Ministers reveal £500m support package including 75 family hubs - but industry leaders say it’s ‘not enough’

The Government is to offer extra support with a £500 million package to hundreds of thousands of families, but concerns have been raised that it is not enough.Chancellor Rishi Sunak will announce a range of investments to give children the “best possible start in life”, during Wednesday’s Budget and Spending Review.

'Frustrating' nurseries not included

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Early Years Alliance, said critical support is needed for nurseries, childminders and pre-schools, where there have been thousands of recent closures, and it is “frustrating” that they are not part of the proposals.

He said the Government knows the “existing structure is crumbling”, and Labour called the package a “smokescreen” for the Conservatives’ “failure” to support families in the past.

Mr Sunak said: “I passionately believe that we have a duty to give young families and their children the best possible start in life.

“We know that the first 1,001 days of a child’s life are some of the most important in their development, which is why I’m thrilled that this investment will guarantee that thousands of families across England are given support to lead healthy and happy lives.”

The funding includes around £80 million to create another 75 family hubs in local authorities across England. They are support centres for families to access services in one place.

A further £100 million will go towards supporting the mental health of expectant parents, while £120 million will be invested in other comprehensive family support programmes.

Around 300,000 of the most vulnerable in society will be supported with an extra £200 million to support people through complex issues that could lead to family breakdown.

'Smokescreen for Conservatives' failure'

Kate Green, Labour’s shadow education secretary, said: “Family hubs are a sticking plaster for a fractured childcare and children services landscape.

“This supposed commitment rings hollow after 11 years of Conservative cuts have forced the closure of over 1,000 children’s centres, cutting off the early learning that sets children up for life.

“This has come alongside the Government stripping away early intervention children’s services, allowing problems to escalate into crises.

“This is a smokescreen for the Conservatives’ failure to deliver for families.”

Families felt lack of support

A recent poll revealed parents felt like they were “drowning” and were “isolated” because of a lack of support during the past 18 months.

More than four in five (82%) said they were struggling with at least one of the warning signs that may indicate parental burnout due to Covid.

The NSPCC is now calling for additional funding to train and recruit 3,000 health visitors so every new parent can access mental health support in their community.

Mr Leitch said nearly 3,000 providers in the sector have closed since the start of the year, and 16,000 in the last six years.

A version of this article originally appeared on NationalWorld.com

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