F1001D responds to Ofsted report on rise in neglect and abuse of babies during COVID-19
We are deeply saddened to see reports today about the awful harms suffered by babies during the pandemic. Ofsted reports that the numbers of babies who have suffered serious injury through abuse or neglect during the Covid pandemic is up by a fifth on the same period last year, and eight have died from their injuries.
These are not the only babies who will have suffered harm as a result of the pandemic, sadly they are only the tip of the iceberg. Many other babies will have experienced adversity and emotional trauma during these difficult times.
The harms are undoubtedly a result of the “pressure cooker” of the pandemic, and the enormous additional stresses faced by families. This additional stress was all too predictable, as we have warned since the spring about the impact that the pandemic and lockdown have had on families during this crucial period of their children’s early development.
Some of these harms were preventable. The suffering experienced by babies might have been identified early, prevented or mitigated with professional support. But the pandemic caused a “perfect storm” where vital services and support were withdrawn from many families at a time when they needed it most. The redeployment of health visitors, reduction in contacts with families by many services, and pivot to digital and telephone service delivery – where babies are often invisible – all hampered services’ ability to protect our youngest and most vulnerable citizens.
Many charities, including those in the Movement, have been warning of these harms for more than six months, but little action has been taken. There must be no more delay, Government must act quickly to strengthen vital services that can prevent future harm to babies and support the recovery of all of the families who have already suffered as a result of this pandemic.
We call on Government to:
- take urgent action now to increase the resources available to services, including, but not limited to, health visiting and children’s services, which can play an important role in protecting our babies and young children.
- give local commissioners the resources they need to fund targeted and specialist services – including statutory services and charities, such as parent-infant teams – which can help families to recover from the harms caused by the pandemic.
- commit to learning lessons from the lockdown to inform the restructure of Public Health England and revision of the Healthy Child Programme, recognising the value of high quality health visiting services and the important role they can play in protecting and promoting babies’ health and wellbeing.
- ensure there is joined up action across Government, with clear leadership at the Cabinet table, to ensure that babies are kept safe and receive the nurturing care they need to thrive. Babies’ needs must be kept in mind in future decision making.
Babies’ must not pay the price for measures introduced to protect the health of the wider population. Government must protect all our children – from pregnancy onwards – during this difficult time.