Cuts fail out-of-depth parents, says Spurgeons

14 December 2018

Charity detects crisis of confidence and a lack of support

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GOVERNMENT cuts are causing a “parenting crisis” in the UK, as one in ten parents report feeling out of their depth and unsupported with childcare, a children’s charity has warned.

The Parent Report, produced annually by the charity Spurgeons, draws on an online YouGov survey of 1055 parents who have a child under the age of 18. One in ten (12 per cent) reported feeling out of their depth all or most of the time — and 48 per cent some or more than some of the time.

Mothers felt more out of depth some or more of the time than fathers (53 per cent to 42 per cent). Younger parents aged 25 to 34 were even more concerned (57 per cent). Only 12 per cent of all parents, however, were likely to ask for help.

A practice-improvement manager for Spurgeons, Sarah Smith, explained: “For many [parents], who are in areas where services have been cut, the support they need is just not available. . . Parenting is a hard enough job under the best of circumstances; so it’s no surprise that those who are left unsupported and vulnerable are feeling more out of their depth.”

The deputy chief executive of Spurgeons, Paul Ringer, said: “Our research backs up what we already know: that many families are feeling overwhelmed and affected by rapidly shrinking support services. This ‘parenting crisis’ is bad for families from all backgrounds, but it’s even worse for the most vulnerable in society. These are the families we work with, day in, day out, and the need for services like ours is increasing.”

More than half of all parents reported a lack of affordable housing (51 per cent), and the loneliness or isolation of their child (54 per cent) as a serious concern. Employment prospects for their children in the future was also a concern for 42 per cent of parents.

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Other significant worries of parents included the possibility that their children would get into a physically or mentally abusive relationship (43 per cent); self-harm (35 per cent); and become involved in gang activity (30 per cent). Gang involvement was the top concern for 19 per cent of parents aged 25 to 34, and 19 per cent of parents aged 35 to 44.

Mr Ringer writes in his foreword that, whereas most parents worried about the financial security and relationships of their children in the future, “a small but significant number attributed increased alcohol consumption and illegal drug use to the impact of cuts to services, while others have not been able to safely end an abusive relationship as a result.

“This is shocking, and we should all be deeply concerned — not about the statistics themselves, but of what is increasingly the day-to-day experience of some parents across the country.”

The Spurgeons BeLeave service, in Birmingham, has helped 65 children to improve family relationships and join positive healthy activities as an alternative to anti-social behaviour, gang exploitation, drugs, and alcohol. One BeLeave user said: “I have joined the cadets. I do not go out on the streets. I spend more time with my family.”

The low confidence reported by parents, Mr Ringer said, was reflective of the state of the nation: this included issues such as the need for parents to travel further for childcare and other parental services.

Spurgeons is forming partnerships with other children’s organisations to support the campaign #ChildrenAtTheHeart, which calls on the Government to “act swiftly” to put children at the centre of budget decisions.

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