An Equal Start in Life – Finland’s Baby Box

Finnish Baby Boxes
Finnish Baby Boxes

One of the most beautiful things we have seen is the Baby Box for all newborns in Finland.

‘I started life in a box, we all did!’ said a colleague, who was proud of the equality given to all babies in Finland since 1938. An equal start, and an equality in society that is mirrored throughout life.

Every Finnish mother receives a maternity grant when baby is born.

We started to get really interested in the concept of the box. At our meeting in the Finnish Embassy, which was actually not to do with provision for babies, we were shown the most beautiful boxes. The box has a mattress and sleeping oufits so the baby can sleep in the box for several months of their life.

The contents of the box include all that you would need for a new baby, and in excellent quality. The clothes, including very warm snuggly ‘all in ones’ are in colours that are gender neutral, and really beautiful. Who would not to have one of these?

An equal start in life it really is. And an equality that pervades the whole of the Finnish culture.

The baby box has been available since 1938 and is provided as the maternity grant. Mothers can choose between cash and the box. Of the 60,000 grants distributed annually by Kela, Social Insurance Institution in Finland, two thirds are taken as maternity packages as the baby boxes with contents.

In the 1960’s sleeping bags first appeared in the boxes instead of quilts. By the 1980’s and 90’s families had become better off, but since the package remained as popular as ever it was decided to continue.

In the 2000’s the boxes continue and the contents are reviewed annually by a social insurance committee following a competitive tendering process, in which quality and affordability are equally important.
The boxes are available to purchase for anyone living outside Finland, who is not covered by the Finnish social security system, and can range from a Summer Basket to a Cold Winter Basket.

Our partnership is very socially minded and this idea has a huge appeal, so simple, so beautiful and yet so practical. It provides an equal start in life and a pride of life in a box shared by all citizens in Finland.

Kela Maternity Box

Sue Martin FRSA
SmithMartin Partnership

 

 

 

 


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  • Motherhood Around the World

    Image: Mother and child in Sweden, ready for winter?

    Joanna Goddard’s U.S. on-line journal, A Cup of Jo, has been publishing a series of articles in recent years about motherhood and parenting across the world. You can find the collection here.

    There are some surprises in store. What has amazed us, reading the collection of articles, is the wide variety of rules and regulations, benefits and opportunities, as well as the universal nature of care for children, expressed in the detail of the articles. The latter not a surprise.

    The context for the articles, in our times of benefit cuts, constrained resources and political alienation, is that there exists a variety of models for parenting and parenting support. They depend on the socio-cultural norms of the country under examination. They depend on the economic ‘depth’ of the country too. They all depend on that universality of love that parents offer.

    The article we liked the most, 14 Surprising Things About Parenting in Sweden, features parents and child, originally from the USA and Brazil, declaring their experiences of life in Sweden.

    Cultural norms in Sweden are different. For example, leaving your child, heavily swaddled, out of doors in the midst of a Nordic winter takes courage. However, parents are given 480 days of paid leave, post arrival of a child, with 90 of them dedicated to the father.

    Childcare costs cannot exceed $150 a month, and we got very excited for parents reading about Vabbing – the principle of the state paying salaries when you have to stay off work to care for sick children.

    We also liked the Law of Jante, another cultural principle really, that insists ‘…that one individual is not more special than any other, and you’re not to behave as if you are‘. A great pre-cursor for enhancing social equality? Although we recognise that in some acquisitive cultures this lack of focus on success and ‘high performance’ might jar with some parents.

    pippi longstocking cover image
    Review or pruchase this book from Amazon.co.uk…

    As booksellers we were truly delighted to read that Pipi Longstocking and Alfie Atkins are as popular as ever with Swedish children. Who could guess?

    Dipping into the article series on the ‘motherhood’ pages of A Cup of Jo is an uplifting experience, particularly in the midst of a grey English winter. It also shows that with all the pressures of parenthood you are not alone and that there is always a different, even better way, to do things too.

    Motherhood Around The World – we recommend it.

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  • Jeremy Corbyn pledges support for Youth Services

    A CYPN article - web link‘Labour leadership front-runner Jeremy Corbyn has pledged to fight for statutory youth services if he is chosen to head the party.’

    Children and Young People Now have published, on 11.8.15, an article about pledges and commitments made by Jeremy Corbyn.

    ‘Labour leadership hopeful Jeremy Corbyn pledges statutory requirement for youth services.
    Islington MP Corbyn, who is ahead in the polls to be next Labour leader, said his party should maintain a commitment to a statutory youth service in order to offer young people the benefit of wide-ranging advice, guidance and support to access further and higher education.

    His pledge comes just months after Labour ditched its commitment to statutory youth services prior to the general election.

    The party’s Youth Manifesto for the 2015 election ruled out forcing councils to provide a minimum level of youth provision, committing instead to a “root and branch” review of youth services should it win the general election.

    Corbyn’s pledge to pursue statutory youth services featured in a youth policy document published yesterday.’

