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An environment biased against the young

Young families in town and country: exploring the needs of young children and their families, By Peter Fanshawe, Whiting and Birch (for University of Bristol School of Applied Studies) Pounds 9.95, 0 86292 393 X

The needs of young children creep inexorably up the political agenda. It is a more complex field than those not directly involved may appreciate. The actual provision is complicated enough. Nursery schools and classes, council day nurseries, playgroups, private nurseries and childminders provide a bewilderingly different and often erratically distributed service.

Peter Fanshawe's useful survey reviews research in this field, some of which he carried out himself. He piles up evidence to show that our whole way of life is inimical to the needs of young children.

The built environment and public transport are awkward for mothers with prams or buggies. The high rise blocks, now universally condemned, are still around and maroon those living on the higher floors with unreliable lifts and no proper play space. The loss of community and the smaller size of families isolate mothers and damage the quality of their lives and their children's. The "new man" who takes an equal share of child care is elusive and tends to choose the easy tasks when he does appear.

Next year sees a new round of day care reviews under the 1989 Children Act. Perhaps policy makers will use the opportunity to give young children higher priority.

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