Home-Start UK's chief executive, Peter Grigg, has welcomed the new report published by the Royal Foundation today and called on everyone in society to work together to make sure parents have the support they need to give children the best start in life.

Peter said:

“This is an incredibly important report. We know that the earliest years make the biggest impact on a child’s future and we all have a responsibility to create the right environment for a child’s earliest years. But after this year like no other families are running on empty. Civil society, business, charities, community, and each of us in our daily lives, need to work in partnership to support families and their young children.

"Across the UK Home-Starts are working with families facing the challenges of isolation, poor mental or physical health, low income or unemployment, bereavement, and many more. We know that parents want the best for their children, but these challenges make it harder. I am very pleased that the Duchess of Cambridge and the Royal Foundation are bringing much needed attention, evidence and focus to the issue of early years, because we know that childhood can’t wait".

The publication of this research follows nine years of work by The Duchess of Cambridge in which she has looked at how difficult experiences in early childhood are often the root cause of key social challenges such as poor mental health, family breakdown, addiction and homelessness – with the cost of late intervention estimated to be around £17 billion per year in England and Wales.

The Babies in Lockdown report by Home-Start UK, the Parent-Infant Foundation and Best Beginnings in August showed almost 7 in 10 (68%) parents felt the changes brought about by COVID-19 were affecting their unborn baby, baby or young child Almost 7 in 10 found their ability to cope with their pregnancy or baby had been impacted as a result of COVID-19 with nearly 9 in 10 (87%) parents saying they were more anxious as a result.

The research published today includes the findings of the 5 Big Questions as well as further qualitative and ethnographic research, a national representative survey conducted before the pandemic, and a survey on the impact of COVID-19 on families.  Taken together, these studies have generated #5BigInsights:

1. People overwhelmingly believe that a child's future is not pre-determined at birth. However, most people do not understand the specific importance of the early years

Answering the 5 Big Questions, 98% of people believe nurture is essential to lifelong outcomes, but just one in four recognise the specific importance of the first five years of a child’s life.

2. The reality of life makes it hard for parents to prioritise their wellbeing

90% of people see parental mental health and wellbeing as being critical to a child’s development, but in reality, people do very little to prioritise themselves. Only 10% of parents mentioned taking the time to look after their own wellbeing when asked how they had prepared for the arrival of their baby.

 Worryingly, over a third of all parents (37%) expect the COVID-19 pandemic to have a negative impact on their long-term mental wellbeing.

3. Feeling judged by others can make a bad situation worse

70% of parents feel judged by others and among these parents, nearly half feel this negatively impacts their mental health.

4. People have been separated from family and friends during the pandemic and at the same time, parental loneliness has dramatically increased. Disturbingly, people are also less willing to seek help for how they are feeling

Parental loneliness has dramatically increased during the pandemic from 38% before to 63% as parents have been cut off from friends and family. The increase in loneliness for parents is more apparent in the most deprived areas. These parents are more than twice as likely as those living in the least deprived areas to say they feel lonely often or always (13% compared with5%). Compounding this, it seems there has been a rise in the proportion of parents who feel uncomfortable seeking help for how they are feeling from 18% before the pandemic to 34% during it.

5. During the COVID-19 pandemic, support from local communities has substantially increased for many - but not for all

Across the UK, communities have united powerfully to meet the challenge of unprecedented times. 40% of parents feel that community support has grown. However, parents in the most deprived areas are less likely to have experienced this increased support (33%) than elsewhere.

These insights highlight the need to help people understand the importance of the early years and suggest that parents and carers need more support and advice to ensure good mental health and wellbeing as they raise young children.

For more information on the report, please go to The Royal Foundation website