    SmithMartin Partnership – working with communities


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  • Institute of Education Research Findings:
    Pre-School Childcare

    Library CH 005Provision and use of Pre-School childcare in Britain.


    Key Research Findings Seminar at Institute of Education, Thomas Coram Research Unit, UCL, London.
    July 24th 2015

    The research was undertaken with the aim of understanding childcare provision and usage in Britain, with the view to contribute to policy development.

    An engaging debate was held at the seminar at UCL, in the midst of the graduation ceremonies. It sparked much conversation and thought about issues of childcare, work force, viability, education and childcare.

    The research titled, ‘Provision and use of Pre-School childcare in Britain’, a secondary analysis of childcare using large-scale national datasets, published on 24th July by the UCL Institute of Education (IOE), warns of the possibility of a shortage in the childcare work force.

    Chairing the seminar was Emeritus Professor of Education, Peter Moss and research summaries were given by Antonia Simon and Charlie Owen, with a panel including Jill Rutter, Family and Childcare Trust, Claire Schofield, National Day Nurseries, and Neil Leitch, Pre school Learning Alliance.

    It appears that in 2015, the sector has developed considerably in some ways but there are glaring inadequacies which are preventing Early Childhood Services moving into a world class provision, a previous goal. Professor Moss indicated that the work force remains poorly paid, access needs improving , and we currently have strong central control with a fragmented system of provision and delivery.

    The research on the work force was led by Antonia Simon and will be available on a new website at beginning of August.

    Key findings were; that the work force is strongly gendered, 98% are female, qualifications have increased but pay is persistently low. It was interesting the educational qualifications of mothers had the most beneficial aspect to enable young children to access good quality childcare, both in amount and type.

    For the majority of parents, the access to different types of childcare, was important, and a combined use of formal and informal provision was the most normal pattern.

    The debate from the attendees and panel raised some fascinating questions and created a consensus that this debate and research would be a very useful if our forward to the DFE.

    The Early Years Sector has had a considerable degree of travel over the last decade and it would seem that there is still much room for development to allow a system which delivers quality provision and universal accessibility, indeed a world class provision.

    ‘We have a system which is creaking at the seams. We need to make changes rather than add on more to a ramshackle approach’. Professor Peter Moss

    Sue Martin FRSA
    Consultant in Early Years Childhood Services
    SmithMartin Partnership LLP


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  • Brent Parent Champions

    Mariya collects her Parent Champions certificate - image
    Success!

    Very close to Wembley Stadium is Brent Civic Centre. It really is an impressive council building and hosts a broad array of services, with the focus clearly on community and diversity.

    Wembley library is part of the ground floor and a famous supermarket store is also easily accessible.

    We worked with council officer, Andrea Lagos, and through the Family and Childcare Trust, the Parent Champions programme, to deliver our training and support to those attending the sessions.

    At the end of the second day, Mariya, see above, and fifteen other new Parent Champions received certificates. Proud to be going out into the community to let other parents and families know about a whole range of services that are available for free for families with young children.

    In Brent there is also a focus on Health. A new programme was discussed to help support families when they need health advice, without going straight to A & E. Radhikah Howarth, also with FCT, talked to the Parent Champions about new schemes that will help.

    From the previous training last year there have been a record number of parents contacted and more and more information is now available to support parents and families.

    Image 2

    A great scheme, a great place and Smith Martin Partnership are pleased to deliver the training.

    Sue Martin

    SmithMartin Partnership LLP – working with communities


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  • Increase in childcare entitlement from 15 – 30 hours per week.

    Image 1Children and Young People Now have published the latest from the government in doubling free universal childcare entitlement.

    The government is to fast-track legislation to double free universal childcare entitlement to 30 hours a week. David Cameron says one of the first things his government will do is legislate to increase childcare provision.


    In a speech in Stockton-on-Tees yesterday Prime Minister David Cameron confirmed that the Conservative Party’s manifesto commitment to expand the free entitlement to early education from 15 hours a week to 30 hours a week, will be included in the Queen’s Speech this month.

    He said: “One of the first things we are going to do is to make sure that we legislate to help with childcare.

    “I think for so many families in our country it’s absolutely essential that they get that help with childcare, so that people who want to work and want to work more hours or longer shifts, or more shifts to bring home more money, are able to do that.” ‘

    SmithMartin Partnership – working to achieve good quality childcare.


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  • Tailor Made: How do community groups improve society?

     

    Image 2
    Supporting community, supporting society…

    Research from the Community Development Foundation shows that vital contributions from small community groups are making huge benefits nationally to society.

    Today sees the launch of a research project ‘Tailor Made: how community groups improve people’s lives’; from The Community Development Foundation.

    The CDF have developed a specific micro-site, where the range of research into community group impact can be found. See more detail here.

    ‘Nearly all of the groups identified as being under the radar, are providing tailored services to their community with an income of less than £2,000 a year. With increasing pressure on public funding, we are using this research that demonstrates the important contribution that community groups make to society as a call to action to secure their future.

