Universal parenting support is key to success

We read with interest about the Government’s drive to increase targeted and universal support to parents and families.

However, as four leading charities in the family support sector, our concern is that unless proper support is made available universally to anyone parenting a child, when they need it, families will continue to be left adrift until difficulties reach crisis point.

We believe an appropriately skilled and supported workforce is essential for the delivery of quality services to support parents. The evidence is clear that how we work with parents is as important as what we do.”

There is a potentially huge workforce able to help with this, including teachers, social workers, health visitors and midwives as well as volunteers and staff within the voluntary sector. But unless and until we build the skills of this workforce, through training to National Occupational Standards, universal parenting support will never exist. At a time when the role of peri-natal support services is crucial, we are alarmed that health visitor numbers are at their lowest for many years and funding for their training is negligible.

The current picture is that universal parent support remains patchy and underdeveloped and there is a lot of evidence that even those families with very high levels of need are not accessing services early enough to prevent crisis. Most direct services to parents are provided by the voluntary sector with short-term funding from many sources, making long-term strategic planning almost impossible.

We call for sustained commitment and investment in high-quality, universal and respectful parenting support services for the well being of our children and future generations. And we believe passionately that local authorities and primary care trusts should involve all parents and carers in the development of services – including fathers, grandparents and black and ethnic minority parents.

Dorit Braun, chief executive, Parentline Plus;  Penny Mansfield, director, One Plus One; Mary Macleod, chief executive, National Family; Parenting Institute; Mary Crowley, chief executive, Parenting UK

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