29th November 2013
In September, a remarkable coalition of fifty key organisations (including the Royal College of Nursing (Scotland) and the Institute of Health Visiting) and distinguished individuals jointly submitted a two-page statement to the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Culture Committee. You can read Putting the Baby IN the Bath Water here: http://royalnursing.3cdn.net/2c688572ff736d0a07_jhm6ii9ty.pdf
The basic message is that the Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill does not explicitly incorporate into law either primary prevention (keeping harm to children from happening in the first place) or the first 1,001 days of life (pre-birth to age two). There is a large gap between the excellent case the Scottish Government makes for the earliest years, as well as for prevention, and what is actually in the Bill itself.
This omission means that while the other matters covered by the Bill will go onto the ‘must do’ list for the government, the earliest years and primary prevention will remain on the ‘nice to do’ list. In a time of austerity, even those with the best of intentions will have to, by law, give much lower priority (and fewer resources) to the earliest years and primary prevention.
Putting the Baby IN the Bath Water offers five collectively-agreed recommendations for filling this gap and keeping the first 1,001 days on a level playing field with the other important areas of activity the Bill does include. All five recommendations are relevant to health visiting. The final one states that: “MSPs should act upon this unique chance to reinvent and reinvigorate the health visiting profession as an indispensible part of Scotland’s early years workforce.”
MSPs will debate the Children and Young People Bill this Thursday (21 November). While the Scottish Parliament will approve this legislation at Stage 1, it is not certain as to what will happen next. Stage 2 is usually the point at which amendments are considered — and the time when Scottish Ministers often make commitments about will be accomplished through later statutory guidance.
This means that now is the right time to encourage MSPs to do what they can to ensure that primary prevention and the first 1,001 days of children’s lives will be included on Scotland’s new “must do” list.
Dr Jonathan Sher, Scotland Director of WAVE Trust. He can be reached at [email protected].