Home-Start call on new Government to commit to ensuring that all families are supported to give children the best start in life.

We are asking that the new Government put families at the heart of their agenda by ensuring they are:

  • Improving family life during infancy and the early years
  • Supporting families to thrive.
  • Relieving families from poverty, violence and abuse.
  • Supporting children’s development particularly through their relationships with their parents or caregivers

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Having a child is a life changing experience, yet for many the realities are far from the idealised portrayal of family life. Home-Start’s #RealLifeParenting campaign began to lift-the-lid on parents’ experiences, with 60% of parents surveyed saying they felt pressure be the ‘perfect parent’.

For many families the ups and downs of becoming a parent: navigating expectations, childcare, work, family finances and relationships, can be weathered allowing children to thrive. But for others, where stresses are too high or adversities are multiple or chronic, and where parents are overwhelmed, their capacities can be overstretched and they struggle to be the parents they would like to be (i).

The new Government must have families at the heart of their agenda.

  • Investment in improving family lives is crucial to ensure that all children get the best start during infancy and the early years and are able to build strong foundations for physical and mental health.
  • Families must be supported to thrive, and not just to get by. Supporting families when children are young reduces stress and its negative impacts on caregiving, and supports children’s positive developmental trajectory.
  • Children must be allowed to grow up in families relieved of poverty, free from violence and abuse, and supported to address mental health problems.
  • Children’s developing brains are shaped by their experiences, particularly the relationships they have with their parents or caregivers (ii). Supporting these relationships, from the outset, brings benefits for individuals, for society and for the economy, with evidence from clinical experts and economists that investment on intervention in early life pays the biggest dividends (iii, iv).

There is urgent work to do

There is more work to do to provide effective early intervention to children and families who need it (v). Statutory, community and voluntary services are facing significant pressures which undermine their ability to support high quality early help and family support.

Councils are faced with difficult decisions as they must prioritise safeguarding and spending for looked after children. They have seen enquiries for child protection increase by 158% over the last decade, with now over 1000 new child protection cases being opened each day (vi), more than half of which are under the category of abuse and neglect (vii). Concurrently the Government Early Intervention Grant has been reduced by almost £600 million since 2013 and is projected to decrease by a further £100 million in 2020 so that just 5% of social care funding is now spent on the categories of Sure Start, Flying Start & Early Years (viii).

Home is where we start from

Home-Start UK’s 2019 impact report shows 56,000 children were supported across more than 27,000 families. The majority of these children were aged under 5. But, we want to do more to make sure no child’s future is limited (ix).

Home-Start has as its primary activity the provision of trained volunteers, usually experienced parents or carers, to visit, support and assist families and children at home, especially in the early years. As the largest network of this kind it sits across the four nations of the UK. High levels of complex needs have been identified in the families served (x, xi).

When families are referred we assess their needs and shape an intervention tailored to address them through a programme of home visits and activities, typically lasting two hours each week, delivered over an average 8.5 month period by an 85% volunteer work-force (xixi)

An analysis of data captured over an 8-year cohort of supported families has highlighted the benefits of this early support for parents in the home:

  • Improvement in coping with mental health: 94.6%
  • Improvement in coping with isolation: 95.6%
  • Improvement in coping with self-esteem: 93.9%

A relationship between the frequency of visits and an increase in the rate at which parental emotional wellbeing, and feelings of coping with other issues, improved has also clearly been identified (xii). These issues included:

  • children’s behaviour
  • being involved in their children’s development/learning
  • their physical health,
  • the household budget,
  • running the home,
  • conflict in the family,
  • multiple children under five.

Home-Start offers tailored support that families engage with, from establishing routines to supporting early relationships and communication, to learning through play, supporting school readiness, budgeting and managing finances, and helping parents access community and statutory services that they may otherwise not reach.

We’ve seen family’s lives turn around, and with leadership and investment from Government we want to see more. Because childhood can’t wait.

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[i]Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University (2016) Building core capabilities for life: The Science Behind the Skills Adults Need to Succeed in Parenting and in the Workplace http://www.developingchild.harvard.edu

[ii] Hambrick et al (2019) https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnbeh.2019.00183/full

[iii] https://heckmanequation.org/

[iv] Bauer et al 2014. The costs of perinatal mental health problems. LSE & Centre for Mental Health. Maternal Mental Health Alliance

[v] Early Intervention Foundation (2016) The cost of late intervention http://www.eif.org.uk/files/pdf/cost-of-late-intervention-2016.pdf

[vi] Local Government Association briefing general debate on children’s services House of Commons 31/10/2019

[vii] National Statistics: Characteristics of Children in Need: 2017 to 2018

[viii] Local Authority revenue expenditure and financing statistics

[ix] 2019 Impact report Home-Start UK

[x] Kenkre, J. & Young, E. (2013) Building resilience: Volunteer support for families with complex circumstances and needs

[xi] Warner, N. (2018). Home visiting support for parents in adverse situations: The nature of support and parental emotional well-being. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University

[xii] Sugarman, P. (2019) Volunteer-led family intervention: the effectiveness of the UK Home-Start programme