Support for pregnant women and new mothers close to breaking point, charity says

Support for expectant and new mothers needs an “urgent review”, a leading children’s charity has said.

NSPCC said that the Covid-19 pandemic has pushed the support network for pregnant mothers and those who have recently had babies close to “breaking point”.

It said that “repeated” public health cuts and declining numbers of health visitors had already left the system “struggling”.

The Government should build a workforce strong enough to ensure that all families receive consistent care, it said, adding that a generation of children could be “failed” before they are even born.

The comments come after a new poll revealed that almost seven in 10 found their ability to cope with their pregnancy or baby had been impacted as a result of Covid-19.

Many expressed a rise in anxiety, according to Best Beginnings, Home-Start UK and Parent-Infant Foundation which conducted the survey on 5,474 expectant mothers, new parents and parents of toddlers across the UK.

Polling also found that only a third said they would be able to access mental health support if required.

And 68% felt the changes brought about by pandemic were affecting their unborn baby, baby or young child – reporting an increase in babies crying, having tantrums and becoming more clingy during this time.

The charities called for the Government to provide a boost so that local services can better support parents on the ground.

They warned that without action, the “post-Covid-19 lottery” will worsen pre-existing inequalities in the UK.

Commenting on the poll, Alana Ryan, senior policy and public affairs officer at the NSPCC, said: “This report is the latest in a long line of evidence that shows early years support needs urgent review.

“For too long repeated cuts to public health funding and a significant decline in NHS health visitors has meant the system is struggling to provide the necessary support for pregnant and new mothers, and the pandemic has taken it one step closer to breaking point.

“To avoid failing a generation of children before they’re born we need the Government to prioritise rebuilding a workforce to ensure all families receive consistent care, through the Healthy Child Programme. We want to see all mums and babies, wherever they call home, get the help they need during this critical period and beyond.”

Alison Baum (pictured), chief executive and founder of Best Beginnings, said: “Without the support from loved ones and sufficient pre and postnatal care, many parents felt isolated and anxious. We must ensure that parents of all backgrounds receive the support they need, so they can look after themselves and have the knowledge, confidence and support to be able to give their children the best start in life.”

Peter Grigg, chief executive at Home-Start, added: “Simple interventions that can be made now to help make sure we avoid a post-Covid-19 lottery in the future. We want to improve the wellbeing of all babies to ensure a happier and successful next generation.”

Beckie Lang, chief executive at Parent-Infant Foundation, added: ”Around 200,000 babies were born during the height of the lockdown, with many more just before and since. It is time for national leadership and a rescue, recovery and repair plan for the nation’s youngest children if we are to create a better, more equitable society in which more children can thrive. The opportunity to act is now.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “The coronavirus pandemic has had huge impacts on our lives – especially for new parents.

“We are determined to address the long-standing inequalities that exist in many areas, be they in access, outcomes or people’s experience of their local health service.”

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