If you are in Scotland and are expecting a baby next year you may well get an additional bundle of joy with your bundle of joy courtesy of the government. Scot Gov will be trialling a ‘Baby Box’ scheme on New Year’s Day with a full implementation over the summer. The initiative is modelled on a longstanding Finnish policy. And when I say longstanding… I’m talking 80 years!
These boxes are wonderful. Exactly what will be in the Scottish version is unknown. The Finnish versions, as I understand, tend to contain essentials such as clothes, blankets and wipes AND the whole box is lined with a mattress so the baby can sleep in it! Here’s to being Nordic, how wonderful (and snuggly)!
I am wholeheartedly behind this. These little boxes have the potential to make a massive difference. In Finland they made a huge difference to infant mortality rates. But it isn’t not just about health. These boxes, throwing a lifeline to stressed parents (i.e. all parents) giving them the essentials has the potential to make a huge difference to all of us. From education to crime to creativity – the message is consistent: high quality intervention at an early stage is what makes the difference and is a hell of a lot cheaper than the alternative. Giving young parents a helping hand is far more cost effective than abandoning them to sink or swim.
One of the most lucid and eloquent voices telling us this is Harry Burns. He argues intelligently for a focus on wellness and looking to tackle the root causes of social and health issues, fostering connectedness between people. The Baby Boxes – not targeted and therefore stigmatised – are a generous gift society gives itself that will connect an entire generation. “When I was a wean I slept in a box.” “Aye so did I.” The box is a playset that inspires parents to get going. It isn’t a proscriptive set of instructions but a gift (that you don’t have to be ‘qualified’ or ‘referred’ for) that helps you get in control of a difficult situation.
In the Guardian article I link to above, Harry Burns is quoted as saying the following:
“Jimmy Reid understood what was happening – the alienation, the cry of men who were victims of blind economic forces beyond their control, a feeling of despair and hopelessness,” he observes thoughtfully. “People who do not feel in control over their lives struggle because the system does things to them – it doesn’t work with them and help them create ‘wellness’ for themselves … when things happen that alienate people, they lose that sense of control and a whole range of biological, as well as psychological, things occur.”
Here he is quoted at the Health and Sport Committee 13 May 2014:
A few months ago, the violence reduction unit invited over to Glasgow a clergyman from South Los Angeles who had transformed the gang culture in South Los Angeles. Basically, he found jobs for the gang members by creating social enterprises through Homebody Industries. He said something that struck a chord with me:
“What we need is a compassion that stands in awe at the burdens the poor have to carry, rather than stands in judgment at the way they carry it.”
Wow! How would we be in similar circumstances, if we had to live the lives that those people live? What help and support would we need? That is a good starting point for transformation in our society.
Like many people, I loved the Scottish anti-Trident slogan ‘Bairns not bombs.’ Sadly it looks like bombs were chosen over bairns, but God willing, that won’t always be the case and in the meantime we can say proudly say ‘Boxes not beds.’
As a side note, it occurred to me how lovely (if impractical) it would be if you got a box every ten years. Imagine at 10 getting an awesome box that you can use as a cabin bed or a tree house that has things like binoculars, a microscope, a magnifying glass, sticking plasters and hay fever pills. Or getting one at 20? Or at 70? With, I don’t know, flight socks, a compass and walking poles for your next adventure. Imagine every decade being able to snuggle into your new den that is just like everybody else’s but that helps you go and get to whatever it is you want, that you can make your own.
Yes. It’s definitely time to think inside the box.