Life is getting harder for Brits as parents blame poor housing

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Over a quarter of parents blame poor housing as a major factor for life in the UK becoming harder, a poll has revealed.

With 56% of families believing that life is harder today than it was 20 years ago, one in four told the survey that their neighbourhoods are not good places for their children to grow up in.

The research, carried out by 4Children, a national charity for children and families, has been released to coincide with Cold Homes Week, a campaign for warmer homes and lower bills.

The YouGov poll of over 2,000 people found that:

• 27% of people and of parents think having better housing would make the most real positive difference to their family life.
• 22% of people and of parents are concerned about paying their energy bills or are struggling to pay them.
• 27% of people think having more parks and open spaces for children to play in would make the most real, positive difference to their family life. 
• Just 40% of people would know where to go for help if a member of their family had housing issues.

Anne Longfield OBE, chief executive of 4Children, said: “As our research shows, the link between housing, poverty and children’s life chances must be acknowledged. There is growing recognition of the need for high quality, more affordable, social housing, but we must also invest in housing that offers children the childhoods they deserve, with sufficient living space, a good communal area and open play areas nearby.

“Britain needs a radical culture change in its entire system of support for families - from housing and public services to childcare and workplace policy. It’s in everyone’s interest to think long term about re-designing our neighbourhoods and communities for Britain’s children and families of the future. If this country is going to compete in the global market, we need to ensure we are all helping to make the most of the biggest asset the country has - our children and their families.”

In a new report published by the charity - 'Making Britain Great for Children and Families' - 4Children urges politicians, policy makers and decision makers to reshape the country’s neighbourhoods, public services, housing, spaces and workplaces in response to the dramatic changes to modern family life.

The charity is calling for national and local leaders to sign up to a 'Family Commitment' across a range of areas, including:

• A family commitment from government to consider the needs of families in everything they do.
• A major building programme of affordable and social housing.
• A family commitment to all aspects of the local community, including planning, public spaces and parks, transport and policing.
• Intensive action to eradicate the issues behind so-called ‘problem estates’ and build positive communities for children and families, including action on gangs.
• Safe and inspirational places for children to play and for young people to meet.
• A major overhaul of support for vulnerable families, including early on to prevent crisis.

Anne Longfield added: “Where families are not living in decent housing, the social, emotional and physical consequences can be severe. As our research shows, a significant percentage of parents right across the country do not feel that their housing or neighbourhood provides a positive environment for their children to grow up in - findings supported by previous 4Children research.”

Responding to 4Children’s report, Julia Unwin, chief executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said: “We know that places matter to people in poverty. It is unacceptable that in England in 2014, as the report highlights, people in the poorest neighbourhoods will die an average of seven years earlier than those in the richest neighbourhoods. That’s why services and homes are so important. Both can provide the bedrock for a stable, secure and prosperous upbringing.

“We can invest in our infrastructure now - our homes, our childcare - or store up trouble for the future. It’s time to rewire our services, spend every penny wisely and redouble our commitment to ending the disadvantage blighting our communities.”