Thursday, 10 September 2020
Department of Children and Youth Affairs
Early Years Sector
I propose to take Questions Nos. 143 and 144 together.
The First 5 strategy sets out work across Government to improve the experiences and outcomes of children in Ireland from birth to age 5. Piloting Baby Boxes is one of many initiatives under First 5. Others include supports for parents to balance working and caring, developments in early learning and care and health initiatives.
Baby Boxes are packages of items and information to assist with the transition to parenthood including safety items, baby clothes, small toys, baby toothbrushes, and books to support early development. The intention behind Baby Boxes is to welcome a new arrival to a family, acknowledging this very significant moment for parents. It is envisaged that Baby Boxes will be distributed on a universal basis. This reflects an important equality principle that each child, regardless of their circumstances, including immigration status, is given something of equal value.
The project will pilot and test the design, items for inclusion, registration and distribution of Baby Boxes in a selected geographic area. An evaluation will inform any plans about wider roll-out.
Owing to COVID-19, work on this project has been delayed. However, an oversight group will be established later this year to oversee this development.
An initial task of this Group will be to finalise the scope of this project and agree a detailed project plan. Key initial considerations will include the identification of the pilot geographic area, agreement on the optimal timing for (pre- or post- natal), and channel of, distribution of the baby box and the likely contents. A researcher will be appointed to oversee focus groups and/or consultations with new and expectant parents to inform the identification of items for inclusion.
Following this initial scoping phase, which should conclude by end Q1 2021, the Oversight Group will oversee a competitive procurement process to appoint suitable tenderers to a) develop and distribute the baby boxes and b) undertake a full evaluation of the pilot. Given the likely value of these contracts, the procurement process will take several months. It is therefore envisaged that distribution of the baby boxes will commence in end Q3 2021 / early Q4 2021.