“The latest UNICEF report on children’s wellbeing is a stark reminder to the government of how much there is to do. UNICEF’s initial report in 2007 was seen as a wake-up call by all parties, but four years on little has changed.”
“Whilst parents choose, or are forced to work long hours because of the pressures of housing costs, household debt, and childcare cost, we will not see child wellbeing improve in this country. It is time for radical solutions, tackling both our social and fiscal deficit.”
“Real progress will not happen until family policy is driven much more strongly from the centre. Kids want strong relationships, with friends, and with parents, and time is the currency of those relationships. The promised ‘family test’ on all policy must ensure that family time is protected.”
For further information, please contact John Ashcroft, Research Director, on 01223 909408 or email@example.com.
Notes to Editors
Keep Time for Children’s analysis of the impact of working long and atypical hours, All work and no play, showed a dramatic impact on time and activity with children.
• Both mothers’ and fathers’ working hours affect the time that parents spend with their children on certain activities. 46% of mothers working over 49 hours a week reported that their work limited outdoor activities with children. The figures for their partners were even more striking, with over two-thirds (68%) of mothers whose partners worked over 60 hours a week saying that his work had prevented him from spending time reading, playing and helping children with homework. Other activities were also adversely affected, especially involvement in children’s recreational and sport activities, and outdoor activities with children.
• The average couple mother who works at unsocial times (weekends or evenings/nights) spends approximately eight hours less with her children over a whole week and is particularly likely to miss out on time with her children at weekends. Fathers in sole-earner families (i.e. whose partner doesn’t work) who work at unsocial times spend approximately ten and a half hours less with their children over a whole week. Many parents – particularly those who work atypical hours – adopt some form of shift-parenting.
• Those who are working antisocial hours are more likely to be those in the lower socio-economic groupings. 15% of those with a degree work weekends, compared with 38% with no qualifications.
• It is clear that good parenting is one part of ensuring social mobility. As Frank Field has said “It is family background, parental education, good parenting and the opportunities for learning and development in those crucial years that together matter more to children than money.”
• Professor James Heckman recently told the Young Foundation “Healthy families promote successful schools and create productive workers…To foster the skills of British children, society must supplement the parenting resources of troubled families…What secures good life outcomes is not cognitive skills but character skills. And many of them are formed in the family – so one of the most cost-effective interventions is in supporting or supplementing parenting.”
The Relationships Foundation, a sister organisation to Keep Time for Children, has called for family proofing of all policy, a call that was taken up by David Cameron in the aftermath of the UK riots. Relationships Foundation believes that, whilst relational decisions ultimately lie with the individual, Government can Motivate people to have strong relationships, it can give them the Opportunity to have strong relationships, and it can Support them in those relationships (from Towards a Conceptual Framework for Family Proofing Policy).
UNICEF’s clear emphasis on the importance of family time is welcome.
• The government is relying on families to play a major part in achieving the government’s goals of improved life chances for children and in reducing the deficit. Our Pressure Gauge has shown UK families to be among the most pressured in Europe. The combination of financial and time pressures on families is one of the major reasons behind the consequent £42 billion cost of breakdown.
• UNICEF report that ‘the message from [the children] was simple, clear and unanimous: their well-being centres on time with a happy, stable family, having good friends and plenty of things to do, especially outdoors.’ (p1)
• Too many children do not get this time and stability. As UNICEF found:
o ‘It became clear from the UK case studies that families from all backgrounds struggled to give children the time that they so clearly want within the natural fabric of daily life and, indeed, children in the discussion groups also voiced concerns about a lack of quality time with their parents. It seems that while the importance of family time was a dominant theme of conversation, in reality families find it hard to create that time together.’ (p30)