19 January 2021

New report reveals impact of COVID-19 on babies

A new report launched today (19 January) has revealed how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting a generation of babies and has called for a concerted effort from local support systems to come together to improve outcomes for the very youngest in our society.

‘Working for babies: Lockdown lessons from local systems’, commissioned by the First 1001 Days Movement, which CELCIS is a member of, summarises the impact of COVID-19 and the spring 2020 national lockdown on babies and explores how local systems responded to the challenges presented by the pandemic.

The report presents a varied picture across the UK, with evidence that:

  • ‘Hidden harms’ of the spring 2020 national lockdown on 0-2s were broad and significant, and experienced unevenly depending on family circumstances and background
  • Historically inadequate or insecure funding, and a rising tide of need, has inhibited the ability of some services and areas to respond to the coronavirus crisis
  • There were often ‘baby blind-spots’ where babies’ needs were overlooked in policy, planning and funding

The report also draws on a survey of 235 senior leaders of pregnancy and 0-2 services across the UK. The survey findings showed that:

  • Almost all (98%) 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’
  • 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
Commenting on the findings of the report, Claire Burns, Director of CELCIS (Acting), said:
"The findings in this report remind us all of the ongoing impact of the pandemic on the lives of many children, young people and families across the UK. Babies and infants are uniquely vulnerable and, where required, extra support needs to be child-centred, respect rights and able to be innovative, flexible and accessible by listening to what families and professionals tell us they need and works best for them. The opportunity to respond to these findings is a responsibility shared across national and local governments and by all those who work to support the wellbeing of all of our children."

The report will be launched at the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Conception to Age Two, which aims to raise awareness of the importance of the earliest years of life. As part of the launch, the First 1001 Days Movement is calling for governments across the UK to focus on how they can develop the factors raised in the report to ensure that all babies experience the best start in life.

Read the report