Ministers today called for a renewed national effort to improve the early years of children’s lives.
At Scotland’s first Children’s Summit, Education Secretary Michael Russell said unprecedented pressure upon the public purse meant society had to prioritise intervention during the early years of children’s lives in order to cut the long-term costs incurred in terms of ill-health, poor education and criminal activity.
He called on everyone to recognise the social and economic benefits of investing in the critical early years of children’s lives and to now work together in the national interest.
Mr Russell said:
“Every pound invested during the formative years of a child’s life, saves the taxpayer up to seven pounds later on. Successive governments have acknowledged that early years spending delivers long-term gains by tackling ill-health, improving educational attainment and preventing crime. From day one, this Government has committed itself to that agenda and we now collectively need to build on that.
“Future generations will not forgive us if investment and activity in the early years stalls. Yesterday, the new UK Government published its Emergency Budget which paints a very bleak picture of the unprecedented financial pressures to come. As budgets continue to shrink and service redesign becomes more vital than ever, political differences need to be cast aside and different sectors need to come together and speak as one.
“Politicians, business leaders, voluntary organisations and local authorities need to work jointly in the national interest and we need to ensure the voices of frontline staff, families and communities are heard. We need a national consensus on this issue and I intend to outline new ideas to build that consensus in the very near future.”
Minister for Children and Early Years, Adam Ingram, said:
“Improving support for children and families during the early years is the key to addressing many of Scotland’s deep-seated social problems like poverty and poor health, poor attainment and anti-social behaviour.
“With spending getting tighter, we need to look long and hard at how we accelerate work in the early years to build better lives for our children and reduce the need for more costly, crisis interventions later on, such as putting young people into residential or secure care or dealing with the impact of youth offending. The evidence shows that where we work together, we can improve the lives of children and make public services more efficient too. ”
Education and Health Ministers signed a pledge at the Children’s Summit to improve outcomes for children despite the financial climate. All participants at the event, including frontline staff working with children across Scotland and representatives from children’s charities, were also invited to sign the pledge.