Source > Children & Young People Now

By Joe Lepper

26 May 2022

Record inflation is putting heightened financial strain on parents, which is having a negative impact on young children’s wellbeing and development, says research by the Nuffield Foundation.

It also warns that parenting programmes will fail unless the poverty families are facing is tackled.

“Such programmes are less likely to succeed if not combined with action to reduce pressure on families, such as improving household incomes,” said the charity.

“The research evidence shows that children who experience poverty and strong parenting skills can achieve good outcomes at age five.

“To close the disadvantage gap and improve children’s outcomes, policies are needed to both reduce pressures on families and improve parenting skills, using universal and targeted support.”

Its research is based on more than 100 studies into the pressures facing parents of children aged under five with a particular focus on the impact of challenges on their children’s development.

The foundation’s report states that even before the cost of living crisis more than one in three families with a child under the age of five was living in poverty, which was already adding to levels of stress, depression, and conflict among parents.

More than seven in ten parents of young children say being a parent is “stressful and that they feel judged as a parent by others”, the research warns.

In addition, it finds that a quarter of children live in privately rented housing, which is “over five times more likely to be overcrowded” than in homes families own.

Privately rented homes are less secure “which puts children at increased risk of needing to move school and away from family and social networks”, adds the report.

Bangladeshi families are particularly at risk of overcrowding, with one in four living in overcrowded homes, compared with two per cent of white British households.

The aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdowns has also added to family pressures, says the charity.

“The Covid-19 crisis and the cost of living crisis have made it even more crucial that families with young children are also given more fundamental support, in terms of improved access to mental health services, boosted family incomes and improvements to the physical environments in which children are raised,” said Carey Oppenheim, Nuffield Foundation early childhood lead, who co-authored the report.

The research has been published after it emerged that inflation rose to nine per cent for the 12 months to April, the fastest rise in prices for 40 years.

According to think tank Pro Bono Economics the cost of living crisis is already increasing pressure on charities supporting children and families, which are set to face a “tidal wave” of demand.

“Many foodbanks, baby banks and organisations providing grants to struggling families are already running at full tilt to support people with essentials,” said the think tank’s economist Jamie O’Halloran.

“But numerous children’s and mental health charities are braced for a tidal wave of demand still to come as increasing poverty and debt drags down mental health.”

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