Derry Now Newspaper article

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Article about how evidence of the effectiveness of the Lifestart Parenting programme was raised by SDLP politician Mark Durkan in House of Commons. This evaluation was led by Dr Sarah Miller and Dr Laura Dunne, Centre for Effective Education:

SDLP Foyle MP Mark Durkan has praised the excellent work of Derry’s Lifestart Foundation in providing high-quality parental support to produce better development outcomes for children in the city.

Mr Durkan (pictured) was speaking in support the ‘1001 Critical Days Manifesto’ at Westminster and

The 1001 Critical Days Manifesto takes its title from the period from conception to age two when a baby’s brain is developing fastest and he or she is most susceptible to forming strong bonds of attachment with a primary carer, which will have a lasting impact and set a child up for the best start in life, in school and into adulthood.

Mr Durkan, a member of the ‘1001 Critical Days’ all-party parliamentary group, urged the government to adopt the manifesto’s recommendations and ensure that the questions arising from it are addressed at the level of the British-Irish Council.

He said: “While I have been hugely impressed by much of the evidence that I have received as a member of the all-party parliamentary group, I am happy to say that I have benefited from the presence in my constituency of the Lifestart Foundation, which was established in Ireland back in the 1980s.

“Its essential mission is to provide high-quality parental support in order to produce better child development outcomes. It gives parents evidence-based information about the way in which young children learn and develop, and helps them to use the knowledge that they have gained.

“The foundation also promotes the delivery of its Growing Child Programme which accords very strongly with the main points and principles in the manifesto that we are discussing.

"The foundation delivers a systematic evidence-based child development programme by means of home visiting, from which, as a parent myself, I benefited in my own area.

"That goes to parents of children from birth right up to pre-school, and indeed school entry. The outcomes are informed by sound empirical research, and they are designed and reviewed by child development and parenting experts.

“I encourage the Minister to look up the findings from the Centre for Effective Education at Queen’s University in Belfast, because they prove that the Lifestart programme and the home visiting service work as predicted, with significant positive outcomes for parents and improved outcomes for children.

“Parents are less stressed, have greater knowledge of child development, demonstrate higher levels of parenting efficacy, are more confident around child discipline and boundary setting, report better parenting mood, have increased feelings of attachment with their children and feel less restricted in their parenting role. Of course, for children there are better cognitive skills, better social and emotional development, improved behaviour, and fewer speech and language referrals, and these positive effects on children will be expected to continue through life.

“This all goes to show what international research points to: the quality of parenting, the amount of time adults spend interacting with children, and the nature of the whole learning environment are critical to child development and ensuring we avoid many of the social stresses and problems and behavioural issues that affect us all, and inform some of our debates on other subjects in this House.

“As well as giving that example of Lifestart and its work in my constituency and elsewhere in the north and south of Ireland, I encourage the Minister not just to look at this manifesto in terms of what he can do in his own departmental responsibilities and in talking to ministerial colleagues here, but to see whether he should have a wider conversation not just with devolved Ministers, but using the British-Irish Council model which takes in all eight Administrations on these islands, to talk about how we might roll out truly effective early years and proactive early intervention policies more widely, building on the arguments in this manifesto and drawing on the evidential experiences from elsewhere."

Mr Durkan concluded: What this shows is that all the rendered science chimes with our most tender instincts about what is the best thing to do for children in these early years.”

Period18 Dec 2015

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