Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Questions (568)

Willie O'Dea


568. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the expenditure on baby boxes; the number distributed to date; if baby boxes are available at maternity hospitals nationally; if not, the estimated full-year cost of providing a baby box to mothers on the birth of a child; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25139/19]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

The First 5 Strategy was published in November of last year, followed in May of this year by the Implementation Plan for the first phase of implementation in 2019, 2020 and 2021.

First 5 outlines Government’s intention to pilot the development and implementation of Baby Boxes and Book Bags initiatives to support parenting with a focus on parent-baby bonding, information on baby development and early learning and promotion of baby safety.

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.

As indicated in the Implementation Plan, an oversight group will be established later this year to lead the development of the pilot and scope to project to prepare for implementation and evaluation.

While resourcing has been secured through the Dormant Accounts Fund to progress the pilot, there has been no expenditure to date as this pilot has not yet begun.

The pilot will consult to determine items for inclusion in the pack. Baby Boxes offer the opportunity to communicate important child development and safety messages and is an early opportunity to link with parents in need of support services.

The cost of providing a Baby Box will of course be determined by the selection of items, as well as the design of the box and any logistical costs. These have not yet been determined. However, by means of international comparison in Scotland, a very well equipped box is costed at £160 for the box alone. The equivalent figure in Finland is €170. There were just over 61,000 births in Ireland in 2018.

There are some baby box schemes in operation via maternity hospitals and otherwise in different parts of the country but my Department is not involved in funding or co-ordinating these.