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Early life health ‘as important as national defence'

A report, Building Great Britons, says that mental health problems, neglect and abuse can be passed down from one generation to the next “creating a vicious cycle and damaging environment in which to grow up”. 

The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Conception to Age 2 - First 1,001 Days, called for spending on early intervention for toddlers to be given the same priority by government as national defence to address the problems.

Tim Loughton, chairman of the APPG and former children’s minister, said: “The cost of failing to deal adequately with perinatal mental health and child maltreatment has been estimated at £23bn each year. Tackling it should be no less a priority for our politicians and our health and social care professionals than defence of the realm.”

The APPG report also proposes recommendations to ensure local children’s professionals better target vulnerable children at an early age and that across central and local government there is a strong focus on breaking the cycle of “disadvantage, inequality, dysfunction and child maltreatment”.

All councils, clinical commissioning groups and health and wellbeing boards as well as central government should bring in a "1,001 days" strategy, says the report. This should prioritise the social and emotional development of young children and be closely monitored with performance scorecards published regularly. 

A new cross-departmental ministerial role – minister for families and best start in life – should also be created.

Children’s centres also need to be the main source of support for vulnerable families with young children. In addition, more funding needs to be put into evaluating and researching effective interventions.