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In July, members of my team spent the day in Southend-on-Sea, talking to staff members and parents of young children at a thriving Better Start centre. This visit was part of the important work for my Independent Family Review which was commissioned by Government.

The Family Review seeks to understand modern family life by listening to the voices of children and families across England. My team and I have been asking parents and children what family means to them and exploring the interaction between family life and children’s outcomes. The Family Review is also looking at children and family services, asking parents what works for them, as well as what can be improved to better support their families in the future.

In Southend, parents spoke about the variety of services provided by the centre for both parents and children, and the importance of having a place to relax, play and socialise with other local families. As one parent put it:

“I would have felt very isolated if it weren’t for [this service]. Especially with social media, which isn’t often a realistic view of parenthood” – Parent of early years child

For parents, services run by the centre include home visiting services, work skills sessions and community projects to bring families together. For children, the centre runs a variety of playgroups including those specifically for children with Special Educational Needs or Disabilities (SEND), as well as communication and language courses. Parents can also become Parent Champions and Ambassadors, representing the voices of parents in the community. One parent explained:

“I feel like I have found my people here. Nobody else understood what we were going through, but they welcomed us and gave us support and advice” – Parent of child with SEND

As part of the Family Review, I am listening to children and their families across England, to ensure their voices, thoughts and ideas are heard. To hear more about the experiences of parents with children under 5 as part of the Family Review, click here for the results of my recent Call to Action.

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