    The research found that community groups are able to develop ‘tailor-made’ support for people in their communities. They complement statutory services because they have the flexibility to meet specific needs with groups of people or whole communities – providing bespoke support.

    The types of outcomes of the work being carried out by these groups include:

    • building safer communities: They prevent crime, support victims of crime and support ex-offenders in rebuilding their lives
    • improving the physical environment: They maintain and improve the physical environment including parks, allotments and buildings
    • improving health and well-being: They tackle the wider causes of poor health and wellbeing such as poverty, housing, employment, crime, pollution and isolation
    • improving local economies:They provide training and support to help people into work. They also contribute to economic growth by supporting people to start small businesses and helping people to manage their money better so there is more to spend locally.’
    Posted on cdf blog 29.10.2014

    The community groups provide ‘lived experience’ of the issues they are working with which provides a unique insight to support other forms of knowledge. The trust gained by these groups makes people in communities more likely to come forward for help and support.

    The research project can be viewed on Community Development Foundation website, as a downloadable document or as a series of chapters on the Tailor-Made research page.

    It was jointly funded by The Community Development Foundation, Asda Foundation and Trust for London.

    Sue Martin – SmithMartin Partnership LLP, Cambridge- building better communities


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  • Making Ideas Work… training at Canada Water Library

     

    m IMG 0687You know that feeling when you have a great idea but the overload of work just weighs you down? Before that happens, don’t let the idea get squashed…. Build Something you Love!

    On March 25th our partnership team spent the day with a wonderful group of people, in Canada Water Library, to do just that… Building Something Special. From ideas and concepts to how setting up an organisation in the right framework will benefit the project immensely.

    We were working in connection with Church Urban Fund, Near Neighbours and Rev’d Tim Clapton and the people were all connected with Near Neighbours and working as a faith organisation or in connection with faith groups.

    What did we discuss? A huge array of the aspects on setting up an organisation, the ethical stance that community projects have at their core, and the passion for supporting and developing people as paramount.

    People had come from different communities in London and their set up organisations included;
    World of Faith, Clapton/Hackney Gardening, World Beaters, Future 4 All, Alternatives, iiChild, British Rastafari, Community Organising Malawi, VOTY Project, St Mark’s Dalston Junction.

    SmithMartin have created www.enterprisingcommunities.today to provide a continual supply of up to date information.

    Pleased to support communities.

    SmithMartin Partnership LLP

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    Image: Canada Water Library


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  • Child Rights Partners

    Image 2‘Children and young people are to be involved in designing and delivering services aimed at them through a partnership between Unicef UK and six local authorities.’

    Children and Young People Now, reported this initiative between Unicef and six councils across England. A ray of light for young people and a way to enable their voice to be heard.

    The Child Rights Partners project aims to put child rights at the heart of public services and will prioritise improving services for the most vulnerable children, including those living in care, living in poverty and young people affected by drug and alcohol misuse.

    Over three years, the six councils spread across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland will work with young people to tackle different problems.

    These include:

    • Tower Hamlets will involve young people in designing substance misuse services
    • Derry will focus on arts, sports and positive play
    • Glasgow will focus on two service areas: developing a rights-based approach to services for care-leavers and early years
    • Leeds will improve service provision for looked-after children, ensuring that their entire journey through the social care system is rights-based.
    • Neath and Port Talbot will focus on vulnerable families where the parents have drugs and alcohol, domestic violence and mental health issues.
    • Newcastle will adopt a rights-based approach to tackling child poverty.

    David Bull, executive director of Unicef UK, said: “Public services have sometimes failed children and young people by not listening to their opinions and needs, so we welcome the opportunity to work in partnership with these pioneering local authorities.’

    Article taken from Children and Young People Now 20.11.13

    Sue Martin

    SmithMartin Partnership LLP – bringing communities together.

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  • High Rents and Nowhere to Live

    Image 1

     

    The storm around the benefit cap to start in April 2013 made some good headlines this week. The expense of living in rented accommodation at that price is hard for everyone.

     

    We welcome the comments made by Sarah Teather, Lib Dem MP for Brent in London in Sunday’s Observer. A brave decision to voice real concerns and takes some conviction and an empathetic understanding for the families she meets.

    Some of the free London papers were full of letters denouncing all who find themselves on benefits and living in expensive accomodation, when hard working people can’t afford rents at over £500 per week.

    There is no escape that this is a considerable rent charge. But is it the only answer, not to pay people benefits. Most of the rented accommodation is private, the owners are the real economic winners. When there was more social housing, for example, accommodation was easier to find and at a more realistic rent, or could there be a cap on rents to be charged?

    Certainly the consequences in April will be large, the thought of disrupting family life by a major move to lower rent areas across the country is hugely problematic with moral concerns for all those in the implementation.

    Schools in many areas are already being affected, large increases in pupil numbers in areas where children and families have been moved.

    A winter of considerable discontent ahead for many.

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