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Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Measures to boost child learning


The Child Health Strategy is long overdueA package of measures to boost child health and learning, including a cash boost for children with disabilities, has been unveiled by ministers.

The Child Health Strategy has promised an extra £340m to pay for respite and end of life care for families with disabled children.

A programme of intensive one-to-one work with new parents will also be extended to tackle health inequalities.

But the Tories said the plans were long overdue and not ambitious enough.

The Department for Children, School and Families has already announced £340m for children with disabilities and this is now to be

matched by the Department of Health over the next three years.


The idea for the strategy came out of the Children’s Plan which was published at the end of 2007.

The view within government was that there was not enough partnership work between education and health services.

To rectify that, the new strategy will promise that the 3,000 Sure Start centres will get a named health visitor in a bid to bring NHS services more into what is a predominantly educational and welfare service.

The move will mean several hundred extra health visitors will be recruited.

The Department of Health is also expected to announce an extension of the family nurse partnerships pilot, which involves a specialist nurse meeting regularly with vulnerable new parents until the child is two.

There are currently 30 pilots in operation, but the number is to be increased to 70 by 2011, covering nearly half the country in the process. The plan is then to extend it across England over the following 10 years.

The model is based on a system developed in the US that has shown it results in better health outcomes, improves family stability and aids the child’s educational development.


The strategy also sets out plans for a £40m pilot of free school meals for primary school children – although this has already been announced.

It comes after Scotland has already piloted free schools meals with full roll-out due in 2010.

Hull City Council also provided free school meals for several years, before a recent change in political control brought it to an end.

The measures were broadly welcomed by the Association for Young People’s Health and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.

But Tim Nichols, of the Child Poverty Action Group, said there was no need to pilot free school meals ahead of a full implementation as the evidence was already there.

“It makes a difference both to health, and concentration and learning,” he added.

Shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley said: “We welcome this strategy, although many parents will be asking why it has taken so long to make children’s health a priority.

“We are also worried that the plans lack ambition. Instead of a bold set of announcements we have a collection of borrowed and watered-down plans which don’t go far enough in giving children’s health services the boost they need.”


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