Baroness Walmsley: We need to invest in children’s early years

Today in the Lords Baroness Joan Walmsley will lead a debate on promoting early childhood development in the post-2015 development framework. It is vital, she says, to assist children’s development in their first few years

Baroness Walmsley
Baroness Walmsley

In 2015 the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) come to an end. As part of the process of deciding what is to replace them, our Prime Minister has been appointed to be one of three co-chairs of a High Level Panel of eminent people set up by the UN. I want to use the opportunity of my debate today to encourage him to press for an integrated Early Childhood Development target to be part of the 2015 goals.

It is very rare that large numbers of researchers from many disciplines agree with each other and all come to the same conclusion. However, that is happening now. Neuroscientists, social scientists and economists all agree that we will only achieve the MDGs and the subsequent 2015 goals if we include a specific actionable and measurable goal to reduce by half the number of children under the age of five who fail to reach their potential.

The MDGs have succeeded in getting more children onto the rolls of primary schools worldwide but how well do they learn when they get there? Evidence shows that it is poor rural families with young children who have benefited least from the MDGs. If we work with children before they go to primary school they will be better equipped to benefit from their primary and subsequent education. That is why investment in the early years is such a smart investment.

Children learn faster in their first few years than they will at any other time in their lives. Why therefore do we not put MORE effort into assisting their healthy development at that time than we do when they are older?

Published and promoted by Tim Gordon on behalf of the Liberal Democrats, both at LDHQ, 8-10 Great George Street, London, SW1P 3AE.

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