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Children's charity issues warning over poverty as one in 19 two-year-olds in Cambridgeshire lack key communication skills

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One in 19 children in Cambridgeshire lack key communication skills at age two, new figures show.

A leading children's charity has warned about the impact of poverty on child development, after new statistics revealed significant differences in crucial early years abilities across England.

Public Health England data found that five per cent of the 1,370 youngsters tested in the area had not reached the level of communication expected at their age.

Nearly a fifth of two-year-olds in Cambridgeshire are failing to reach key development milestones. (14560809)
Nearly a fifth of two-year-olds in Cambridgeshire are failing to reach key development milestones. (14560809)

Every three months, experts examine thousands of children aged between two and two-and-a-half years old in England to check their mental and physical development.

They measure five areas, including: problem solving, social interaction, fine motor skills (holding objects and drawing) and gross motor skills such as running and walking.

The latest statistics, which cover January to March 2019, looked at more than 100,000 youngsters from 126 council areas.

According to the results, five per cent of two-year-olds looked at in Cambridgeshire had not reached the expected level of development in all five areas.

They outperformed their peers across the East of England, where 15 per cent fell short.

Across all the local authorities which provided data, this figure is 17 per cent.

Action for Children says factors such as poverty, poor housing and low-paid work can prevent parents from providing safe and nurturing environments during the early years of a child's life.

The charity's head of policy and research, Eleanor Briggs, said: "All children deserve the best start in life and these figures show that for too many this simply isn't the case.

"We know there are big differences in regions across the country when it comes to children's development in the early years, with low income families and the more deprived councils coming off worst.

"Young children living in poverty are more at risk than others, with low income families more likely to have issues such as low breastfeeding rates and obesity in pregnancy, which affect a child's health."

She welcomed steps from the Government to fund pilot projects to improve home environments but maintained such schemes will have little impact while early years services like children's centres continue to face funding cuts.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: "We are working with Public Health England and the NHS to modernise the Healthy Child programme which already ensures children and families receive five mandatory health visitor checks by the time they are two and a half.

"The recently published green paper on prevention will also seek views on how to help families keep healthy and well."

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