The Baby Blind-spot: First 1001 Days report shows babies’ needs overlooked in COVID response

19 January 2021

Sweet Indian baby being held in his father's arms on white blanket.

A report released by the First 1001 Days Movement today found that the “hidden harms” of the Spring lockdown on 0-2s were broad and significant, and experienced unevenly depending on family circumstances and background.  The Working for Babies report was written by First 1001 Days partners Isos Partnership.  It examined the response of local services across the UK and draws together important learning for providing effective services to babies and families during a crisis.

The research highlights the importance of factors which have been known for a long time to be important in supporting 0-2s: clear and committed leadership; mature and strong local partnerships; and professionals who are connected to each other and to their communities and empowered to meet families’ needs. 

As the secretariat to the First 1001 Days Movement, the Parent-Infant Foundation is joining the call for governments across the UK to focus on how they can develop these important factors, and to consider ensuring all babies live in a ‘baby-positive’ local system.

The report also details a survey of 0-2s service providers which found that:

·       Almost all (98%) of the survey respondents said babies their organisation works with had been impacted by parental anxiety, stress or depression which was affecting bonding and responsive care. 

·       78% of respondents were clear that the government in their nation had not done enough for the under 2s, creating this “baby blind-spot”. One survey respondent, a Parent Infant Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist said: “I’m not sure there was any thinking about babies’ needs. We heard a lot about school age children and parents working from home but little about babies’ needs.”

·       The majority (80%) said that some babies they work with had experienced increased exposure to domestic conflict, child abuse or neglect, with 29% saying many babies they work with had been impacted. 

·       Services supporting families in the first 1001 days were significantly depleted during the national Spring lockdown, with almost one fifth (18%) ceasing to provide any support at all and the majority scaling back their offer.

·       Some organisations and systems reacted and adapted positively to the pandemic. The report introduces the concept of “baby-positive” local responses – a set of actions and activities which were generally associated with local systems that understand and responded effectively to babies’ needs.

·       Professionals working with babies have been hugely tested by the crisis and many have gone the extra mile, with lots making significant strides during the crisis in areas such as use of technology and partnership work.

Sally Hogg, Head of Policy and Campaigning at the Parent-Infant Foundation and Coordinator of the First 1001 Days Movement said:

“There is a strong moral, social and economic case for ensuring local services and systems work effectively to support babies and their families during the formative 1001 days stage, and with the onset of a global pandemic this has become even more crucial.

“We launch this report during another national lockdown and are calling on local and national decision makers to take seriously the risks to babies, and the risks to the professionals and services that support them. 

“We hope that Andrea Leadsom’s Early Years Healthy Development Review, due imminently, will contain clear recommendations that the UK Government adopt in order to create joined-up local support for babies and their families. Later this year, the Chancellor will set out a three-year spending plan. These are important opportunities to improve and invest in systems that support the first 1001 days. They must be grasped. Now, more than ever, babies cannot wait.”

The full report ‘Working for babies: Lockdown lessons from local systems’ can be found here: 

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