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Publication - Research and analysis

Coronavirus (COVID-19): children, young people and families - evidence summary - December 2020

Summary of Scottish and UK evidence on the impact of COVID-19 on the wellbeing of children and young people.

60 page PDF

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60 page PDF

732.5 kB

Coronavirus (COVID-19): children, young people and families - evidence summary - December 2020
10. Impact on families

60 page PDF

732.5 kB

10. Impact on families

The UNICEF Report discussed in Section 9 describes some of wider evidence about the impact of COVID-19 (and previous epidemics) on families.

Action for Children YouGov poll reveals anxiety about Christmas, particularly for families with low incomes (UK-wide)
Source: Action for Children
Date: 30 November 2020

A representative poll of UK parents conducted by Action for Children finds that some families, particularly those on low incomes, are anxious about Christmas this year. Data derives from a YouGov poll with a sample size of 1,060 parents of children aged 18 and under, and 1,031 children aged 6-15. Parent fieldwork was undertaken between 30th October and 4th November 2020, and with children between 30th October and 5th November 2020. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK parents (aged 18+), and UK children (aged 6-15). Key findings:

  • Although most parents would not choose to cancel Christmas this year (77%), one in six (17%), and over half of children respondents (57%) think their parents will be worried about making it a happy time for their family.
  • There are many families who are in receipt of benefits for the first time. Nearly half (46%) of parents on Universal Credit surveyed are facing their first ever Christmas on the benefit. Of these, 41% wish they could cancel Christmas this year, while more than half (55%) reported plans to delay paying household bills, borrow money or sell belongings to pay for Christmas.
  • The poll reports various mental health impacts of the pandemic. When asked "which of these feelings have you experienced since the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic?" almost half of children respondents (49%) reported anxiety, 38% reported fear (e.g. of getting ill, people dying), a third (33%) reported loneliness and over a quarter (26%) reported anger. This poll does not measure, however, how frequently or whether children are still experiencing these feelings. One in five (22%) parents reported their children having mood swings or panic attacks since the start of the pandemic.
  • The research also included some in-depth interviews and video diaries with families supported by the charity's Emergency Fund. The interviews reported that Coronavirus restrictions continue to impact on increasing living costs, with most families reported cutting back on essentials like food to put fuel in the car, or falling behind with household bills. Nearly every parent interviewed reported new behaviours in their children such as anger and fear, with some children suffering panic attacks. The pressure for many has been increased by the fact they have a new baby, an unwell child, someone in the home with a disability or because they have to shield.

COVID-19: Has the Pandemic Affected Relationships Between Children and their Non-Resident Parents?(UK-Wide)
Source: Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion (CASE), London School of Economics
Date: September 2020

This analysis of data from the Understanding Society COVID-19 survey seeks to understand better the impact of COVID-19 on separated families where children's parents live in different households. Findings are based on data from 'resident parents' with whom children live and who also have a non-resident parent (480 respondents). Questions asked of separated parents with dependent children was included in the June online survey. The Understanding Society series of surveys are drawn from a representative UK sample. The nature of a child's relationship with their non-resident parent can impact on their well-being and outcomes, as can the financial support provided by that parent, as child maintenance. It is therefore important to understand how COVID-19 has affected these relationships. Key findings:

  • Information provided by resident parents (the parent with whom the child lives most of the time) in June 2020 suggests a strong degree of stability in many children's relationships with their non-resident parent. This is measured in terms of the amount of contact they have, changes in the closeness of their relationship and changes in the amount of child maintenance, if any, the non-resident parent has been paying. For example, 73 per cent of resident parents report that relationships between their children and non-resident parent had not changed.
  • There was for some, however, a reduction in contact in the previous four weeks – among the children who were in contact with their non-resident parent at least weekly prior to the pandemic, 31 per cent had been in contact less often during the previous four weeks. In contrast, for some children with less frequent contact with their non-resident parent before, the pandemic period has seen an increase in contact.
  • By June 2020, there were some early – but small – signs that the pandemic may be affecting the child maintenance received by resident parents. Fewer than half (46 per cent) of resident parents with dependent aged children have any arrangement with the non-resident parent to receive child maintenance. Among these, one in eight (12 per cent) said they had received less maintenance in the previous four weeks than they had during the pandemic or no maintenance (87% said it was the same).
  • Those relationships most at risk during the COVID-19 pandemic are those which were of poorer quality beforehand. The resident parents most likely to report a worsening of their child's relationship with their non-resident parent, or less contact, are those who were less close prior to the pandemic. Likewise, child maintenance is most likely to have reduced during the pandemic where children had less contact with their non-resident parent beforehand.

State of the Nation: Understanding Public Attitudes to the Early Years (UK-wide)
Source: The Royal Foundation
Date: 27 November 2020

The Royal Foundation has published findings from a study of public attitudes towards bringing up children aged up to 5 years. A follow up online survey of 1,000 parents of 0-5s in October 2020 found that parental loneliness had increased during the pandemic from 38% before to 63% during it, and there has been a rise in the proportion of parents who feel uncomfortable seeking help for how they are feeling from 18% to 34%. Other key findings of the COVID-19 survey were:

  • Relatively few parents of children aged between 0 and 5 (11%) think that the COVID-19 pandemic will have a negative impact on the development of their child. Parents who do not live with a partner are particularly likely to have these concerns (17% compared with 10% who live with partner).
  • Parents' key concerns relate to the lack of socialisation with other children (88%) and adults (56%) and spending too much time inside (56%).
  • In contrast, 44% think that their child's brain and mind development will be better due to the pandemic, citing increased time spent learning (73%), playing (68%) and talking (65%) with their child. Notably, parents whose working hours have reduced since the start of the pandemic are more likely to think that their child's development will improve than other parents (47% compared with 40%).
  • Two in five parents (37%) think that the COVID-19 pandemic will have a negative impact on their own long-term mental health. Women (40%) and those who have experienced financial difficulties during the pandemic (43%) are particularly likely to report a negative impact.
  • Although increase in loneliness was widespread, it is more apparent in the most deprived areas; these parents are more than twice as likely as those living in the least deprived areas to say they feel lonely often or always (13% compared with 5%).
  • Most parents (63%) report that they have been able to spend more quality time with their child over the period of the COVID-19 pandemic. The vast majority of these parents (83%) say that they are likely to continue to spend more quality time with their child in the future.
  • However, this positive experience is not universal. Parents who have experienced financial difficulties during lockdown or who do not live with a partner are more likely than average to say they have spent less quality time with their child since the start of lockdown (13% and 16% respectively compared with 9% average).
  • During the COVID-19 pandemic, parents were particularly likely to report that they would turn to the NHS website for information they could trust about bringing up their children (47%). The proportion of parents who said they would speak to a medical professional was in line with the nationally representative survey (41%). However, it seems there has been a rise in the proportion who feel uncomfortable seeking help for how they are feeling from 18% before the pandemic to 34% during it.