IN a YouGov poll of 2000+ people, commissioned by leading charity 4Children to coincide with the publication of its Manifesto: Making Britain Great for Children and Families, over half (63%) of people in the West Midlands say public services should be aimed at families.
Over a quarter (28%) of these people say they need to be dramatically changed. Only 11% think no changes are needed to public services.
Nearly one in five (17%) don’t think their neighbourhood is a good place for children to grow up in; nearly half (47%) believe family life is harder than it was twenty years ago; and nearly four out of ten people (38%) believe today’s children will have a worse life than theirs.
Many people also believe a range of public services are not family friendly, with only 2% judging job centres as family friendly and around a third judging childcare services and GP practices (30% and 33% respectively) to be family friendly.
In its poll and Manifesto, 4Children throws down the gauntlet to politicians, policy makers and decision makers, calling for them to reshape this country’s public services, spaces and workplaces in response to the dramatic changes to modern family life. The charity is calling for national and local leaders to sign up to a Family Commitment which would include:
· A Family Test across national and local government to ensure policies are family friendly
· A major overhaul of support for vulnerable families, including local, joined-up early help
· A commitment to family friendly planning and public spaces
· A major house building programme of affordable and social housing
·Local, joined up help in every community through Children and Family Centres and Hubs
for children 0–19 and their families
· A comprehensive universal childcare guarantee from 0-14
· Part-time and flexible working to become the norm including flexible maternity and
Anne Longfield OBE, Chief Executive of 4Children says: “Too many children and families are struggling in the West Midlands today with limited potential and life chances as a result. Family life has changed beyond recognition over the past 30 years and our services and practices have often failed to keep up.
“It’s time to change. We need to have a major shift in ambition if we’re going to make our communities great for families. If we want a country where families and children are valued and flourishing, then politicians and policy makers and those providing public services and running businesses all need to change the way they listen and respond to what families really want.
“We also need, as a society, to give our children the aspiration and ability to flourish as individuals; to radically change the country’s system of support for those most in need; and to redesign our communities for Britain’s children and families of the future.
“It’s clear from what people tell us that this country’s systems and approaches are not working for many families; and they are now demanding smart-thinking from all political parties to help make Britain a better place to bring up children.”
The charity launches the Manifesto at an event at the House of Commons on Wednesday 15th January, with Nick Clegg MP, the Deputy Prime Minister, speaking.
Anne Longfield concludes: “We spend £9 billion a year on managing troubled families; £46 billion a year on family breakdown; and £29 billion a year on tackling child poverty; yet we could save £32,000 per family a year if crisis was averted.
“This is not just about more money, however, but about a revolution in how we run services and structures to find smarter ways to support family life. We need services that understand the speed and complexity of modern life and join together locally to offer families the support they need.”
“We also need to change the current costly approach of leaving troubles to deteriorate into problems. We need a new approach, which steps into support families early; with a “stitch in time” culture that focuses on avoiding problems arising rather than on spending large amounts of money to patch up problems after they’ve occurred.
“We recognise the changes that successive Governments, employers and local authorities have made over the last few years that benefit families - making flexible working available to more people; building the Children’s Centre network; investing in the Troubled Families Initiative.
“However, these changes need to be seen as just the foundation for a complete rethink of how the country approaches supporting family life, which recognises the amazing power and worth of having flourishing families and the importance of helping those families who are just coping or struggling to flourish.
“If this country is going to compete globally in the future, we need to ensure we are all helping to make the most of the biggest asset the country has - children and their families.”