Town’s tots get off to a poor start

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Luton’s under 5s are among the most deprived in the country by the time they start school, according to a new report.

Poor Beginnings, by the National Children’s Bureau, claims that almost 50% of children starting school in the borough had not achieved a good level in terms of personal, social, emotional and physical development.

Nationwide the borough was joint 10th with Oldham. The highest rated borough in the country was Lewisham with 75.3% of youngsters doing well.

On the four key factors for children’s health and wellbeing, Luton has 340 4-5 year olds classed as obese (10.4% of the population, 1,051 five-year-olds with tooth decay, 214 0-4s who had been admitted to hospital due to injury and around 1,550 youngsters are struggling developmentally by the end of reception class.

The report says: “Children growing up in deprived local authorities are more likely, in early childhood, to be obese, suffer from tooth decay and be injured, and less likely to reach a good level of development before starting school. The most deprived local authorities tend to have worse than average outcomes.

“It is unacceptable that simply by growing up in a certain part of the country, a young child is more likely to be obese, suffer from tooth decay and being injured, and less likely to develop successfully, with consequences for their wellbeing and development now and into adulthood.”

From October local authorities will be taking on responsibility for public health commissioning for children aged five and under, including the Healthy Child Programme 0 to 5 Years led by health visitors.

They will be required by law, at least for the first 18 months of the transfer, to provide key aspects of the Healthy Child Programme4.

In Central Bedfordshire 57.2% of youngsters had achieved a good level of development by the end of reception and 392 five year olds had tooth decay.

A Luton Borough Council spokesman said: “Child health and development from conception to the age of five years is influenced by many factors including the health, wellbeing and socio-economic status of their mother and family. The Council with its health and education partners recognise that children who are prepared for school have greater educational attainment and as a consequence have better health, employment and opportunities in adult life and this is the basis of Flying Start the Luton multi-agency early years strategy, focussing on the child development period between conception to five years and preparing young adults as parents of the future.

“With the 0-5 services, of health visiting and Family Nurse Partnership, an intensive programme of support for young parents introduced in August 2015 transferring as a commissioning responsibility of the Council next month, we have taken the opportunity to review the services we offer, the impact they are making and to identify what actions we need to take to raise the level of development in Luton. This will include a core 0-19 year health and wellbeing service for families which will work together to tackle the holistic health and wellbeing needs including those issues we have identified in the recently published Joint Strategic Needs Assessment, including reducing child obesity, improving child dental health and improving parenting through better coordination and wider provision of services that together will increase the numbers of children in Luton ready and able to learn when they start school.

Central Bedfordshire

4-5 year olds who are obese: 8.2%

(277 children)

Five year olds with tooth decay: 12.3%

(392 children)

Children aged 0-4 admitted to hospital due to injury: 116.5 per 10,000

(198 admissions)

Children achieving a good level of development by the end of reception: 57.2%

(1907 children)