Most parents struggling with mental health or finances – Unicef UK

Rising prices of essentials, expensive childcare and a lack of local support services are pushing families to ‘breaking point’, the charity warned.

17 October 2022

Most parents of young children are struggling with their mental health or finances as the cost-of-living crisis bites and families struggle to access support, research suggests.

Rising prices of essentials, expensive childcare and a lack of local support services are pushing families to “breaking point”, according to Unicef UK.

Some 59% of parents said they are struggling with their mental health, with those on lower incomes most likely affected, a poll for the charity found.

Meanwhile, 66% of respondents have been negatively affected by the rising cost of living.

Almost a fifth of parents on low incomes are skipping meals to pay for childcare and just under half of parents struggling with the cost of living have already cut back on electricity and gas usage, with one in 10 unable to heat their home properly.

The figures come from a YouGov survey for the charity of 3,564 parents of children aged four and under in Britain in August 2022.

It also suggests that one in three parents are finding it difficult to access professional support, which Unicef UK warns is putting children’s development at risk.

It said gaps in availability, patchy provision and long waiting lists mean some families are missing out on health visits, mental health support, affordable early education and childcare.

Jon Sparkes Unicef UK’s chief executive, said: “Up and down the country, we’re hearing how the rise in the cost of living, expensive childcare, a lack of mental health support and a scarcity of basic, local support services, are affecting children’s life chances and pushing families to breaking point.

“We need to act now to support families and protect children’s futures”

The charity is calling for the Government to introduce a National Baby And Toddler Guarantee informing families of the basic services that every young child in the UK is entitled to.

Separate research by Barnardo’s suggests that a fifth of parents are struggling to provide food for their children.

The charity’s survey, of 1,053 British parents of children aged 18 or under in October 2022 found that 26% of parents said their child’s mental health has worsened due to the rising cost of living.

One young person told the charity they feel like they are back in lockdown as they rarely leave the house, some said they are cutting back on showers and another told of having panic attacks while sleeping.

In response to rising costs, parents have been forced to sell possessions (26%), take on new credit cards, extra debt or a payday loan (20%), or leave pets at rescue centres (2%).

Barnardo’s is calling for all primary school children in England to receive free school meals with a first step of extending free school meals to children in families receiving universal credit.

Meanwhile, a report by the YMCA warns that the mental health of young people in supported housing is deteriorating.

Many feel unable to do anything social or use public transport as “all they can afford to do is survive, leaving them trapped and isolated”, the charity said.

It also warned that this group is increasingly reliant on food banks and donations, while some are “struggling daily” to secure stable employment

Denise Hatton, chief executive of YMCA England & Wales, said: “Not only are these pressures significantly impacting the health, wellbeing and opportunities of young people in supported housing, the lack of support from Government risks leaving them more desperate and disillusioned than ever.”

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