revitalised ‘green deal’ aimed at the most vulnerable households, to help eradicate fuel poverty
Anne Longfield OBE, Chief Executve of 4Children continues:
Our health isn’t just about our health services, but the kind of society in which we choose to live and expect. There must be radical changes to our health services, to build a new system of support that is responsive to families; available early to prevent problems developing; and committed to work with the strengths of families if crises occur.
We are urging Health and Wellbeing Boards and commissioners to shape a new local architecture for children and family health. Children and Family Centres represent multi-purpose community hubs which local families can use to access an extensive range of services, such as midwives and health visitors, to housing or debt advice whilst also helping to tackle underlying causes of family crisis such as domestic violence, mental health, and drug addiction.
Taking a whole family approach, and pooling our resources across health and family support is not only good economics but will also help to improve outcomes and bring us closer to delivering the first class system of joined up support that families deserve.”
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Read 4Children's Mini-Manifesto: "Prioritising Health" [PDF]
Read 4Children's Manifesto "Making Britain Great for Children and Families"