A PILOT scheme to roll out baby boxes to new parents in Ireland is to launch later this year, following a campaign inspired by the success of the project in Scotland.

Fine Gael Teachta Dala Neale Richmond secured a commitment from the coalition Irish government to extend the initiative across the country in 2020, but it was delayed due to the pandemic.

Now, the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (DCEDIY) has confirmed a pilot scheme is expected to be rolled out in mid-2022.

Richmond, speaking to the Sunday National, said the delivery of more than 200,000 baby boxes in Scotland was encouraging and is “paving the way for Ireland”.

READ MORE: Scottish Government's baby boxes scheme reaches 200,000 families

Richmond continued: “Baby boxes were first brought to my attention by then Scottish Minister for Children, Maree Todd, in 2018, on a visit to Edinburgh – soon after my wife and I had welcomed our first child into the world.

“I was very taken by the idea and the great success baby boxes were having in Scotland, and so I began to push for a full rollout of baby boxes in Ireland.

“At the time a minor pilot scheme had success in a few Irish hospitals but I pushed for this to be extended across the country.”

Richmond said he had secured a commitment in the Programme for Government following the 2020 General Election to roll out baby boxes, but the pandemic had led to some delays.

He said he was now working to ensure there were no further issues encountered in the timeline of the rollout.

“I firmly believe that baby boxes will be hugely beneficial to every parent and every child born in Ireland in ensuring that regardless of their means, all parents can be assured that their babies will have what they really need.”

He continued: “At the end of the day, a really important element of the baby box concept is equality – ensuring that all children born in Ireland begin their life with the same basic essentials.”

A spokesperson for the DCEDIY said preparations to advance the initiative were underway, with the first meeting of the project advisory group held on December 13 last year. 

HE commented: “The pilot will undertake research and consultation to determine items for inclusion, informed by the commitments in the First 5 strategy, and these may include safety items, toys to support early development, and books.

“Key objectives will include support for parent-infant bonding, information on baby development and early learning, advice and support for breastfeeding, and promotion of infant health and safety.”

He continued: “It is anticipated the pilot will be going live in mid-2022. The precise date will be subject to procurement of services for build and distribution, and separately, for evaluation.”

Baby boxes – which contain essential items such as clothes, books and blankets – were introduced across Scotland in 2017, based on a similar scheme pioneered in Finland.

READ MORE: MSP hails baby box scheme for record-breaking Christmas support

Critics have raised questions over the initiative, including the cost, but research commissioned by the Scottish Government last year found the take-up rate was more than 90%, with 97% of parents who took part rating the baby boxes as “very” or “fairly” good.

Those on lower incomes were more likely to report that receiving a baby box had a positive financial impact – saving them money on things they would otherwise have needed to buy.

The digital ear thermometer and bath and room thermometer were the items most likely to be rated by parents as among the most useful, and most likely to be seen by midwives, health visitors, and family nurses as important to include.

The review also found that around four in 10 new parents had used the baby box as a place for their newborn to sleep in.