Neale Richmond is a Fine Gael TD for the Dublin Rathdown Constituency. He is campaigning to level the playing field for new parents and to give all children a fair start in life, by delivering Baby Boxes to every new parent in Ireland
Welcoming a new arrival is a time of mixed emotions: excitement, nerves and apprehension. At times, it can seem like a huge amount of expensive equipment is necessary for new babies, especially if we look at parenting shops or blogs. This can be stressful, especially for those for whom funds can be tight or those who are overwhelmed by choice. The last thing that expectant parents need to worry about is how to pay for clothes and cots.
In ensuring that all parents are well equipped to welcome their child into their home, we are ensuring that all children are given a fair start in life, regardless of the income level of their family.
Baby Boxes are a clear solution to this problem. Under the Baby Box programme parents will be given a box full of essentials upon the birth of their child. These can include clothes, blankets, nappies, thermometers and often books or toys as well as some practical written information on how to deal with the first signs of post-natal depression. The Box also contains a mattress and can be used safely as a cot for a new-born.
Under the Programme for Government, Baby Boxes will be delivered to every new parent in Ireland. All parents in Ireland will have the necessities to give their child a safe and healthy welcome into the world. This comes following a successful pilot programme that was trialled in Limerick in Wexford.
In ensuring that all parents are well equipped to welcome their child into their home, we are ensuring that all children are given a fair start in life, regardless of the income level of their family. The bank balance of new parents is not a reflection of their ability to provide a safe and healthy home for their child and this programme will ensure this is the case.
Having two young children myself, I understand the stress of choosing the ‘right’ cot or the ‘best’ nappy brand for my child. Under this programme, much of this stress will be relieved from parents. Their focus can remain on getting to know their new arrival and assimilating to this new stage of their lives.
As all parents know, having a baby is a daunting experience and no one is ever fully prepared. You can have every gadget and device at your disposal but still feel unprepared. The knowledge that support is available for new parents if they choose to take it will go a long way to assuage some of these fears.
In rolling out this programme nationally, we are following an international example of countries who have seen first-hand the benefits that this programme can bring. Finland have been giving Baby Boxes to parents for over 75 years, during which time they have seen a huge decline in the rate of infant mortality from 65 deaths per 1,000 births to 2.26 in 2015. In Ireland the rate stood at 3.7 per 1,000 births in 2016. Baby Boxes could help see this figure drop even further.
Scotland also introduced Baby Boxes in 2017. To date, Scotland has delivered over 115,000 Boxes with an uptake rate of 96%. Clearly, parents of all backgrounds want to avail of this service.
The state has a part to play in taking care of its citizens of all ages. By helping ease the burden on parents, we are allowing children to grow up in a home with less stress and anxiety. Equipping parents with clothes, toys and a safe place for their children to sleep will give them peace of mind. This support will go a long way to helping new parents adjust to the next chapter in their lives.
Neale Richmond is a Fine Gael TD for the Dublin Rathdown Constituency
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