Low-income families struggling to access early years parenting support, charity warns

More than a third of low-income families are struggling to access early years parenting support, according to a new report.

Action for Children warned on Tuesday of a growing crisis facing young children after surveying a nationally representative sample of 2,000 parents of children under five online in July.

The charity found 35% of lower income parents are struggling to access pre-school child development and parenting support in children’s centres and family hubs across England.

These include non-childcare programmes to support children’s education and development, such as baby and toddler groups and parenting programmes, which allow professionals to identify more serious issues facing families.

Low-income parents are also 40% more likely to have problems accessing early years support in comparison to high income families, the research found.

Overall, 42% of parents told the charity they had either struggled or had been unable to access at least one parenting support service over the last five years.

Meanwhile, 66% said they want more high-quality support available to help with their parenting.

It comes despite the Government’s “levelling up” target to improve learning outcomes at the age of five after the pandemic left fewer children ready for school by that age.

Concerns are also growing that the cost-of-living crisis will have a further impact as parents face more challenges to access parental support, including services not being available for free and the crippling cost of travel.

Action for Children is now calling on the next prime minister to ensure every family has access to key early years services in their local area as a core part of the “levelling up” agenda, with sustained investment for parenting support.

Rossanna Trudgian, head of campaigns and public affairs at Action for Children, said: “Every child deserves a chance at having the best start in life, that’s why we’re worried that disadvantaged children are being denied access to the services that allow them to catch up and level up for when they start school.

“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 child support and parenting programmes in every community should be a core part of the ‘levelling-up’ agenda.

“We urge the next prime minister to take urgent action to deliver a long-term plan for early years services, with sustained investment in parenting support to ensure every child gets the foundations they need to thrive.”

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