Home-Start report shines a light impact of lockdown on young families

Home-Start Royston, Buntingford and South Cambs provides support to families in the area. Picture: A

Home-Start Royston, Buntingford and South Cambs provides support to families in the area. Picture: Andy Aitchison/HomeStartUK - Credit: Archant

Parents using Home-Start Royston, Buntingford and South Cambridgeshire’s family support services have spoken about the impact lockdown has had on them after the results of a national survey were published

Home-Start UK has joined up with Best Beginnings and the Parent-Infant Foundation for the survey which revealed key findings from submissions by more than 5,000 parents that highlight the chronic under resourcing of services for families, the inequalities in babies’ early experiences and its worsening forecast due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The three charities warn that many families with lower incomes, young parents and those from Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities will have been hit hardest by the pandemic.

The results highlight a range of issues facing parents surveyed, revealing the devastating impact on babies as well as their parents, from increased mental health concerns and difficult birthing experiences, to dads and other co-parents being excluded from the pregnancy journey and digital health appointments reported as leaving some women feeling exposed and humiliated.

The ramifications of the lockdown have been detrimental, and could cast a long shadow going forward for parents and babies alike.

One parent who uses our local Home-Start’s support services said: “Lockdown was brutal. My family’s mental and physical health has suffered. Losing all physical support and being unable to get to normal stress relieving activities has been tough. I feel like parents have had an extremely tough time during this crisis – mentally, physically and financially.”

Another said: “Working full-time being a single mum with limited child care has been really difficult.”

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And a third parent said: “Finding it very hard having a new born with no mummy baby groups or support services. There’s no one to easily get advice from on various worries. Being in lockdown with my husband working in room next door has been very difficult. It’s been very stressful and difficult mental health-wise and not the maternity leave I was hoping to enjoy.”

Evidence shows that the first 1,001 days of a child’s life, from pregnancy to age two lay the foundations for a happy and healthy life. Around 2,000 babies are born in the UK every day which means that over 200,000 babies were born between March 23 and July 4 – the most intense period of lockdown.

According to the survey results, almost seven in 10 parents – 68 per cent felt the changes brought about by COVID-19 were affecting their unborn baby, baby or young child – reporting an increase in babies crying, having tantrums and becoming more clingy. The survey results indicated that a change in baby behaviour was twice as likely to be reported amongst those on the lowest incomes, with under 25s particularly affected.

Furthermore, almost seven in 10 parents surveyed said their ability to cope with their pregnancy or baby has been impacted by COVID-19, with nearly 9 in 10 – 87 per cent – parents saying they were more anxious as a result.

The number of parents reporting increased anxiety correlated with those who had a lower household income. Yet only one third of respondents expressed confidence in being able to access mental health support if required.

The pandemic is not affecting all communities equally. Recent research published in the British Medical Journal2 in late May found that pregnant Black women were eight times more likely to be admitted to hospital with coronavirus than pregnant White women, with pregnant Asian women four times more likely.

The charity’s survey also highlighted inequalities between respondents of different ethnicities. Their findings revealed that different communities were not enabled to access services and support equally, with Black and Black British respondents being less likely to visit their GP, use websites or online forums/support groups.

Peter Grigg, chief executive at Home-Start UK, said: “This report exposes how unequal the experiences of parents and babies to COVID-19 have been. There is an urgent need to build back better for all communities.

These proposals for a Baby Boost and Parent Infant Premium represent clear, simple interventions that can be made now to help make sure we avoid a post-COVID lottery in the future. We want to improve the wellbeing of all babies to ensure a happier and successful next generation.”