mother and daughter talkingParents worry about their children’s mental health more than any other health issue, a survey has revealed.

The poll of 2,000 parents by charity Action for Children found that mothers are particularly likely to worry about their children’s mental and emotional wellbeing; with almost half (47%) saying it was a concern, compared to a third of fathers (32%).

Mental health came ahead of worries about diet and/or weight (32% of parents) and suffering from serious illnesses such as cancer (21%).

Action for Children, which runs more than 200 children’s centres across the UK, has been concerned by the rise in support needed by children because of mental health and emotional wellbeing problems. Recent research by the charity found over half of their frontline services surveyed, including children’s centres, reported an increase in the level of need among children compared to this time last year.

“It’s clear that many parents are worried about their children’s emotional wellbeing and mental health,” said Sir Tony Hawkhead, chief executive of Action for Children.

Sir Tony emphasised that help is available, and getting that support at the right time can make a big difference. “We have seen for ourselves how giving children and their families the right support early can make a difference to their lives and help them reach their potential.

“Spending time and money preventing a problem rather than repairing the damage is the right and logical thing to do. With councils facing reduced funds, we are calling for a shift in funding towards early support to help prevent concerns or issues from becoming major problems.”

Tackling root causes rather than symptom 
A spokesman for the Local Government Association, which represents local authorities in England, said councils played an important role in ensuring children and families got the help they needed "sooner rather than later".

"Children's services teams are under more pressure than ever before to focus their resources on delivering the right support at the right time to make a real difference - and councils have demonstrated the difference they can make to families when given the necessary powers and adequate resources.

"Focusing money on tackling root causes of problems rather than treating symptoms provides a better deal for the public purse and for the people we are trying to support - and is vital if we are to make public services sustainable in the long term."