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A new report recommends that the Government put in place a Covid-19 recovery strategy for new parents, including a review of childcare funding.
The Government urgently needs to publish a dedicated Covid-19 recovery strategy for new parents with clear delivery plans, according to a report by a House of Commons committee.
The Petitions Committee’s report, “Impact of Covid-19 on new parents: one year on”, is based on evidence from campaigners and experts and a survey of 8,700 new parents and childcare providers. The survey found that 77% of new parents said that “the cost of childcare has prevented me from getting the kind of childcare I need” and 93% disagreed that they had been able to access crucial baby and toddler groups over the past 12 months.
The report recommends that the Government should provide additional funding and resources to allow catch-up mental health support for new parents impacted by the pandemic and accelerate planned capacity-building in perinatal mental health services and review monitoring and enforcement activity relating to employers’ health and safety obligations to pregnant women.
Other recommendations include that the Government should fund local authorities to arrange in-person visits to new parents by the appropriate local authority, voluntary organisation or health visiting staff by the end of the year, legislate as soon as possible to introduce the planned extension of redundancy protections for new and expectant mothers and commission a review into the funding and affordability of childcare.
The report follows the Committee’s inquiry last year into the impact of Covid-19 on new parents, after an e-petition – ‘Extend maternity leave by 3 months with pay in light of COVID-19’ – received 238,884 signatures.
The Committee published a report related to the inquiry in July 2020 which found that “the impact of the pandemic on new parents and their children has so far not been given as much attention as it should have been”. The Government did not accept the Committee’s reports recommended actions.
Chair of the Petitions Committee, Catherine McKinnell MP, said: “It is extremely concerning that over a year after the publication of the Committee’s first report on this subject, there has been little or no progress on the overwhelming majority of our recommendations.
“The Government has offered no ‘catch-up’ funding to help new parents access support services disrupted during the pandemic, and no targeted funding to provide extra mental health support specifically for new parents. It has also failed to deliver the extension of redundancy protections for new parents it promised in its response to our report last year.
“Although the Government’s plans for long-term capacity-building in areas such as perinatal mental health and children’s development in the first 1,001 days are positive, these do not go far enough to address the immediate needs of new parents or their children.”
She added that it is clear from the evidence the Committee has received that the impact of the pandemic “is still being felt” by new parents and called for urgent action to put support in place.