Little girl ‘scared of people’ as charity reveals post-pandemic concerns

A woman has described how her daughter “looks so scared of people”, as a parenting charity has revealed post-pandemic concerns, with many people concerned for their wellbeing.

Home-Start UK has issued a new report, Home Is Where We Start From, which suggests 58% of parents in Scotland are concerned about their own wellbeing or mental health in the year ahead.

It also says 64% of parents north of the border are particularly worried about their children’s social development.

One of those parents is Kristine Rode (pictured with daughter Enija), a mother supported by Home-Start Renfrewshire and Inverclyde, who already recognises how the coronavirus pandemic has affected her children – five-year-old Oliver and 19-month-old Enija.

Ms Rode said: “The day my residency was sorted and I could move into a new flat, just for me and the kids, was the best day in my life. At last I felt like I was in control of my own life.

“The last year had been hard, but from this point I knew it could only get better. My son was so much happier, and seeing how settled he was in our new home made me feel happy I had made the right choice.

“When lockdown came it ruined everything. The groups stopped and home visits from our lovely Home-Start volunteer Jillian were no longer allowed.

“Those first few months being at home with Oliver and Enija were so hard. There were many days I just wanted to be alone.

“Oliver had really started to progress well at nursery and his English was improving. Thankfully during lockdown I managed to keep him at nursery. But for my daughter it was much harder.

“I can really see the impact lockdown has had on her. When we go out now she looks so scared of people. She just freezes and stares – it must seem so unnatural to her.

“For her, everything is new – even the park.

“When Oliver was Enija’s age he’d been to park thousands of times. He’d run around and play with other kids. Enija is not like that at all – she’s not used to being around children.”

As part of the project, Home-Start sent craft and activity packs to help keep families occupied, while Jillian read to Oliver over the phone and helped him to learn his numbers.

The new report also found one in five families (19%) in Scotland are not optimistic about life after lockdown.

Low-income families (under £16,000 per annum) are twice as likely to be pessimistic compared with those earning more (over £30,000 pa).

Meanwhile, 79% said it mattered that the support they received was from a volunteer instead of a professional, with contact from a Home-Start volunteer being the only meaningful conversation some had from week to week during the pandemic.

Christine Carlin, Home-Start’s Scotland director, said: “In Scotland, we have excellent policies built around the child, with a focus on wellbeing and early intervention.

“For many years, across both public and third sectors, we have recognised the importance of getting it right for every child.

“The commitment to incorporate the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child into Scots law, and the powerful vision of change built around The Promise, gives testimony to our wonderful ambitions for all Scotland’s children.

“Sadly, there remains much to be done. Poverty, isolation and loneliness, poor mental health, feature too often in the lives of families in Scotland.

“To get it right for every child, we must begin by getting it right for every family.

“The pandemic has thrown into sharp focus the daily challenges faced by many families every day – struggles that have existed long before Covid-19 but which have been worsened by it.

“Now is the time for us to stand alongside parents, to show them kindness, consideration and respect, and to give them the tools and the confidence to nurture their children so that they can become Scotland’s future successful learners, confident individuals, effective contributors and responsible citizens.”

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