Gwent launches pioneering scheme to cut infant deaths

GWENT is hosting a trailblazing new scheme that experts hope will reduce unintentional injuries in the home for children up to five years old.

More than 115,000 children in this age group sustain injuries at home in Wales, twice the rate among five to nine year-olds, while unintentional injury is the leading cause of death for children and young people.

Children living in deprived areas are also more likely to experience home injuries through incidents such as falls from height, scalds, burns, poisonings and fire.

Aneurin Bevan Health Board's Home Safety Scheme Strategy seeks to co-ordinate and standardise home safety equipment schemes, and improve awareness of safety issues among professionals working with families, and through them, parents themselves.

Home safety promotion, training, and development of data to track progress is included. The scheme also involves public health experts, Flying Start - which works with young families in deprived areas - and the charity Children in Wales.

Launched during Child Safety Week, the strategy covers Newport, Torfaen, Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly and Monmouthshire, and if successful in helping reduce injuries, it could provide a template for more co-ordinated action across Wales.

A child safety 'report card' from the European Child Safety Alliance for 2012, which among other factors measures issues such as falls, poisoning, burns and scald, and choking prevention, seeks to mark participating countries on how safety conscious they are toward children and adolescents. Wales placed 23rd of 31 countries, with Scotland 15th and England 17th.

Though the report card takes in a wider remit than home safety, Karen Macfarlane, child safety development officer with Children in Wales, the umbrella organisation for voluntary, statutory and professional organisations and individuals working with children and young people in Wales, said it indicates that more can be done here to help protect the young.

"Hopefully this strategy will be the start of a more co-ordinated approach to child safety as a whole," she said.

"In Scotland, every government department has a child safety lead officer. There's no equivalent system here.

"If this strategy helps reduce injuries and save lives, child safety could become more ingrained at the earliest stages of policymaking, as now happens with issues like equality and poverty."

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