Children’s Commissioner
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The Big Ambition and quality family time

  • 83% of children agreed that their family gets to spend quality time together.
  • Younger ages were more likely to agree – 91% of parents of under 6s agreed they get to spend quality time together, compared to 81% of responses by or on behalf of 12- to 18-year-olds.
  • 86% of children agreed that their family has everything it needs to support them, although 80% of parents and other adults responding on children’s behalf agreed.

Over the three years the Children’s Commissioner has heard from a million children, parents and carers, exploring how they experience family life. In The Big Ask the vast majority – 94% – of children were either happy or ‘ok’ with their family life. But just three years later, far fewer children – 83% – in The Big Ambition said their family gets to spend quality time together. The children who were not happy with family life were nine times more likely to be unhappy with their life overall.  

In 2022, the Children’s Commissioner’s independent Family Review identified that family casts a protective net around its members, with those who have a strong family doing better on a range of different measures. It showed that families want to turn to their extended family network for support and argued that this should be supported and encouraged.

 Parents and carers spoke about how parenting could be deeply challenging, as well as joyful, and that there needed to be non-stigmatising, universal support to help them do the best possible job they could. And they needed relief from the many pressures on family life – particularly balancing work and childcare.  

Children and families also spoke about how sometimes things could get too much to deal with, and that they needed more intensive support from services. But too often they felt these weren’t designed for families, but for individuals who exist in isolation. They wanted services to understand their complex family dynamics, to be non-judgemental, flexible and there for the long term.  

Children tell us how important family is to their wellbeing. It is central to their hopes and ambitions for the future.

The Big Ambition results show that most children and parents feel their families are able to do what families want to – provide for their members, enjoy time together, and give children the stable and loving start they need.

It feels a fitting message to mark this Easter weekend – in the hope that children all over the country are able to spend it in the ways they have told us are so important: with their loved ones, with the right support, in a caring home.

However, this isn’t the case for every child, or all families. When families are living in poverty and experiencing extreme financial hardship, and without the time to enjoy being a family, small challenges can grow into insurmountable problems. Where they do emerge, they need to be picked up much earlier, and addressed in a non-stigmatising way.

That’s why the Children’s Commissioner has set out five overarching outcomes she wants for every child in The Big Ambition, namely that they are safe, healthy, happy, learning and engaged in their community.

To achieve that within support for families will mean achieving the following ambitions:

  1. Every child grows up in a family who has what they need to support them and no child grows up in poverty;
  2. Every child grows up in a loving and supportive family; and
  3. Every child has access to high quality support in the early years.
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