Supporting young children and families at risk: an evidence-based review of free early education and family support for disadvantaged families

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference Contribution (Conference Proceeding)


George Osborn, UK Chancellor of the Exchequer pledged to invest an extra £380m a year by 2014/15 to expand the childcare places for disadvantaged two-year-olds from 130,000 to 260,000. This comprises funding for early education and family support provisions. As he stated:
I can tell the House today that we can double the number of children who will receive this free nursery care. Forty per cent of two-year-olds, 260,000 children, from the most disadvantaged families, will get this support in their early years [.....] Education, early years learning; that is how you change the life chances of our least well off and genuinely lift children out of poverty (Mahadevan, 2011).
Findings from a research study (Watson et al., 2011) in one local authority will be used to illustrate our critique of this policy. The project aimed to understand family experiences of the 2-year old provision and to explore more successful forms of family support from parent’s perspectives. Data was gathered in 10 children’s centres through semi-structured interviews with parents and practitioners. This paper focuses on the findings with parents and addresses issues raised in respect of their engagement in organised family support provisions aimed at supporting their child, through improved parenting practices.
Parents’ revealed overwhelming support for the early education component of the provision as it allowed them space to deal with challenging circumstances in their life or to manage day to day tasks. They reported substantial gains for their child, such as improved speech and socialisation. Barriers to their engagement focused on their personal circumstances and dispositions, e.g. a lack of confidence; or the inability to manage competing demands on their time from other children, partners and other aspects of home life.
The paper concludes with a consideration of Government drivers in respect of funding for 2-year olds. The extent to which claims grounded in poverty alleviation, child welfare and social mobility are founded in research will be considered. How these claims are represented in particular policy discourses about families and child welfare will be critiqued.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the International Conference on Social Work and Social Development
Publication statusUnpublished - 2012
EventInternational Conference on Social Work and Social Development - Stockholm, Sweden
Duration: 8 Jul 201212 Jul 2012


ConferenceInternational Conference on Social Work and Social Development


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