Improving long-term outcomes for the whole population begins with ensuring that every child has the best possible start in life and with a focus on ensuring that children who are the most vulnerable and at risk are especially supported. One of the five building blocks / key theme of the Public Health Agency is, to give every child and young person the best start in life through partnership working with all sectors to tackle health inequalities and to promote positive health and wellbeing.
Disadvantage starts before birth and accumulates throughout life. The areas of social and emotional development within the brain are most active during the first 3 years of a child’s life (and particularly active in the early months). Careful nurturing of a child’s social and emotional health at this early stage is vital to provide them with the skills necessary to form relationships and interact with society at a later life stage. The quality of relationship between a child and their primary caregiver is central to this process.
Children which grow up in a positive, loving, safe, consistent and low conflict environment with clear boundaries and limits are better adjusted and are more likely to succeed at school, in relationships and in life. Inconsistent parenting increases the risk of children developing conduct problems, depression and anxiety as well as increases the risk of engaging in youth crime and in dangerous behaviours such as drug and alcohol abuse and risky sexual behaviour.
As part of Bright Start, the Executive’s Strategy for Affordable and Integrated Childcare, the Health and Social Care Board, in partnership with the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS), has developed a FREE Childcare and Family Support App. This app allows people to search for registered and approved childcare provision, and family support services throughout Northern Ireland on their smartphone or tablet.