Today I spoke on a panel at the Nuffield Foundation’s conference on the comprehensive Changing Face of Early Childhood series. The conference focused on the publication of the final report of the series ‘Bringing up the next generation: from research to practice’, which calls for an ambitious early childhood strategy. I greatly welcome the report’s bold vision for how to improve early childhood in the UK.
Throughout the panel discussion I highlighted the need to consider the family as an entire unit, noting that in order to support children in the early years to thrive it is vital that we support the family around them. I was delighted to hear fellow panellists recognise the importance of nurturing and stable relationships in children’s lives.
In The Big Ask, the survey of half a million children that I conducted last year, children told me that having a supportive family has a positive impact on their lives. Knowing the importance of family to children, I was delighted when the Government asked me to conduct an independent review into contemporary family life.
The Family Review
Today I spoke about how I will be putting the voices of children and families at the front and centre of the Independent Government-commissioned Family Review. My office is carrying out a wide-ranging research programme for the Review. We are conducting focus groups with children and families across the country, and we launched a nationally representative survey of children and their parents and carers.
Early findings from the Family Review, which is set to be published in the autumn, are showing us how important it is that local and national services recognise the needs of the entire family unit and understand the diversity of family forms.
I have also launched a series of Call to Actions as I want to hear directly from children and families and raise awareness for the importance of family. In the first Call to Action, we received an amazing response with over 3,700 people telling us what their family means to them. A few weeks ago, I launch my second Call to Action, this time to hear the voices of parents of young children aged 0-4 years old. And in September I will launch a Call to Action for schools.
As a society, we need to “think family” – we need to take family seriously. In the Family Review I will be exploring how to maximise the impact of family hubs by creating an accessible offer that meets the varying needs of families in our communities.
Nuffield Foundation conference
As the Nuffield Foundation’s “Bringing up the next generation” report recognises, we need to harness the impact of technology on the delivery of our support services and create better data sharing mechanisms.
I was inspired by all the passionate attendees at the conference who are committed to improving the lives of babies and our youngest children through their direct work, their research, and their policy work. Nuffield have set out an ambitious vision for what the next generation need. These ideas about how the families and systems around our youngest children can support them to thrive will form a cornerstone of my Family Review.