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Early years support is vital in giving children the best start in life. Are families getting enough support? What more needs to be done?

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All parents should be able to easily access high-quality parenting support from pregnancy until their children start school

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3 in 5 parents struggle to access early years support

Support in the early years includes access to baby and toddler groups, parenting programmes and advice – often accessed through local family hubs and children's centres.

Family hubs are local support centres where families with children and young people can access a wide range of support services. They are vital in giving children the best start in life.

However, a decade of cuts to funding has left too many parents struggling to get the help they need.

Action for Children welcomes the government’s latest commitments to boost early years services. But more needs to be done.

67%

67% of parents are unable to access an early years service


78%

78% of parents worry about being unable to access services


79%

79% of parents want greater access to support

What is the impact of being unable to access services?

Being unable to access early years services has an alarming effect on children. It causes:

  • Lasting damage on education. Our research shows that children with limited access to early years services are less prepared to start school. They fall behind before they even start, and many will struggle to catch up.
  • Impact on parent and child wellbeing. In our 2021 survey, parents who were unable to access services worried about: child social and emotional development and parental mental health.
three babies sitting on a colourful mat playing with toy blocks.jpg

Why are early years services important?

Early years support and services are essential for:

  • Supporting child development and parent-child attachment.
  • Helping with parent and child wellbeing.
  • Identifying problems families are facing early.
  • Giving parents the confidence, skills and tools to help with challenges like managing behaviour.

What are we calling on the government to do?

As part of a trial, the government plans to roll out family hubs across half of all local authorities in England. We need family hubs in every local area across the UK.

Family hubs are the best way to provide all new parents with high-quality support. The government must have a strong framework for delivering these too.

The government have proposed six services that should be available to all parents through family hubs:

  1. Health visiting
  2. Infant feeding support
  3. Mental health support
  4. Midwifery
  5. Safeguarding
  6. Special education needs and disability support

We support this. But the services should be extended to include:

  • Baby and toddler groups, which are available to everyone.
  • A national offer of digital parenting support.
  • Parenting programmes for caregivers identified as needing extra help.
Join our campaign to make the government act now

All parents should be able to easily access high-quality parenting support from pregnancy until their children start school

Join now

More information on early years support

We’ve used ‘parenting support’ to describe services such as baby and toddler groups, digital support and parenting programmes and advice.

Baby and toddler groups can include Stay and Play, messy play, music and movement groups. They should be available to everyone who needs it.

Parenting programmes can include parenting skills like managing their children’s behaviour. Examples might include, the Solihull Approach or Triple P. They should be available to parents who get identified as needing extra support.

Early years is about support for children aged 0-5 and their families. Early help means any service that supports children and families as soon as problems emerge.

We're here to support you.

  • If you need information on the early years services we provide call us on 0300 123 2112 or search to find out what services are local to you.
  • Have you experienced any difficulties with mental health and wellbeing, behaviour, education or anything else that’s worrying you? You can speak to our trained parent coaches for help and advice. It’s all free and no topic is too big, small or embarrassing.
  • If you or someone you know has been affected by being unable to access early years services we would like to hear your story.

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