Open Letter to Rishi Sunak

Signed by over 80 organisations, academics and ambassadors

On 11th July 2023, we sent an open letter to the Prime Minister calling for a National Baby and Toddler Guarantee as part of UNICEF UK’s Early Moments Matter campaign.

Dear Prime Minister,

Families in Britain need your help now. Summer holidays are just around the corner and instead of looking forward to fun-packed, carefree days, many families are faced with the worrying reality of not being able to put food on the table [1] as they struggle to make ends meet.

The latest Government data shows that child poverty in the UK has increased by 300,000 in a year, bringing the latest estimate to a staggering 4.2 million [2]. But behind these figures are real children and families. Last year the UK Committee for UNICEF (UNICEF UK) polled parents of children aged 0-4 years and 66% told us that the cost-of-living crisis has negatively impacted them as they struggle to afford food, pay their bills and cope with increasing childcare costs [3]. To compensate, many said they are having to cut back on buying books, toys and other items for their children.

Basic support services like maternity care, health visits, mental health support, affordable and high-quality childcare and support for Special Educational Needs and Disability, can offer a vital lifeline to parents at this crucial time in their children’s lives – especially when they’re struggling financially. We know that with reduced funds and prices rising, Local Authorities have been forced to make impossible choices [4]. Across the country, children’s centres and childcare settings have closed their doors, health visiting appointments have been missed as staffing has reduced and caseloads increased, mental health support for parents and children is hard to come by, waiting lists are long and provision is patchy across the sector [5]. The universal services that many new parents desperately need are not there for everyone.

Nearly 50,000 members of the public have signed UNICEF UK’s petition calling for the Government to commit to a Baby Toddler Guarantee that would ensure equal access to vital early childhood services. More than 300 parents told us why this issue is so important to them:

“I have twin boys who I found myself being a single parent to and they saw a health visitor just once before their second birthday. I had massive post-natal depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, and I was forgotten. It wasn’t until I called begging for help that finally something was done, and support was sent. It does need to be free and open to everybody because it is terrifying, absolutely terrifying to be left on your own. I’m just lucky that I have the friends and family that I have.”
Claire, Northamptonshire

“I’ve noticed a huge disparity in postnatal care between me and my friends depending on where we live […] It’s a really overwhelming thing having one baby, let alone two. […] Many of my friends have been left alone, to their own devices, without any signposting or wellness checks […] There’s not enough support out there for new parents and it should be standardised across the UK…”
Milly, Swansea

“I’m the mother to a little boy who has autism, and the early years provision in the area has been awful, we’ve struggled to get any help since my son was diagnosed. We’re struggling to even get access to the nursery hours we’re paying for, and can’t get any additional help […] When he starts school, it’s likely it will take me out of my job permanently as there is no SEND provision in the area during the school holidays.”
Rachel, Kent

The first few years of a child’s life have a huge impact on their future chances – how long and healthy their life will be, whether they make friends and develop meaningful relationships, how well they do in school, and even how much money they will earn as an adult.

We must do all we can to give young children in the UK the best start. We are writing to you to ask for the UK Government to prioritise today’s children and future generations by committing to a National Baby and Toddler Guarantee. The guarantee would ensure all families with young children can access universal support services – vital services like maternity, health visiting, mental health, affordable and high-quality childcare and Special Educational Needs and Disability support – no matter who they are or where they live.

We would be delighted to meet with you and your team to discuss this further and explore how to ensure the UK becomes the best place in the world to be a child.

Your sincerely,

Jon Sparkes
Chief Executive

Signed by:

