Parents still struggling to access 'essential' services

Katy Morton
Wednesday, November 10, 2021

According to new research from a group of charities, many routine health visitor checks continue to be over the phone, drop-in clinics are no longer operating in some areas and baby and toddler groups have either stopped running or are hard to access.

The report - 'No one wants to see my baby' - highlights how many 'essential' services during pregnancy and beyond aren't as accessible as they were pre-Covid
The report - 'No one wants to see my baby' - highlights how many 'essential' services during pregnancy and beyond aren't as accessible as they were pre-Covid

The report from the Parent-Infant Foundation, Home-Start UK and parenting charity Best Beginnings, reveals parents are still experiencing problems accessing face-to-face medical care, as well as community baby groups and continue to have reduced contact with health visitors - all of which they say are taking a ‘toll’ on their mental health. 

No-one wants to see my Baby’ - a follow-up to the 2020 ‘Babies in Lockdown’ report - is based upon in-depth interviews with parents and a survey of 224 professionals and volunteers.

More than a quarter (28 per cent) of those surveyed said that health visiting routine checks remain mainly on the phone or online, limiting opportunities to keep babies safe.

One mum said, ‘We’ve not seen anyone. We had a zoom call at the 12 month [health visitor] check-up. 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.’

A total of 30 per cent revealed that health visitor drop-in clinics are no longer operating in their area, while 12 per cent said that baby and toddler groups no longer run anymore in their area.

Where groups are still running, respondents reported that they don’t operate a drop in service and booking systems can make them hard to access. 

The charities behind the report are calling for three actions towards recovery that the Government must implement, they are:

  • To invest in the health visiting service.
  • Take a ‘cautious’ evidence-based approach to remote and phone-based service delivery.
  • Ensure babies, and services supporting them, are at the heart of Covid-19 recovery policy and investment.

'We remain very concerned about the development of young children'

Sally Hogg, head of policy and communications of Parent Infant Foundation, one of the report authors, said, ‘We remain very concerned about the development of young children exposed to the greatest adversity during the pandemic. In the 15 months since our initial research was published, we have seen increasing evidence of the concerning impact of Covid-19 on the most vulnerable children. If services remain remote, many of these babies are invisible and their needs go unaddressed.’

Ben Lewing, assistant director at the Early Intervention Foundation, commented, 'This report powerfully illustrates the longer-term impact on parental mental health and access to support services, and reinforces the role of relationship-based support such as baby and toddler groups and face-to-face contact with health visitors. Our own research on early childhood physical development, to be published shortly, has also shown reduced confidence in participating in physical activity which has the potential for longer-term impact. The challenge is clearly defined; now is the time to use the new Spending Review investment to keep babies clearly in sight.'

Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) spokesperson said, ‘We’re committed to ensuring everyone has the best start in life.

‘The NHS, local authorities and health visitors are working hard to reinstate services to help families get the support they need and the Public Health Grant will continue to ensure investment is made in prevention and frontline services like child health visits.

‘We’re giving £170 million for breastfeeding services, parent and infant mental health support, publication of clear Start for Life offers and trials of innovative workforce models.’

  • The report is available here 

 

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