Lifestart Evaluation- comments in Hansard, House of Commons

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There has been a randomised control trial conducted by Queen’s University from 2008 to this year and beyond. It involves 848 parents and children, and it has already

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proved the findings that argue for this manifesto. I encourage the Minister to look up those 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—the hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton) stressed that earlier—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 research team will be following the children’s development through school.

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. 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.

Period17 Dec 2015

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