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"Getting support is the best thing we’ve ever done": The importance of early years services

Wednesday 20 October 2021
Roxanna, Dailhan and daughter Lily

Roxanna wants to give her daughter the best start to life. When she noticed a shift in her mental health shortly after giving birth, she turned to Action for Children for help

The first few years of a child’s life shape their life. Children rely on their parents for the love and care they need to grow. But it’s important that parents receive support to help give their children the best start in life.

Parents turn to early years services, like parenting programmes and play groups, for this support. However, we see that far too many parents are unable to access these services.

We look at the impact of early years services, through the eyes of Roxanna, a mum, who was able to get help when she needed it.

A difficult year took its toll

Shortly after having her baby Lily, now almost two weeks old, Roxanna began to notice feelings of anxiety and depression.

Compounding on an already difficult year, 2020 saw Roxanna lose her step-dad and mother-in-law. This was then followed by the death of the family dog.

“We had gone through a lot of bereavements, and then having a new baby and the pandemic, it was a lot,” Roxanna reflected.

“With lockdown [I was] feeling isolated and stuck at home, it wasn’t great, and my anxiety levels were high, added with sleep deprivation too. It was all just really hard.”

Roxanna decides to reach out for help

Roxanna and daughter Lily smiling

Roxanna and daughter Lily

Knowing first-hand the impact of a parent’s mental health on their child spurred Roxanna to ask for help.

Growing up, she remembers seeing her mum struggle with her mental health. Looking back, Roxanna said, “She's a great mum, but I was aware of her difficulties when I was growing up and it had an impact on me.”

Roxanna wanted to break this cycle and decided to speak to her health visitor about how she was feeling.

Action for Children steps in

Roxanna was referred to Action for Children. Soon after, Carolyn, a service coordinator at our Family Support Volunteers service in West Dunbartonshire, got in touch.

“[Carolyn and I first] spoke on the phone and straight away I knew we would get along,” said Roxanna.

More than a year after their first call, Roxanna and Carolyn continue to meet for their weekly calls. Roxanna told us, “It’s just really nice to have someone who gets everything that you are saying. She is so supportive, and to have my feelings validated means so much. It is just having someone to chat to and touch base with once a week.

“I can get overwhelmed and not even be able to leave the house, but Carolyn will say put your shoes on and go for a walk – just open the front door. She goes through the grounding technique with me too and that does help.”

The support changed Roxanna’s life for the better

Lily in a yellow jumper making a funny face at the camera

Roxanna says that Lily is now flourishing

Roxanna wanted better for Lily. With the support of Action for Children and Carolyn, she’s noticed a big change. “[Lily] has really come on leaps and bounds,” she told us.

As well as the weekly video calls, Roxanna and her partner Daihlan also join an online baby class run by Action for Children for Lily.

“It is very sweet; she loves it and really engages with the stories and singing. They sent books to us and puppets. With everything closed, it’s been lovely to have something virtual for her.”

Roxanna’s story isn’t shared by everyone

Fortunately, Roxanna found the help she was looking for. But she isn’t alone in her need for extra support – it’s something most parents of children aged 0 to 5 are seeking.

Unlike Roxanna, however, our research reveals that 82% of parents have struggled or been unable to access an early years service.

We see what happens without this support. Children aren’t able to reach the potential we know they can.

No child should be held back because of the gaps in the provision of early years services. We want to make sure that all families have the same opportunities as Roxanna’s.

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