For some, New Year’s Day wasn’t just the first day of 2017. It was their first day, ever.
And now, in Scotland, how you begin your first day will no longer define how you live the rest of them.
To give every baby the best possible start, Scotland is testing a pilot scheme that gives new parents a free box full of essentials. The box holds dozens of useful gifts, including a reusable nappy, a children’s book, a digital thermometer, bodysuits, and mats to change and play. The box is also suitable for the baby to sleep in. There’s even a poem inside, called “Welcome Wee One”, from national poet Jackie Kay.
The scheme will initially be available for three months to newborns in Clackmannanshire and Orkney, before being rolled out to the rest of Scotland in the summer. It’s estimated to cost £6 million a year.
“Scotland’s baby box is a strong signal of our determination that every child, regardless of their circumstances, should get the best start in life,” said Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister for Scotland. “Being a parent is the most important but also the most difficult job there is, so it’s important that parents get as much support as possible.”
The scheme has run in Finland for nearly 80 years. It was initially intended to cut child mortality rates and give all children an equal start in life. At the program's inception, approximately 65 out of every 1,000 babies in Finland did not survive infancy. Now that number has fallen drastically to just 1.9, making it one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world.
The baby boxes are an important symbol of equality; no matter who you are, or where in Scotland you come from, each newborn will be given the same start. In a world where opportunity is often a postcode lottery, it's refreshing to see a government take on inequality at its source.