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Lords cross-party committee calls for immediate Government action to mitigate the long-term impact of pandemic on parents and families

Wednesday 23 June 2021

The House of Lords cross-party COVID-19 Select Committee has today written to the Minister for Children and Families, Vicky Ford, MP urging the government to outline its actions in response to a range of recommendations made by the Committee.

 

The recommendations have been formulated after hearing evidence of the adverse effects the pandemic has had on various aspects of parent and family life.

During its recent inquiry the Committee heard extremely concerning and harrowing evidence about the impact of lockdown on parents and families; ranging from under development of pre-school children who had not even learnt to crawl due to a lack of living space; more children coming to harm because parents lost access to the formal and informal support they usually rely on; and increased levels of domestic abuse in homes, with more children witnessing this abuse.

Other serious issues highlighted were a predicted increase in the number of at-risk children who may potentially have to go into care; a lack of pre and post-natal support usually provided for new parents; and a lack of support for parents of disabled children which severely affected their mental health and wellbeing. These parents effectively felt abandoned during the pandemic and they and their disabled children suffered debilitating effects to their wellbeing as a result.

The letter sets out several recommendations and urges the Government to:

  • Provide ‘catch up’ Health Visitor appointments (most visits were cancelled during the pandemic) and additional funding for services that support new parents.
  • Provide additional resource to early years providers so they can effectively tackle the additional and more complex needs of pre-school children brought about because of their lack of contact with the outside world during lockdown.
  • Work with Local Authorities to identify and provide immediate and long-term additional funding for Children’s Services to address the effects of the pandemic.
  • Review how services are made available to the parents of disabled children to minimise high levels of service disruption if pandemic restrictions such as social distancing continue to apply in the future.
  • Provide additional long-term funding to address the lack of refuge services for victims of domestic abuse.
  • Modify Universal Credit and free child-care scheme requirements so that childcare costs are met up-front and make flexible working a default option for all advertised jobs.

Baroness Lane-Fox of Soho, Chair of the COVID-19 Committee said:

“There is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a far-reaching impact on all members of society. During this phase of our series of inquiries we heard several distressing pieces of evidence about how the resultant lockdown has affected parents and families on a number of levels; including serious set-backs in the basic development of pre-school children; the potential effects of non-socialisation of babies born within the last 15 months and a devastating lack of support usually provided for the parents of disabled children resulting in damaging consequences to their wellbeing.

“While no-one could have foreseen the far-reaching impact of the pandemic and the resultant lockdown, it is evident that there has been a shocking lack of consideration and policy development to combat the effects of both, especially in regard to pre-school children and continuation of essential social services as we begin to emerge from the pandemic.

“It is essential for the Government to demonstrate the same level of commitment to the youngest children that it has made to school aged children to help them recover from the pandemic. It must also ensure additional funding and support is available so that the ills caused by the pandemic are addressed as soon as possible.

“We urge the Government to act now to address the issues raised in this letter and avoid the potential long-term, adverse impact of the pandemic taking hold in society and continuing to adversely affect children and parents in the future.”

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