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4.3 million parents struggle to access support for under fives

By Rachel Lawler

A new report from Action for Children has warned that 4.3 million parents of young children in England have been unable to or are struggling to access support for their child.

The report says that 82% of parents with children under five have been unable to access support and more than three quarters (78%) are worried about the impact on them or their child. Parents were found to be worrying about their child’s social and emotional wellbeing (45%), their own mental health (45%) and their child’s inability to make friends and socialise (44%).

Other parent concerns included worries about their child’s ability to share toys with others (36%), their physical development (31%) and their own relationship with their child (26%).

The charity has called on the government to use the upcoming Spending Review to increase access to children’s centres and family hubs.

Services cut
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Alliance, commented: “Children’s centres are an absolutely vital source of support for children and families – particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds - and yet, for many years now, we have seen funding for these vital services continue to be cut. As a result, hundreds of centres have closed over recent years, with many of those that remain open offering little more than a skeleton service.

“With many parents not only worried about the impact of the pandemic on their children’s development, but also facing challenges of their own – from loneliness to mental4.3 million parents struggle to access support for under fives

Family disruption
Imran Hussain, director of policy and campaigns at Action for Children, said: “Being a parent is the hardest and most important job many people will have. It’s good we are hearing ministers talk about the family as an institution that is vital to levelling up, but the fact remains that some children are being left behind by a lack of access to crucial early years support.

“Family life has been hugely disrupted since the pandemic hit and today’s report shows vital lifeline services which were already stretched, may be ‘out of reach’ for most parents, leaving them to struggle alone. We know from our own frontline services that helping families as early as possible is more effective in the long-run so investing in high quality centres and hubs in every community should be a core part of the ‘levelling-up’ agenda.

“The Government’s manifesto commitment to family hubs is an opportunity to ensure all parents and young children get the support they need to thrive. We urge the Chancellor to take urgent action in next month’s Spending Review to ensure councils can deliver a minimum service guarantee for parents and young children so all children get the best start in life.”