“No one wants to see my baby” raises concerns that parents are still struggling to access essential services to help them through pregnancy and beyond, with problems including accessing face-to-face medical care, reduced access to health visitors and a lack of accessible community parent and baby groups.
First 1001 Day member organisations Best Beginnings, Home-Start UK and the Parent-Infant Foundation have published a new report about the ongoing impact of COVID-19 on babies and their families.
The report is a follow up from last year’s Babies in Lockdown report, and is based on in-depth follow-up studies with 11 families, a review of the literature and a survey of volunteers and professionals who work with families around the UK.
Findings from the professional survey include:
· Over a quarter (28%) of respondents reported that health visiting routine contacts/checks remain mainly on the phone or online.
· Nearly a third (30%) report that health visitor drop-in clinics that existed before the pandemic no longer operate.
· One in eight (12%) say that baby and toddler groups are no longer running in their area.
The mums who were interviewed raised concerns about the lack of accessible, face-to-face support from services, including health visitors:
“…feel very, very like left out and left behind. And I literally saw them. Like, they weighed him at a couple of weeks old, they said he was fine. And then they said, if you’ve got any other issues, then give us a ring. But as a first-time mom in a pandemic with no other support, how would I know if something was going wrong? Do you know what I mean? I just felt massively let down”
“We’ve not seen anyone, we had a zoom call at the 12 month [health visitor] checkup. Of all my friends I was the only one that actually got a video call which was shocking. They didn’t even get a phone call.”
“Health visitors weren’t coming out. And when you’re ringing, when you’re ringing the GP, when you’re ringing health visitors, and they can’t actually see your child, it’s really difficult.”
They also talk about how difficult it is to access baby and toddler groups given the ongoing restrictions in many places. The flexible, drop-in nature was a key part of what makes groups accessible. “And if you can access a service, it is harder to get into it because it’s first come first serve or it takes three or four days to get onto a waiting list and then everything is so much harder. A lot of times it’s just easier not to do it: not to go to a playgroup, not go to soft play, because you’ve got to book 24 hours in advance and you don’t know what you’re gonna do tomorrow so you end up sitting by the TV or just going to a walk in the park or something instead.”
This report shows that COVID-19 and the measures introduced to control it are still having a significant impact on babies, their families and the services that support them. The UK Government’s recent focus on, and investment in, the first 1001 days through their Best Start for Life vision and funding is very welcome. However, there remains a “baby blindspot” in COV ID-19 recovery efforts and a shortage of funding for voluntary sector organisations and core services like health visiting to offer the level of support required to meet families’ needs.