The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents has been awarded an £18million contract to establish a home safety equipment scheme to reduce accidental deaths and injuries among under-fives in disadvantaged areas.
The funding from the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) is the largest contract awarded to the safety charity during its 92-year history.
The scheme is designed to help parents across England make their homes safer by lending them equipment, such as safety gates, fireguards and window locks, and by sharing information about preventing accidents.
The evidence shows that children from disadvantaged backgrounds are more likely to be injured or killed in accidents. In fact, children of parents who are long-term unemployed or who have never worked are 13 times more likely to die as a result of unintentional injury and 37 times more likely to die from exposure to smoke, fire or flames than children of parents in higher managerial or professional occupations.
During the two-year programme, RoSPA will source and distribute equipment, both through the existing network of local home safety schemes and by setting up new initiatives where necessary. The charity will also train staff working at the schemes.
Errol Taylor, RoSPA deputy chief executive, said: “It is estimated that a million children visit UK hospitals each year after accidents that have happened at home, of whom half a million are under the age of five-years-old.
“RoSPA is thrilled to have been chosen to run the groundbreaking National Home Safety Equipment Scheme which should reduce these figures through joined-up action on accident prevention. Not only is this the largest contract in RoSPA's history, but it is one which links directly to our mission to save lives and reduce injuries.
“Children growing up in disadvantaged areas are particularly vulnerable to home accidents and it is our hope that this scheme will enable their parents to access the vital safety equipment that other families take for granted.”
Sheila Merrill, RoSPA home safety manager for England, said: “Home is where young children are at the greatest risk of being injured in an accident. But, because they are isolated incidents that happen behind closed doors, home accidents rarely attract public attention.
“No family can hope to completely 'child-proof' its home – children change constantly in their abilities and, what's more, they need to learn about safety through challenges that support their healthy development.
“However, there are some things that parents can do to make their homes as safe as necessary, without going over the top. Various items of safety equipment can be introduced at the stages of a child's life when they are needed most, and this new scheme will benefit thousands of families whose circumstances have, until now, prevented them from installing this equipment.”
In addition to the distribution of equipment, the scheme will help parents understand the causes of home accidents and the steps that can be taken to prevent them.
To deliver the National Home Safety Equipment Scheme at a local level across the country, RoSPA will consult and work closely with existing home safety equipment schemes and other partners including: Sure Start children's centres; primary care trusts; local authorities; pre-school and early years education providers; parent partnerships and family support organisations; the police; fire and rescue services; and local Safeguarding Children Boards.
To set priorities at a national level, RoSPA will continue to work closely with the Department of Health, the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform; and the Child Accident Prevention Trust.