Rollout of government’s baby box initiative won’t begin until late next year after Covid delay

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A box full of baby supplies will be provided for new parents under the scheme.

THE SUPPLY OF baby boxes to new parents across the country won’t begin until the second half of next year at the earliest, the Minister for Children has said.

Whilst the measure was included in the programme for government, Minister Roderic O’Gorman has said that “owing to Covid-19, work on this project has been delayed”. 

The ‘baby box’ will see thousands of newborns benefit through a box that can act as a cot and includes baby clothes, small toys, baby toothbrushes and books to help them through their early development.

The initiative started in the 1930s in Finland, where expectant mothers were given a box, or “starter kit”, full of clothes, sheets and toys. It has also been rolled out by the Scottish government in recent years.

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Pilot schemes have also been conducted in Wexford Hospital and University Maternity Hospital Limerick. 

Last month, Fine Gael TD for Dublin-Rathdown Neale Richmond promoted baby boxes and told Newstalk’s Hard Shoulder programme that it “makes sure that everybody has the exact same start in life, regardless of supports, age or indeed social-economic background”. He noted that the boxes have been included in the programme for government.

He also called for O’Gorman – a Green Party minister – to lay out a “speedy baby box timeline”.

Now, the minister has indicated that the boxes will begin to be rolled out around the end of the third quarter and the beginning of the fourth quarter of 2021.

In response to a parliamentary question, O’Gorman said that the upcoming project will “pilot and test the design, items for inclusion, registration and distribution of baby boxes in a selected geographic area”.

He added: “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.”

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O’Gorman said a number of factors would have to be considered, such as the geographic area that the scheme is piloted, if the box should be provided pre- or post-natal and the exact contents of the box.

A researcher will also oversee focus groups and/or consultations with new and expectant parents to inform them what will be in their baby box.

The minister said: “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.

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