Organisations and academics

  • Dr Abi Miranda, Educational and Child Psychologist
  • Action for Children, Paul Carberry, Chief Executive
  • Ambitious about Autism, Danae Leaman-Hill, Director of External Affairs and Development
  • Association of Mental Health Providers, Kathy Roberts, Chief Executive
  • Baby Talk and Play, Debbie Brace, Early Language and Behaviour Consultant
  • Barnardo’s, Lynn Perry MBE, CEO
  • Blackpool Centre for Early Child Development, Clare Law, Director
  • BME Volunteers CIC, Yannick Nyah, Director
  • Carey Oppenheim, Author on Families and Children
  • Coram, Carol Homden, CEO
  • Coram Family and Childcare, Megan Jarvie, CEO
  • Council for Disabled Children, Dame Christine Lenehan, Director
  • Dingley’s Promise, Catherine McLeod MBE, CEO
  • Early Years Alliance, Neil Leitch, CEO
  • Edward Melhuish OBE, University of Oxford, Emeritus Professor of Human Development
  • End Child Poverty Coalition, Joseph Howes, Chair
  • Family Action, David Holmes CBE, CEO
  • Family Gateway, Julie Marriott, CEO
  • Family Links the Centre for Emotional Health, Peter Leonard, Chief Executive
  • First 1001 Days Movement, Tamora Langley, Convenor
  • Home Start, Matt Hann, Head of Comms
  • Institute of Health Visiting, Alison Morton, CEO
  • Intergenerational Foundation, Liz Emerson, Co-founder
  • Kids Matter, Dr. Eli Gardner, Co-Founder and Executive Director
  • Knowledge Change Action, Catherine Gordon, Director of Learning
  • Little Village, Sophie Livingstone, Chief Executive Officer
  • Magpie Project, Jane Williams, CEO
  • Maternal Mental Health Alliance, Laura Seebohm, CEO
  • Professor Sir Michael Marmot, UCL Institute of Health Equity, Director
  • Professor Michael Pluess, University of Surrey, Professor in Developmental Psychology
  • Dr Nathan Archer, Leeds Beckett University, Director, International Montessori Institute
  • National Children’s Bureau, Anna Feuchtwang, Chief Executive
  • National Counselling and Psychotherapy Society, Jyles Robillard-Day, CEO
  • NCT, Angela McConville, CEO
  • Nip in the Bud, Kitty Nabarro, Co-founder, Chair and Director
  • North London Music Therapy, Marianne Rizkallah, Founder and Director
  • NSPCC, Sir Peter Walness, Chief Executive
  • Parent-Infant Foundation, Keith Reed, Chief Executive
  • Partnership for Children, Hannah Baker, Co-CEO
  • Play Included C.I.C, Dr. Gina Gomez de la Cuesta, Clinical Psychologist and Director
  • Power 2, Julie Randles, CEO
  • Pregnant then Screwed, Joeli Brearley, CEO
  • PTSD UK, Jacqui Suttie, CEO and Founder
  • Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, Dr Helen Stewart, RCPCH Officer for Health Improvement
  • Royal College of Psychiatrists, Dr Trudi Senevirante OBE, Registrar
  • Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, Steve Jamieson, CEO
  • Sally Hogg, Senior Policy Fellow, University of Cambridge
  • Save the Children UK, Becca Lyon, Head of Child Poverty
  • School and Public Health Nurses Association, Sharon White OBE, CEO
  • Social Workers Union, John McGowan, General Secretary
  • Speech and Language UK, Jane Harris, CEO
  • St Vincents Family Project, Andy Varley, Chief Executive Officer
  • The Aim Foundation, Caroline Marks, Chair
  • The Association of Child Psychotherapists, Dr Lynne Taylor, Chair
  • The British Youth Council, Liz Emerson, Co-founder
  • The Children and Young People’s Mental Health Coalition, Amy Whitelock Gibbs, Chair
  • The For Baby’s Sake Trust, Lauren Seager-Smith, CEO
  • Think Equal, Leslee Udwin, President
  • Together Trust, Mark Lee, Chief Executive
  • Visyon, Beverley Goodwin, Therapeutic Client Lead / Counsellor
  • Women’s Budget Group, Dr Mary-Ann Stephenson, Director
  • Ygam, Dr Jane Rigbye, Chief Executive Officer
  • Young Lives vs Cancer, Rachel Kirby-Rider, Chief Executive
  • Youth Sports Trust, Alison Oliver MBE, Chief Executive Officer
  • 4in10 London’s Child Poverty Network, Katherine Hill, Strategic Programme Manager

UNICEF UK Ambassadors and High Profile Supporters

  • Sir Andy Murray OBE, UNICEF UK Ambassador
  • Cat Deeley, UNICEF UK Ambassador
  • Cel Spellman, UNICEF UK High Profile Supporter
  • Charley Boorman, UNICEF UK Ambassador
  • Dr Chris van Tulleken, UNICEF UK supporter
  • David Harewood OBE, UNICEF UK Ambassador
  • Lord David Puttnam CBE, UNICEF UK Ambassador
  • Ewan McGregor OBE, UNICEF UK Ambassador
  • Gemma Chan, UNICEF UK Ambassador
  • James Nesbitt OBE, UNICEF UK Ambassador
  • Jemima Khan, UNICEF UK Ambassador
  • Levison Wood, UNICEF UK Ambassador
  • Martin Bell OBE, UNICEF UK Ambassador
  • Martin Compston, UNICEF UK High Profile Supporter
  • Michael Sheen, UNICEF UK Ambassador
  • Olivia Colman CBE, UNICEF UK President
  • Rita Ora, UNICEF UK Ambassador
  • Suzy Eddie Izzard, UNICEF UK Ambassador

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