• Twice as many low income families (under £16,000 p.a.) are not optimistic about life after lockdown compared with those earning more (over £30,000 p.a.)

  • 57% parents are concerned about their own wellbeing or mental health in the year ahead

  • 65 % of parents are particularly worried about their children’s social development

Poverty, mental health issues and the social development of children were found to be the three main concerns for parents of young families, according to a new report by Home-Start UK published today.

The report, entitled Home Is Where We Start From, was produced by Home-Start UK following our research to measure the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on parents of young children, and heard from some 1200 of the parents we support about the issues that had affected them most.

Findings revealed that families are facing unprecedented challenges, with the pandemic acting both as a magnifier of existing disadvantage, as well tipping more people, who were just about managing before, into poverty.

When asked to consider the future, as Covid-19 restrictions lift, it became clear that parents’ levels of optimism was linked to their household income, with those earning under £16,000 per year less optimistic about the road ahead as those earning more.

Louise, a mother of twins, who fled an abusive partner and has struggled to find permanent housing said:

The one thing that hasn’t changed for us during lockdown is being able to have days out. I’ve never had the money to take the kids out. People say they’ve found lockdown difficult because they can’t take their kids anywhere - I’m like ‘welcome to my world”.

As many as 1.1m additional people – including 200,000 children – were estimated to have fallen below the poverty line by the end of 2020, bringing the total number of children living in poverty to 4.5m, an overall 5% increase on pre-pandemic figures.[i]

As well as families being swept into poverty for the first time, there has also been an impact on those already struggling, with around a quarter of babies and toddlers experiencing poverty found to now be living 50% below the poverty line.[ii]

In light of these revelations Home-Start UK, the UK’s leading charity supporting parents of young children, has stressed that the pandemic has exacerbated issues that were being faced before and during the pandemic, highlighting that now is the time to build a more compassionate and kind support system for the families that need it most.

In particular, the report has shown the value of volunteers in offering compassionate, confidential support to the families it works with. Of those surveyed, 77% said it mattered that the support they received was from a volunteer instead of a professional. For some contact from their Home-Start volunteer constituted the only meaningful conversation they had from week to week during the pandemic.

Home-Start UK is calling for systemic investment to redress the disparity, with a focus on building on the strength and resilience of communities navigating unprecedented challenges. We are calling for society to:

  1. Build Back Better – by redesigning the family support system to put families and children at the heart as we respond to the trauma of the pandemic and the shadow it has cast on child development
  2. Build Back Fairer – by addressing the structural inequalities that result in poorer outcomes for ethnic minority groups, younger parents, lone parents and those on low-incomes
  3. Build Back Kinder – by nurturing healthy relationships, ensuring safe home environments, and fostering kind, compassionate communities.

 Peter Grigg, CEO of Home-Start UK said:

“For many families, the daily grind of worries about putting food on the table, heating the house and providing basic items for their children have been their primary concern, and those worries won’t go away.

“What happens next must reflect the impact of the pandemic, and use the groundswell of awareness around struggling families to bring about change. There is not just a moral imperative for this but an economic one too. Investment in early years has been shown time and again to be a wise use of public funds, saving future spending by avoiding costs to the public purse that arise from poorer life outcomes. Making a difference for families makes a difference for society.”

Becky Saunders, Head of Policy at Home-Start UK, child psychotherapist and author of Home is Where We Start From says:

“When we reflect on the pandemic and the wider system of family support that’s needed for those who are really struggling, we should be thinking about what has happened to families, rather than what is wrong with them. We should be supporting them to build their strengths, and addressing the systemic issues that create stress for families. We need to consider too, what has happened to ‘frontline’ organisations, and to the dedicated people who serve families if we are to respond appropriately to the individual and collective trauma that will shape experience over the coming years.”

Download the full report

Download the Executive Summary

About the Report

Home Is Where We Start From was authored by Home-Start UK, based on findings from a survey commissioned by Home-Start UK. It also includes information gathered from local Home-Starts and insights gained from discussions with local Home-Start coordinators and managers, Home-Start practitioners and volunteers.

As part of the research for this report we commissioned Critical Research to undertake a survey of parents who have been supported by local Home-Starts.

The main objective of this research was to gather the experiences of parents with at least one child aged 0-5 years. An open invite to an online survey was sent to parents who have received support from a local Home-Start in the last year.

The survey was open from 6th April – 26th April 2021:

  • 1,238 responses received, from those supported by c.125 local Home-Starts
  • 15 minute questionnaire containing a number of free text responses
  • Free text responses analysed qualitatively

Commentary notes significant differences* (at the 95% confidence level) by nation, age and other key groups where sample sizes allow.

About Home-Start UK

Home-Start is one of the UK’s leading family support charities. It recruits and trains thousands of volunteers to work with over 27,000 families and their 56,000 children. Home-Start’s work starts in the home, with an approach that is as individual as the people we’re helping. No judgement, it is just compassionate, confidential help and expert support.

Home-Start is a local community network of trained volunteers and expert support helping families with young children through their challenging times. Families struggling with postnatal depression, isolation, physical health problems, bereavement and many other issues receive the support of a volunteer who will spend around two hours a week in a family’s home supporting them in the ways they need.

[i] IPPR (2020) 1.1 million more people face poverty at end of 2020 as a result of coronavirus pandemic, finds IPPR

[ii] 'It Takes a Village- how to make all childhoods matter' March 2021. Little Village