New lockdown rules

This lockdown is slightly different from the last, in a number of aspects.

Schools and universities remain open during the lockdown, as are early-years childcare settings. Parents are also allowed to form a childcare bubble with another household for informal childcare, where the child involved is aged 13 or under.

In addition, ‘support groups that have to be delivered in person’ can take place, up to 15 participants, at a place that is not a private home. These can be for mutual aid, therapy or any other form of support. The Government website explains:

  • This includes, but is not limited to, support to victims of crime, people in drug and alcohol recovery, new parents and guardians, people caring for those with long-term or terminal illnesses, or who are vulnerable, people facing issues relating to their sexuality or gender, those who have suffered bereavement, and vulnerable young people, including for them to meet youth workers.
  • Parent and child groups can continue where they provide support to parent and/or child, and children under 5 will not be counted within the 15 person limit – meaning parents and carers can attend such groups in larger numbers.

New parents during lockdown

People who became parents during the first lockdown really struggled with the lack of support, due to decreased contact with family & friends, as well as in-person medical services. But this time round, there is more opportunity for mixing with another individual, and pre-school-age children are not counted. Health minister Nadine Dorries has confirmed, that “a parent can see a friend or family member with their baby or young children.”  (Independent article)

This is the full set of regulations around childcare bubbles.

Child health – global report

A report on child health, looking at weight, height, BMI and other factors across 200 countries and territories, 35 years, and 65m participants, has been published. It’s a fascinating insight into comparative child health across the world, and provides information about what is ‘working’ in the fight to reduce childhood disadvantage.

Poor diets for school-age children are a contributing factor for the height gap seen between the tallest and shortest nations. Healthy weights and heights in childhood and adolescence have lifelong benefits for people’s wellbeing, and it is hoped that the report’s finding will increase initiatives such as free school meals.

You can read a BBC article on the report, and the full report on the NCD RisC website.

Free School Meals government U-Turn

There has been another government change of policy around free school meals, following the campaigning by Marcus Rashford and others. The new winter grant scheme, costing £400m, will be run by local councils, and provide support with food and bills, and cover the expansion of a holiday food and activities programme.

The BBC has an article explaining what has changed, and who is eligible for support. Details of how the scheme will work will be made clear in the coming weeks.

Deaf children impacted in schools

A Guardian newspaper report said that one in four deaf children are being taught by staff wearing face masks in UK schools, despite Department for Education guidance that teachers should not wear masks to teach. Guardian article.

Survey on pregnancy and the criminal justice system

Clinks and Birth Companions want to increase their knowledge of the needs and experiences of pregnant women and those who have given birth in the last two years, who are sentenced to community orders or are being supervised under post-release licence conditions. This includes women whose children may have been removed from their care. As part of this work they want to gain a better understanding of these women’s key needs as identified by the voluntary sector organisations working with them, current challenges in meeting their needs, and how to overcome these.

They have created a short survey, and would be grateful for any voluntary organisations in the criminal justice sector who have time to fill it out. You can find the survey here. They estimate it will take 20 minutes to complete. The closing date is 31 December.

Rise in babies killed during first lockdown

Ofsted has revealed that there was a 20% rise in babies being killed or harmed during the first lockdown, with 64 babies deliberately harmed. 8 of these babies dies, and the Ofsted Chief Inspector believes the rise is due to  a “toxic mix” of isolation, poverty and mental illness, plus the restrictions limiting face-to-face visits by healthcare staff. BBC report.

Catch-up plan for pupils inadequate

Headteachers have said that the national tutoring programme to help children who fell behind while the schools were closed will not help all the children who need it.

The national tutoring programme (NTP), which starts this week, was set up to provide one-to-one and small group tuition to disadvantaged five- to 16-year-olds in state schools in England, as part of the government’s £1bn catch-up scheme. Criticisms of the scheme say that the number of tutors means that only 250,000 children will be able to receive help, out of 1.4m who are estimated to need it. (Guardian article)