Accidents and injuries

By John Freeman

| 14 October 2016

The Child Accident Prevention Trust (CAPT) and Public Health England (PHE) are publishing a poster and a briefing, and running a series of awareness-raising events early next year, all aimed at early years practitioners. The aim is to reduce the number of unintentional injuries in and around the home among children under five years of age.

I can't speak too highly of CAPT - recent work has included highlighting the dangers of button batteries, which can cause horrific and life-changing injuries if swallowed; road safety; the dangers of dangling cords for curtains and blinds, which kill toddlers every year; and the dangers of choking. I should say that I've no role with CAPT - my only involvement is reading their alerts and, a couple of years ago, buying a carbon monoxide monitor, which, thankfully, has never indicated anything other than zero.

If you have not signed up for their alerts, please do so!

This new work is concerned with promoting effective practice by existing local services - anyone who works with young children - together with the provision of information and training.

Why this blog? Beyond promoting the general work of CAPT, the brute facts are that while emergency admissions to hospital for older children, adolescents and adults are relatively stable, at around 20,000 a year for each of the groups 5-9, 10-14, 15-19 and 20-24, the numbers for children under five are much greater and steadily increasing - the most recent data is from 2012/13 and in that year 42,000 young children were admitted. Each year in England, an average of 60 children under five die from injuries in or around the home.

It's not clear why there is such an increase but there has been a steady trend since 2008/09. So CAPT and PHE are doing something about it.

The aim, as I understand it, is to help ensure that practitioners from different agencies in contact with young children and their parents or carers are all aware of the main classes of accidents, and how those risks can be mitigated - falls; poisoning; burns and scalds; choking, suffocation and strangulation; and drowning. Practitioners will then work more effectively to inform parents about how, in turn, they can reduce the dangers on a day to day basis.

This is all really good work, and it will, I hope, inform social care, education and care, and medical practitioners  - there are of course a wide variety of such professionals and any one of them could be the person who saves a child's life by making sure parents know the dangers.

Is this enough, though? My view is that parenting education, one of my minor obsessions, should be available to all young people and should include something on the dangers and risks to be managed.

There can be little more distressing than losing a young child through an avoidable accident, and helping parents reduce the risks is a moral duty for us all.

John Freeman CBE is a former director of children's services and is now a freelance consultant

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