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Parents say they need early years services to help them parent better and strengthen community relationships, according to a new report conducted by parent researchers with the Family and Childcare Trust.
However, the report points out that early years services are under ever increasing pressure as funding continues to reduce in many local areas.
Recruited and trained by the Family and Childcare Trust, four groups of parent researchers from across the country spoke to nearly 500 parents to understand what families need and want from early years services. Parents said they most value services where they could take part in activities with their child, such as stay and play groups. These were seen as opportunities for children to develop and for parents to learn new skills and strengthen their sense of community.
Parents also raised concerns about services, including a lack of information about what was on offer and a shortage of services, particularly for older children.
The findings reveal a number of barriers to accessing the services they wanted: the services were not available locally; they were available at unsuitable times; there were not enough places; they were unaffordable; they were not child friendly or childcare was not available; or the quality of the provision was simply too poor.
Ellen Broomé, Chief Executive at the Family and Childcare Trust, said: “Parents have made it clear how valuable early years services are to their families. We need these services to be prioritised to support families and social mobility. The shelving of the Government consultation on the future of children’s centres alongside cuts to local authority budgets have left these services underfunded and without direction.
“The Government urgently needs a strategy for family services in the early years that supports parents and their children to thrive and strengthen communities.”