Rishi Sunak to announce £500m package for families

Hundreds of thousands of families are to receive extra support as part of a £500m package from the government.

The 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.

Labour, however, said the package was a smokescreen for the Conservatives’ failure to offer support families in the past.

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 thousand and one 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 £80m to create another 75 family hubs in local authorities across England, which are support centres for families to access services in one place.

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

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

Labour said it could not make up for the closure of Sure Start centres.

The shadow education secretary, Kate Green, said the proposals rang hollow, pointing out that thousands of children’s centres had closed since 2010.

“Family hubs are a sticking plaster for a fractured childcare and children services landscape,” she said. “This supposed commitment rings hollow after 11 years of Conservative cuts have forced the closure of over a thousand 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.”

The executive director of the Institute of Health Visiting, Alison Morton, said: “The government needs to go an awful lot further if they want to build back better for our babies and children.”

The chief executive of the Early Years Alliance, Neil Leitch, told BBC Breakfast that while the new government funding was welcome news for struggling families “it beggars belief that there’s not a single reference in this proposal about providing critical support to nurseries, childminders, pre-schools when government knows they’ve been closing their doors in their thousands and yet they are left out of this whole policy”.

He said: “I hope there’s more coming in the spending review, but I do question why would you create another infrastructure of early years support when the existing structure is crumbling around you? And government knows this is the case. So, it’s a bitter pill to swallow, to see all of this and yet the existing system is ignored.”

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

More than four in five parents say they are struggling with at least one of the warning signs that may indicate parental burnout as a result of Covid-19.