Young children from low income families are being failed by poor housing and badly targeted services, says a report published this week by the National Children’s Bureau (NCB).
The NCB has been investigating how families with children under five access local services for the Office of the Children’s Commissioner. The report has found that poor families with young children are not getting the help they need from vital services, with housing needing the most improvement.
Chief executive of the NCB, Anna Feuchtwang, said: 'A great number of families with young children are struggling to get by on the money they have coming in. Local services for children under five need to be protected, and we should think long and hard before cutting back either on these vital services or on state support for those on low income.'
Many of the families taking part in the NCB research were living in poor quality accommodation that was too small, difficult to heat or in a bad state of repair. They complained that housing services were difficult to access, with inadequate communication from staff and with a poor standard of maintenance and repairs, the report says.
Other services fared better, with many parents valuing access to free early years services and health care, but there was a feeling that many services, including housing, mental health services and family support, did not respond until a family had fallen into crisis and that services could do more to proactively target families, particularly new arrivals to the country and those from so-called ‘hard to reach’ groups.
Some parents reported that crucial services were being reduced or had shut entirely, particularly those offered by children’s centres providing childcare, early education and play facilities.
The report’s authors are calling for protection for access to free health care and early years services, to ensure children in low income families have the best start in life, and for a review of housing strategy, policy and service provision to ensure that the needs of families of young children are properly addressed.