Julie Morgan AM, Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services
The proposal to pilot baby bundles as a “welcome to the world” gift from the Welsh Government was a commitment in the First Minister’s leadership manifesto. I am pleased to announce that Swansea Bay University Health Board will be piloting the baby bundles scheme in Wales. I would like to express my thanks to the Health Board for their interest in working in partnership with us to develop and deliver this important pilot project, which will see approximately 200 baby bundles delivered in the Swansea Bay area in the summer of next year.
The universal offer of a baby bundle will demonstrate the value Welsh Government places on all children, and will provide a tangible manifestation of our support to both parents and children at a vital stage in their lives. Our intention is that the bundle is viewed as a ‘gift’ – intended to promote a more equal playing field for parents and their babies by reducing the need for expenditure on newborn essentials.
The bundles will also contain some useful information for new parents and provide health professionals with an excellent opportunity to engage families with support services, where necessary, and to initiate conversations around healthy eating, safe-sleeping, breastfeeding and post-natal mental health.
There has been some historic interest in Baby Box schemes as a means of improving health outcomes for babies up to the age of 6 months – mainly from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and unsafe sleeping practices. This interest was largely generated from the traditional Finnish model but also by similar schemes being established in some health trusts in England and the scheme launched by Scottish Government in 2017. However, evidence for the effectiveness of baby boxes is scarce and it is hard to separate out the impact of baby boxes from other factors that have helped to reduce infant mortality. Given the lack of evidence to support the use of a baby box, we intend to deliver a baby bundle in Wales.
In order to gather the widest possible range of views to inform the development of our Welsh baby bundle and its contents, we have, over the summer, run an on-line survey as well as a number of focus groups with new parents and professionals. We have also learnt as much as we can from the delivery of similar schemes elsewhere.
NHS Wales Shared Services Partnership – Procurement services will be working with us in partnership to manage the procurement of the bundles for the pilot and I would like to express my thanks to them for their support and expertise as well as their commitment to the project. The procurement process, of course, opens up an exciting opportunity for Welsh business to tender to supply the bundles and their contents. Market engagement events are being held in north and south Wales in the autumn and, as far as we are able, we will encourage the involvement of Welsh businesses in the supply of products for the baby bundles.
Following completion of our research and survey work, the specification for the goods for the pilot is being finalised and will go out for procurement in the next few weeks. Amongst other items, the bundles will include high quality, neutrally designed baby clothes across a range of sizes; some items for play and to support early communication and bonding between parents and their children; household items to support safe bathing; and a range of items to support women post-birth.
It is important to note that there will be no obligation upon parents to accept a baby bundle should they, for any reason, not want or need one. However, similar schemes have had very high take-up and there is no reason to consider that this will be any different in Wales, if a similar range of high quality goods is offered and suitable parental engagement takes place. We are working with a number of third sector organisations to develop a means of recycling and re-using the baby bundle products once a family has finished with them.
We will commission an independent evaluation of our baby bundles pilot. Through the evaluation we will seek to understand whether beneficiaries believe the baby bundle has, or will have, a benefit for them and their family. At this stage we are simply seeking to test the concept of delivering a baby bundle in Wales and to gather as much evidence as we can on its benefits or otherwise.
We are committed to supporting families and to tackling inequality. The work being undertaken as part of Flying Start, the Healthy Child Wales Programme and the First 1000 Days Programme demonstrates the value that Welsh Government already places on ensuring that children have the best possible start in life. Our baby bundles pilot is a further demonstration of that commitment, a gift of material and practical help to babies and their families at a vital stage in their lives.
I look forward to being able to update Members again as the baby bundles pilot progresses.