South Yorkshire’s Mayor to Invest £2.2 Million to Guarantee Beds for Babies – a Safe Space to Sleep for Every Child Aged 0-5

Today, South Yorkshire’s Mayor Oliver Coppard has announced £2.2 million of funding over four years into the Beds for Babies: Safe Space to Sleep Programme, which guarantees a safe place to sleep for all 0–5-year-olds. Beds for Babies will provide a moses basket, cot, cotbed or toddler bed to any under-5 who needs it following referral by an appropriate organisation or statutory agency. The Mayor launched the initiative at Meadows Nursery in Sheffield alongside a range of partners during Safe Spaces to Sleep Week.

South Yorkshire sees some of the starkest health inequalities in the UK, with 1 in 9 newborns in Sheffield alone requiring a safe place to sleep last year. The programme will tackle child poverty levels, reduce pressure on public services, improve childhood development, and reduce infant mortality.

The Beds for Babies programme is part of the Mayor’s overarching health strategy for South Yorkshire, with one of the region’s bold ambitions focused on early-years development. The Mayor is the only Metro Mayor in the country who chairs his region’s Integrated Care Partnership, and his stated priority is to make South Yorkshire the healthiest region in the country.

The programme was developed by a range of partners working with the Mayor including the charity Baby Basics UK, Save the Children UK, Sheffield Hallam University, Ikea and many others. Beds for Babies aligns with existing local service delivery with Directors of Public Health and Directors of Children’s Services from South Yorkshire’s four councils – Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield, the Integrated Care Partnership and NHS all supporting the initiative. The programme is designed to work through existing referral and delivery routes including pre-natal, post-natal and midwifery services, GPs, Family Hubs, Children’s Centres and existing local voluntary and community sector organisations.

Beds for Babies is subject to approval at a Mayoral Combined Authority Board (MCA) meeting on 12 March 2024. 

If approved by the MCA, as well as providing beds across the whole of South Yorkshire, the programme will also deliver a test and learn pilot in four areas: Goldthorpe, Mexborough, Swinton and Gleadless, to build an evidence base of what works at community level and develop best practice. This will include provision of beds, cots and bedding, liaising with housing services and connecting families to access other services, and to deliver trust and stronger working relationships between statutory and non-statutory organisations. 

The programme will be evaluated and will test a different way of working at community level and delivering improved health outcomes for children in South Yorkshire including reducing bed poverty, infant mortality and referrals to statutory agencies for support.

This work was developed through participation in the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative, a program of the Bloomberg Center for Cities at Harvard University. The initiative is a collaboration between Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard Business School, and Bloomberg Philanthropies to equip mayors and senior city leaders with tools and expertise to expand problem-solving capacity, strengthen city halls, and improve outcomes for residents.

South Yorkshire’s Mayor Oliver Coppard said: “Having a safe space to sleep is one of the fundamentals of early childhood. It’s a disgrace that bed poverty exists in the twenty-first century with 1 in 9 newborns leaving hospital in Sheffield needing help with a safe place to sleep at home.

“Devastating funding cuts to our local authorities and a cost-of-living crisis means that we all need to work together to help the most vulnerable in our society. By guaranteeing families who need it access a safe bed, crib, cot or moses basket, we can make a huge difference to education, health and social outcomes later in life as well as reducing the real-life financial pressures facing many families in South Yorkshire right now.

“Alongside our partners, we are determined to make South Yorkshire the healthiest region in the country. It is a challenge, but by introducing programmes like Beds for Babies, we are building the foundation for the next generation of South Yorkshire’s children so they are guaranteed the same opportunity to develop into the best they can be.

“This isn’t just about ‘health’ – it’s about what this means for the future of South Yorkshire. It’s about our community looking after each other and laying the foundations for a thriving economy in South Yorkshire. With growth at the centre of our overarching mission, we must ensure that the sustainable vehicles are in place which allow our economy to thrive, decades into the future.”

Professor Sally Pearse, Director of the Early Years Community Research Centre at Sheffield Hallam University, said: “We are pleased to be part of this initiative that will support families across South Yorkshire and help to address some of the health inequalities that blight too many lives. 

“Research shows that good quality, safe sleep is vital for healthy child development so this initiative is also supporting children’s long-term health and giving them a better start in life. 

“Parents in many of our communities are struggling with multiple challenges. If we can meet an immediate need such as the lack of a safe space for their child to sleep, we start to build trust and create a relationship that enables us to offer further support and help families tackle other challenges they’re facing.” 

Cat Ross, Chief Executive of Baby Basics UK, said: “Baby Basics UK was set up in Sheffield 15 years ago and we are thrilled that with our baby bank partners across the region we can be part of this monumental initiative to ensure that every child 0-5 years in the region has a safe space to sleep by supporting the provision of a physical bed. For us, the opportunity for additional investment in our work is a dream come true and we hope that South Yorkshire will not be the only region in the UK to initiate such a lifeline programme for families.”

Leanna Clark, Senior Innovation and Projects Officer at Save the Children UK, added: “Save the Children UK have been working in partnership with Meadows Nursery in Sheffield for many years through the work of the Early Learning Community. The partnership aims to improve outcomes for children in the local area by helping families and children to achieve their full potential through research and innovation in the early years. By making sure that families have a safe space and a trusted adult within their community. The Sheffield Early Learning Community has noticed an improvement in mental health and confidence among children and parents since implementation. 

“Many of the families we are working alongside face multiple challenges, so having additional funding through the ‘beds for babies’ safe space to sleep programme will contribute to the reduction of child poverty in Sheffield. Save the Children’s mission in the UK is to support children to live free from poverty and keep learning and developing.

“I have seen first-hand what it means to families when they receive items such as moses baskets and cots. It is one financial cost that they don’t need to worry about, and it provides families comfort knowing their child will sleep safe as they grow and thrive.”

Professor Jorrit de Jong, Director of the Bloomberg Center for Cities at Harvard University, said: “City leaders are critical in tackling major societal challenges, such as improving equitable health outcomes. These issues require collaboration between multiple organisations and government entities. Mayors can help forge that. Mayor Oliver Coppard’s leadership and the collaborative efforts of the South Yorkshire team are building toward progress for the people of their region. Their collaborative effort will serve as an example for other cities looking to improve health outcomes for their residents.”