The Impact Of The Pandemic On New Parents - Happity Blog
Maternal Mental Health

The Impact Of The Pandemic On New Parents

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Last October (2021) the Petitions Committee published a report called: ‘Impact of Covid-19 on new parents: One Year On’. It outlined the additional pressures new parents faced during the pandemic and called for strengthened perinatal mental health services, a return of face-to-face visits for new parents and a review into the funding and affordability of childcare. The government has now issued a formal response to the issues highlighted in this report.

The Closure Of Baby & Toddler Classes

When baby and toddler classes were forced to run online during lockdowns they provided vital support for new parents. But we all missed being able to meet up face to face and it was a lonely time. When lockdown restrictions were lifted the guidance for when and how groups and classes could return face to face was often confusing. Providers were desperate to restart their classes. Parents couldn’t wait to join the classes and find company and friendship. The new report recognises the importance of classes and groups for new parents:

The Government understands the importance of community support groups and parent and child groups and will continue to review the need for guidance for specific groups on operating in a Covid-safe way on a case-by-case basis.

In recognition of the support needed by parents with young children, during the November 2020 national restrictions, the government introduced a gatherings exception for new parents, and excluded under-fives. When national restrictions ended on 2 December 2020, a new exception for parent and child groups was introduced.

The Department for Education continues to update guidance for parent and child groups in Actions for early years and childcare providers during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak—GOV.UK (www.gov.uk). This guidance is for Ofsted registered early years and childcare settings and while some providers will meet in Ofsted registered settings, not all will, and there is no single responsible body with complete oversight of these groups. Parent and child groups are a cross-government policy with different departments having an interest

Impact of Covid-19 on new parents: one year on: Government Response to the Committee’s First Report

Thankfully all lockdown restrictions have now been lifted in England. By the end of March it is expected that remaining restrictions will be lifted in the rest of the UK too. Safety measures, such as wearing face-coverings and isolating if you have Covid will no longer be mandatory, but down to the individual choice, as we all learn to live with Covid-19.

We’re all so glad that baby & toddler classes are back. Even though the road was a long (and often frustrating one) to get here!

More Support For New Parents

The initial report looked in detail at the impact the pandemic had on new parents. It recommended that the government should produce a covid-19 recovery strategy to support new parents. While such a report will not be written, the government has set out a package of support for babies and families, which was announced in the Budget on the 27th October, 2021. This package of measures includes:

£100 million for bespoke mental health support for new and expectant parents, £82 million to expand the network of Family Hubs to a further 75 Local Authorities across England, and £10 million for Local Authorities to trial and test new and innovative recruitment models to train up more staff. Nursery staff will also have access to more high-quality training funded by a separate £153 million investment announced as part of the £1.4 billion education recovery package in Summer 2021.

Impact of Covid-19 on new parents: one year on: Government Response to the Committee’s First Report

They also highlighted the fact that:

GPs are required to offer a 6–8 week maternal postnatal health check for new mothers as an additional appointment to that for the baby. This should include a review of the mother’s mental health and wellbeing, in line with NICE guidance.

The Impact Will Continue To Be Felt By Parents

Chair of the Petitions Committee, Catherine McKinnell MP, is concerned that the impact on parents from the pandemic will continue to be felt, despite these plans for support. She says:

Although most restrictions have now been lifted, the pandemic’s impact will continue to be felt for years to come. Especially by new parents, for whom help was cut off when they most needed it. “The investment in family services in last Autumn’s Spending Review was welcome. But the Government’s failure to provide new catch-up funding for health visiting and parental mental health leaves new parents facing an accumulation of adversity without the support they deserve.

The Government’s failure to make progress on stronger employment protections for new mothers, which it promised in its response to our previous report, is particularly troubling. Its continued refusal to extend parental leave and pay entitlements to all new parents and guardians is equally concerning.

This response is all the more disappointing as it is the second time the Government has turned a blind eye to the impacts we have highlighted. This continued lack of action means new parents’ needs will continue to go unrecognised and unmet, with long-term consequences for their wellbeing and their babies’ health and development.

Chair of the Petitions Committee, Catherine McKinnell MP

You can read the government’s response to the report in full in the First Special Report of Session 2021–22.

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The Impact Of Covid-19 On New Parents: One Year On

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Baby & Toddler Classes: Why They’re Important For New Parents

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