The Royal Foundation Business Taskforce for Early Childhood has today, Tuesday 21 May 2024, published a report setting out the business case for prioritising early childhood and announced the first tranche of action to be taken as a result of its work.

The Taskforce was established in March 2023 by The Princess of Wales to galvanise business action on early childhood. Since then, Taskforce members Aviva, The Co-operative Group, Deloitte, Iceland Foods, IKEA UK and Ireland, The LEGO Group, NatWest Group and Unilever UK, have worked together to identify the scale of the opportunity and the role that business can play.

Prioritising early childhood for a happier, healthier society has been produced by Deloitte on behalf of the Taskforce and sets out how a greater focus on early childhood would create a happier and more productive workforce today, and transform the health and wellbeing of the UK economy and society for generations to come.

It details how investing in early childhood could generate at least £45.5 billion in value added for the national economy each year. This includes £12.2bn from equipping people with improved social and emotional skills in early childhood, £16.1bn from reducing the need to spend public funds on remedial steps for adverse childhood experiences and £17.2bn from supporting parents and caregivers of under-fives who work.

“Today marks another milestone moment in our work to make early childhood a priority across society. Some of the most significant businesses in Britain have joined forces to deliver a major rallying call to their fellow business leaders to prioritise young children and those who care for them – for the good of our society and economy. Whether it is helping families access the support they need, prioritising the social and emotional well-being of children and the adults in their lives, or building a culture that prioritises early childhood, business has a significant part to play.

“There is such enormous potential. We urge all businesses, no matter what their shape or size, to join us – the eight founding members, the Centre for Early Childhood, and The Princess – to help transform the way our country supports the vital early years.”

– Christian Guy, Executive Director of The Royal Foundation Centre for Early Childhood

There are already some businesses playing an active role in this area, but there is potential for the business community as a whole to do much more. The report identifies five areas in which businesses of all sizes can have the opportunity to make the greatest impact for children under five, the adults around them, the economy and wider society:

  • Building a culture that prioritises early childhood within businesses, local communities, and wider society.
  • Helping families facing the greatest challenges access the basic support and essentials they need.
  • Offering parents and carers greater support, resources, choice, and flexibility with their work.
  • Prioritising and nurturing social and emotional skills in young children and the adults in their lives.
  • Supporting initiatives which increase access to quality, affordable and reliable early childhood education and care.

The release of the report will be accompanied by a new business-focused area on The Centre for Early Childhood’s website containing practical information and resources.

Alongside the report, the Taskforce members have committed to taking action on the issue and several have announced new initiatives as part of the first tranche of action. These include The Co-operative Group creating a specific early childhood fund as part of its unique apprenticeship levy share scheme, and committing to raise £5 million over the next 5 years, creating more than 600 apprenticeships. Business Taskforce members, NatWest Group, Unilever UK, Ikea UK and Ireland, and Iceland Foods have joined The Co-op in sharing a combined £1million over the next 12 months.

Deloitte is focusing its ongoing investment in Teach First to include the early years sector for the first time, supporting 366 early years professionals in 2024; and NatWest Group is extending its lending target for the childcare sector to £100 million, launching an early years accreditation scheme to its staff and producing a financial toolkit for childcare providers to help them grow and succeed.

IKEA UK and Ireland is expanding its contribution of support, design expertise and products for babies and young children to six new locations across the UK to help families with young children experiencing the greatest disadvantage and The Co-operative group is supporting the Baby Bank Alliance by promoting its work to their 5-million member-owners.

The LEGO Group is donating 3,000 LEGO® Education Build Me “Emotions” sets, supported by training materials, to early years providers in the UK, helping children to explore emotions in a fun and engaging way. And Iceland Foods is providing learning, awareness and support in all 1,000 Iceland and The Food Warehouse stores by featuring emoji posters at a child friendly height – a practical tool to help customers with young children and to create a space of understanding and support in stores.

All members have committed to continuing to work with The Royal Foundation Centre for Early Childhood and supporting Shaping Us, The Princess of Wales’ campaign to raise awareness about the vital importance of the first five years of life.

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