Family is a core pillar of my work as Children’s Commissioner following ‘The Big Ask’, which was the largest-ever survey of children.
Children explained how having a supportive family has a positive impact on their lives – from receiving emotional support, to being able to talk with family members about their worries and aspirations for the future. As one child said: “A loving family is worth more than money and will give you guidance support and love and advice” – Boy, 11. We heard from children told us how much they care about their families, and how much they value seeing them, with 80% of 9—17‑year‑olds saying they are happy or okay with their family life, along with 95% of 6—8‑year‑olds.
Put simply, family is a fundamental pillar of children’s lives. There is great optimism in the power of families to nurture and stimulate, regardless of what form family takes. As one child said: “I have been very lucky to have grown up with a very supportive and stable family environment with fantastic role models in my parents” – Boy, 17.
Where children do not live with immediate family, they care about having a happy home. We heard from children that if they were unhappy at home, they were far more likely to be unhappy in general. If children were unhappy with their family life, they were 9 times more likely to be unhappy with their life overall, and 70% of them were unhappy with their mental health. As we emerge from the pandemic this is now the moment to support the family for all children, especially the most vulnerable.
That’s why this work on family is a top priority for me, I want us to all understand children’s lives as part of a wider family unit, highlight the need to focus on families, and support for families right from the earliest years.
An important part of this is the my recent commission from Government to conduct a Family Review into contemporary family life. This major Review was a recommendation of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, which found evidence that family life is a key factor in many disparities in children’s outcomes. This comprehensive research-led Review will allow us to explore all aspect of modern family life, and how families understand themselves. It will allow us to look at how families can be best supported, with a particular focus on children’s perspectives on family life. It will also explore whether public services understand the needs of families as a unit, rather than as a collection of individuals. The Review will also bring together evidence on the effectiveness of current support networks in England, the programmes available to families, and areas where more support is needed.
Is a great to have the opportunity to explore this work further, in the Family Review which Government has commissioned me to do. This Review will hear directly from children and family and seek to understand the composition of the modern family. It will explore how communities and services provide for families and what can be done for to improve these further.
Capturing children’s voices is key to this Review. So, I am launching my ‘Call for Action’ to hear from children. I am asking schools for their help with this by promoting the survey which involves two short questions that allow children to share their view on family life.
I am also aware that many organisations are doing important work in this space. I am therefore also launching my ‘Call for Evidence’, where I welcome evidence regarding all aspects of modern family life, support systems, and the pressures facing families.