Let's talk about it: Insights from Parent Talk

Friday 18 November 2022
Young daughter and happy mother playing with play dough and smiling

New research using data from our Parent Talk service reveals huge demand for support with special educational needs and disabilities

Parent Talk is a first-of-its-kind free online service which provides accessible and trustworthy advice, support, and reassurance for parents and carers of children aged 0-19. Parents and carers can access 1-to-1 advice from parenting coaches – trained family support workers – as well as support and advice articles across a range of common parenting challenges.

Between April 2021 and March 2022, nearly 9,000 parents and carers accessed specialist 1-to-1 support through the Parent Talk platform. In total, nearly 470,000 people accessed some form of support over the course of the year.

Read the report

By analysing the conversations between users and parent talk coaches, we can get insights into common parenting challenges, and the barriers people face accessing support services. We found that:

1. There has been a huge increase in parents seeking support for Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND)

  • The number of Parent Talk users contacting the service for support with SEND issues rose from 962 in 2020-21 to 2321 in 2021-22 – a 140% increase
  • In the last year, SEND was identified as an issue in 26% of 1-1 coaching conversations on the Parent Talk platform, compared to 9% in the previous year.
  • Together, SEND advice articles on Parent Talk were viewed over 130,000 times last year, the most of any parenting topic.

2. Child mental health was the top issue that parents sought advice with via Parent Talk’s 1-to-1 coaching service

  • Parenting coaches identified child mental health as an issue needing support in over 50% of conversations on the platform.
  • Wider estimates from NHS figures suggest that an extra half a million children in England alone have developed probable mental health disorders in the last five years.
  • Parents frequently describe long waits for accessing child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS), including a period of no support, despite urgent needs.

3. After a spike in December 2020, there has been a steady increase in parents seeking help for a child who feels too anxious to attend school (“school refusal”)

  • Last year, Parent Talk coaches supported 351 parents with issues relating to school refusal.
  • Help dealing with school refusal was the second most accessed advice article on the website, used nearly 30,000 times last year.
  • This corroborates national figures, which show that the rate of unexplained and unauthorised absences in schools has risen by 50% since 2016.