MORE than four in five parents with preschool children have struggled to access vital early years support services – and the coronavirus crisis has made the situation worse, a survey suggests.

The pandemic has put services further “out of reach” of parents as many children’s centres and family hubs were forced to close or move online, according to a report by charity Action for Children.

A survey, of over 2,000 parents of children aged zero to five in England, found that more than three in four parents who could not access services are worried about the impact on themselves or their child.

Overall, 82 per cent of parents surveyed have been unable or have struggled to access essential early years support.

The charity is calling on the Government to use next month’s spending review to give parents a “minimum service guarantee” of the services they should be able to access.

New mother Taylor Smith, 20, who lives in Malvern with her partner James and their four-month-old daughter Ava, found it difficult to access the usual support during lockdown.

She told PA: “I joined some virtual groups for expectant mums, but it wasn’t the same as the real thing.

"I had support from my midwife, but I would have to go to any appointments on my own without James.

“When I had Ava, we were still in lockdown so we couldn’t mix with others.

“I’m a first-time mum so sometimes I’m not sure if what I’m doing is right and I really needed somewhere that I could meet others and share experiences.”

She added: “I’m worried that if we go into another lockdown, it will undo the progress Ava has been making.”

Imran Hussain, director of policy and campaigns at Action for Children, said: “It’s good we are hearing ministers talk about the family as an institution that is vital to levelling up, but the fact remains that some children are being left behind by a lack of access to crucial early years support.

“We know from our own frontline services that helping families as early as possible is more effective in the long-run so investing in high quality centres and hubs in every community should be a core part of the ‘levelling-up’ agenda.”