Home-Start, along with 82 other charities, experts in early childhood development, and high profile supporters, has signed an open letter to the Prime Minister calling for better support for new parents and their babies.

Home-Start has joined the call, led by UNICEF UK, for the UK Government to commit to a National Baby and Toddler Guarantee, which would help families with babies and young children across the UK.

It is 50 years since the first Home-Start began supporting families in Leicester in 1973. Since then, Home-Starts have supported over 1.5 million babies and young children with volunteer led support for families, demonstrating the lifelong impact of supporting children in the earliest years.

Home-Start UK chief executive, Peter Grigg, said

“Home-Starts in every community across the UK are witnessing how poverty is impacting child development and making parenting so much harder. Services that parents rely on are under-resourced and access is so variable. It’s heart-breaking to see so many families struggling right now. Making sure that all babies, young children and their parents can access high quality services wherever they live, will benefit everyone. If we can just nurture the early moments, the future moments will be able to bloom.”

Home-Start UK joins, NSPCC, Save the Children UK, The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), and The Institute of Health Visiting and around 80 other charities that have signed an open letter to the Prime Minister led by UNICEF UK, urging him to ensure the government takes urgent action to support families that are struggling to access the vital services that they need. This includes maternity, health visiting, mental health, affordable and high-quality childcare and Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) support.

The letter to the Prime Minister says:

‘Families in Britain need your help now. Summer holidays are just around the corner and instead of looking forward to fun-packed, carefree days, many families are faced with the worrying reality of not being able to put food on the table[1] as they struggle to make ends meet.

‘The latest Government data shows that child poverty in the UK has increased by 300,000 in a year, bringing the latest estimate to a staggering 4.2 million[2] – but behind these figures are real children and families. Last year, the UK Committee for UNICEF (UNICEF UK) polled parents of children aged 0-4 years and 66% told us that the cost-of-living crisis has negatively impacted them as they struggle to afford food, pay their bills and cope with increasing childcare costs[3]. To compensate, many said they are having to cut back on buying books, toys, and other items for their children.

‘Basic support services like maternity care, health visits, mental health support, affordable and high-quality childcare and support for Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND), can offer a vital lifeline to parents at this crucial time in their children’s lives - especially when they're struggling financially.

‘We know that with reduced funds and prices rising, Local Authorities have been forced to make impossible choices[4]. Across the country, children’s centres and childcare settings have closed their doors, health visiting appointments have been missed as staffing has reduced and caseloads increased, mental health support for parents and children is hard to come by, waiting lists are long and provision is patchy across the sector[5]. The universal services that many new parents desperately need are not there for everyone.’

More than 48,000 members of the public have signed UNICEF UK’s petition calling for the Government to commit to a Baby Toddler Guarantee that would ensure equal access to vital early childhood services.

Read more Home-Start news

[1] https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/households-below-average-income-for-financial-years-ending-1995-to-2022

[2] https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/households-below-average-income-for-financial-years-ending-1995-to-2022

[3] https://www.unicef.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2022/10/EarlyMomentsMatter_UNICEFUK_2022_PolicyReport.pdf

[4] https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmcomloc/2036/203605.htm

[5] https://www.unicef.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2022/10/EarlyMomentsMatter_UNICEFUK_2022_PolicyReport.pdf