We’ve heard the issues, but next PM’s priority MUST be children | Express a comment | Comment

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We’ve heard a lot about the vision for taxation, Net Zero and Brexit – but we’ve heard much less about support for families.

Penny Mordaunt has promised to provide a childcare budget to give families more choice – but whoever the next leader, be it Liz Truss or Rishi Sunak, parents will need more support than ever in a post-pandemic world, as the cost of living through the crisis sets in.

Young people may have suffered more than any other group during the pandemic and the extent of the damage now amounts to another public health emergency.

The two candidates vying to be the country’s next leader must clearly affirm their commitment to children and families, redouble their efforts on the policies formed under the previous government and go even further, in order to avoid a entire generation is left behind.

New data has emerged in recent weeks that further underscores these concerns, highlighting academic and developmental shortcomings after months of long-term lockdown.

Last week, disappointing SAT results have sounded the alarm about the progress of the under-10s in particular. It followed a report published in May by the Educational Endowment Foundation which found that the development of Key Stage 1 students – those aged five to seven – has been severely affected over the past two years.

Children starting school in England are struggling with their emotional well-being and performing lower in maths and reading than pre-pandemic cohorts.

The picture is similar for older children – the figures of the ETS in June showed that almost four-fifths of teachers fear that students leaving primary school this year will not be emotionally or socially ready for secondary school, while three-quarters fear that students entering year 7 will be not academically prepared.

It’s not just academic progress that is being halted – according to data from the NHS Confederation rates of “probable mental disorder among children aged 6 to 16 increased from 11.6% to 17.4% over a four-year period”.

Failure to fully address the impact of the pandemic today risks a serious crisis in the education, health and mental well-being of the “covid generation” tomorrow. Across the country, the parents we speak to are worried about their ability to raise a resilient, successful child.

As with the cost of living, it is extremely likely that the resolution of this crisis will be a measure on which the government will be judged in the next general election.

The Family Hubs initiative, launched in the first half of this year following a promise made in the Conservative manifesto for the 2019 general election, is a prime example of a policy the next leader should not only pursue, but improve. The same goes for the Supporting Families initiative.

With Family Hubs funding signed up and made available to local authorities in 82 local areas across England, parents will have access to some of the crucial information and support services they need to get back on track. way.

Continuity and consistency in early years support is now vital, and losing the progress already made with delays or strategy pivots would only add to the damage caused by the pandemic.

Speaking to parents and families, we know that mums and dads feel there is a real stigma attached to asking for extra support. The absence of political dialogue around the issue only exacerbates the feeling that struggling parents must suffer in silence.

We need political leaders to talk about parenting support programs as a natural next step to prenatal classes – which many parents, especially new parents, attend as the norm and without hesitation. Family hubs provide that springboard.

By offering evidence-based parenting programs in person and self-directed online, we can begin to eliminate the fear of judgment that holds parents back. Instead, as a one-stop-shop for parents’ needs, hubs can become a welcoming and open space that parents feel confident about.

The Johnson administration has done a lot to recognize the importance of the early years – our next leader must take this to the next level. Making family hubs a priority and protecting investments in programs to support families and reduce parental conflict would be a good first step in the right direction.

There are many building blocks of hubs, including parenting services like Triple P, but championing their overall success at the political level will not only de-stigmatize a valuable resource for parents, but also help leadership contestants stand out among their peers. .

The winning candidate will take office at the same time as the children returning to school in September.

The new Prime Minister should ensure that every child receives maximum support to recover what they have lost during the pandemic.

Parenthood is the golden thread that runs through so many policy areas, from great education to low crime, to good mental and physical health.

As every parent knows, getting it right from the earliest years prepares a child for life. A good parenting policy can do the same for a new government.

Matt Buttery is Managing Director of Triple P UK & Ireland.

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