Ms Longfield urged the Government to set aside money for young children in the next spending review. It comes after plans were revealed to improve outcomes for babies and children in the first 1,001 days of life.
Ms Longfield, former Children’s Commissioner, welcomed the proposals and told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme: “The Government has a spending review coming up that will need to invest in this to make it happen.
“But it’s good to see that that early years and the first years of life is now moving from being that soft policy issue to one which is really about this economic prosperity of the country and indeed levelling up.”
Ms Leadsom said they would be making the economic case for more investment in early years and said change “has to happen”. She added: “The Government is committed to it and what we will be doing in the next phase is implementing each of those action plans.
“And that next phase will last for about a year. So, I do believe parents, families and carers will start to see change within a year.”
Asked whether she was advocating the recreation of Labour’s Sure Start centres, many of which have been cut back or shut down, Ms Leadsom told the Guardian she would expect many local authorities to merge the remaining centres with hubs she is suggesting.
Also under the proposals, each child’s health record – known as the Red Book – will be digitised for every child born from April 2023 to make it easier for medical staff to share information.
The review was welcomed by Action For Children, which says that “for too long, the youngest children have been overlooked in government’s policy and funding decisions”.
The charity’s director of policy and campaigns Imran Hussain said that “lifeline services” such as children’s centres “are being hamstrung by funding cuts and a lack of prioritisation within government decision-making”.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “I believe in the value that every single person has to offer, and I want every child to reach their full potential.”