750 first time parents in Newcastle, Northumberland and North Tyneside will receive a box of baby essentials from the Children’s Foundation in the new year, thanks to £187,000 of funding from North of Tyne Combined Authority (NTCA).

Inspired by the original Finnish baby box, the box is the first of its kind to take a developmental approach to a child’s wellbeing, rather than focusing solely on their physical needs. Each box is packed with stimulating toys and books which encourage playing, laughing, reading, singing and counting, as well as essential items such as a blanket, changing mat, bath towel and thermometer, to help families get started.

The North East has the second-highest rate of low income and deprivation in the United Kingdom after Inner London and the grant from NTCA will enable The Children’s Foundation to provide 750 baby boxes to families across the region.

The initiative is part of the NTCA’s Child Poverty Prevention programme which aims to reduce the impact of socio-economic disadvantage on babies through a focus on the first ‘1,001 critical days’, which are the days from pregnancy through to the child’s second birthday.

The baby box project has been created by listening to children, parents, midwives, family nurses, GPs and experts on the, ‘1,001’ critical days movement, to understand how important these early years are for shaping the rest of our lives. The project was launched by The Children’s Foundation in March 2023, with the first boxes being delivered to families in Newcastle and Gateshead. This funding from NTCA enables the scheme to scale rapidly with the project now expanding into Northumberland and North Tyneside for the first time.

North of Tyne Mayor, Jamie Driscoll said:

“Having a child is beautiful and joyous, but as any parent will tell you, it is also stressful and expensive. Household budgets are severely squeezed right now.

“We are the first Combined Authority to use our investment fund to tackle child poverty. You can’t build a resilient regional economy without providing security for families.

“Giving new parents a baby box is a great way to ensure our youngsters have the best possible start in life.

“This isn’t just about providing the essentials, it’s about nurturing early learning, wellbeing and a sense of security from day one. By focusing on a child’s development in this way, we’re laying the groundwork from them to do well at school, get a decent job and lead a fulfilling life.”

Councillor Karen Kilgour, NTCA Cabinet Member for Education, Inclusion and Skills, and Deputy Leader of Newcastle City Council, added:

“All children should have the best possible start in life, and investing in an initiative like this is an investment in our region’s future.

“By supporting families during those crucial 1,001 days, we are paving the way for their children to thrive.”

The Children’s Foundation has a target of raising £1 million to make sure every child in our region gets the support that they need to thrive. Businesses in the region are invited to ‘pay it forward’ this Christmas by supporting the campaign as part of their festive community giving campaigns. Businesses can also purchase a box for a colleague heading off on maternity or paternity, and a second box will be donated to a vulnerable family right here in the region.

Tracey Garrett, Rebecca Humphreys, Mayor Jamie Driscoll, Gail Fisher and Sean Soulsby, standing in a row smiling.Mayor Driscoll is holding a baby box full of items for new families. Sean is holding the lif of the baby box.

L-R Tracey Garrett, Rebecca Humphreys, Mayor Jamie Driscoll, Gail Fisher and Sean Soulsby

Sean Soulsby, CEO of The Children’s Foundation said: “Bringing a newborn home from hospital is an exciting, but often overwhelming time, and we want to remind parents, families, and carers that they are not alone during those critical early days.

“Over the last year we have delivered 110 Baby Boxes to first-time parents and this support from the North of Tyne Combined Authority is a game changer for the project, allowing us to rapidly scale the work we are doing to support first-time families across the whole region. The Baby Box is a great way to support healthy baby development through simple everyday moments and we are already seeing the real-world impact that they are having.

“Infant mortality in the North East is higher than the national average. The Baby Box may be a cost-effective scheme to help reduce inequalities in the North East and, in time, we hope that the scheme will be adopted across the whole of England UK.

“Positive experiences early in life are closely associated with better performances at school, good emotional development, improved work outcomes, and better lifelong health. Tackling these issues is vital to levelling up.”

Individuals who would like to support the campaign and improve the health and well-being of children and young people in the North East can donate £3 to the Children’s Foundation Baby Box campaign by texting ‘MAM to 70450.