The contents of Kela’s maternity package – an ideal model for the Scottish baby box
For the past three quarters of a century, every newborn in Finland has received a box, called an Äitiyspakkaus (maternity package). Inside this box are all the supplies and necessities for a new human: clothing, nappies, bibs, towels, crib sheets, a blanket, and more. The box itself even functions as a crib. It has been wildly successful: it is now considered a staple of Finnish culture, it is a significant factor in Finland’s low infant mortality rates, and countries all across the world are looking to the program for inspiration.
Nicola Sturgeon has announced that, in the event the SNP are elected to a third term in the Scottish parliament, this brilliant idea will be brought to Scotland.
Our manifesto will set out plans to transform Scotland and to ensure all our children have an equal start in life.
Providing help to new mums, increasing the number of health visitors and extending the family nurse partnership all have a role to play. The baby box is such a simple idea but has been shown to have a real impact, reducing child mortality and helping families at the start of a child’s life.
By providing every newborn with a baby box, we can help child health – and by providing greater support to new families, we will also help to tackle child poverty and improve the chances of some of our most deprived children.
I just love this picture.
It should come as no surprise to anyone how enthusiastically I endorse this proposal. While the First Minister notes how this could significantly reduce inequality and aid children in poverty, I fully view this as another key feature of the universalism which has already done so much in Scotland: free prescriptions, free school meals, free care and bus transport for the elderly, and greater support for childcare. Of course more affluent families could pay for all the amenities required to bring up a healthy Scot-Tot, but that’s not the point – the point is the role of government in supporting all of its constituents regardless of their financial situation, and fostering a sense of community on a national level. This is the sentiment which built the NHS, which kept free tuition for further education at the forefront of Scottish education, and anything else which brings together all Scots regardless of background or station in life.
I think back to my younger family members’ births. We have a wide, extended family, so there were quite a few bairns as I was growing up. We never suffered tragedy like cot death, and we had a wide network of support from friends and family. I’m all too aware that this is not the case for all families, though. Scotland’s infant mortality has been declining in recent years, and is the lowest of the UK’s constituent nations – but more could always be done, especially as other health issues rise.
Anything which provides a good start to all families – not means-tested according to variable qualifications depending on who’s in government at the time – can only be a good thing.