Children’s Commissioner
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The Big Ambition for Families

Family is central to all of our lives, particularly children. The concept of family comes in many forms. For nearly every child we’ve spoken to it includes people outside of our traditional ‘immediate family’. This is an important distinction – because it isn’t how a family is made up that makes the biggest difference, it’s the way it supports all of its members.

As Children’s Commissioner, family is a core pillar of my work. My Family Review established that all families tend to want the same key things: to get along and love one another, to be able to support themselves and each other, to spend quality time together, and to be able to trust and rely on each other.

The Big Ambition results show that most children and parents feel their families can do all those things: provide for their members, enjoy their time together and give children the stable and loving start they need.

Most – but certainly not all. When families are living in poverty and experiencing extreme financial hardship, and without the time to enjoy being a family, small changes can grow into insurmountable problems.

The biggest change in how children talk about their families since I became Commissioner in 2021 seems to be that they are no longer protected from the issues and stresses previously labelled ‘adult problems’. Responses to The Big Ambition revealed children are not immune to the things weighing on their parents and carers’ minds, with many children talking about the impact of the cost of living, uncertainty for the future and the important role families play in providing stability in life:

“Make sure everyone has a good life, house and someone who loves them.” – Girl, 10.

“Homeless children should have a family and a home.” – Boy, 8.

“Make things cheaper so my parents don’t have to work so much and then we would have more time together as a family. Most of the time it is either my Mum or Dad at work and we don’t spend time together as a family. Also, they are always worried about the cost of things because everything is so expensive.” – Girl, 9

It’s clear that a rebalancing is needed, with a focus on strengthening families of every shape and size to face the challenges life throws at them. The public services created to provide support should do so with empathy, without stigma and be available far earlier so that problems are tackled before they escalate. The aim should always be to help families enjoy and benefit from their time together, and to keep family units together safely.

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

To achieve these outcomes for families will mean achieving the following ambitions:

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

You can read all my recommendations for how we can achieve each of these ambitions in The Big Ambition report here.


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