Nottingham parents share experiences of lockdown
Parents in Nottingham have shared their experiences of the COVID-19 lockdown as part of a new study which hopes to influence the support given to families in future lockdowns and other emergency situations.
Interviews were carried out by a team of researchers from Nottingham Trent University (NTU) on behalf of Small Steps Big Changes, which works with parents and communities to improve literacy and health outcomes for children aged 0 – 4 years in Aspley, Bulwell, Hyson Green and Arboretum and St Ann’s.
Focusing mainly on these areas of the city, the research explored how families with young children have found life under the COVID-19 lockdown, including how parents think their children have found the experience.
Many of those questioned appreciated the extra time that the Spring lockdown gave them as a family, including the opportunity for older and young siblings to spend more time together. This was especially important for fathers who were able to be more involved with their children. However, children missed seeing extended family, especially grandparents, and this was particularly difficult for people with families living abroad.
Missing friends was a significant issue during lockdown, with parents concerned that being unable to see peers had a detrimental effect on their children. Several spoke about them losing confidence in social situations and becoming clingy even around people they had been used to spending time with.
The study also sought to understand the impact of support service provision and consider which services or service changes have been most helpful during the COVID-19 lockdown, as well as what the ‘ideal’ new normal could look like.
While many families were positive about the continuation of any formal support they had received prior to lockdown, others were impacted by the stopping or alteration of services. This left some with the emergency services as the only option to address health needs which would otherwise be attended to by routine GP or health visitor contact.
For new parents, the pause of face-to-face health visitor services led to increased concerns, with breastfeeding mothers in particular being worried about their babies’ weight.
However, the move to telephone and online appointments was welcomed by some parents, as it meant they could obtain advice without having to find childcare or take several children to the GP with them.
Professor Carrie Paechter, Director of the Nottingham Centre for Children, Young People and Families at NTU, said: “Parents and children have shown great resilience throughout the pandemic. Single parents, working parents, parents for whom English isn’t their first language, they’ve all faced difficulties and found creative ways to cope.
“We heard many positives, such as neighbours getting to know each other and acts of kindness from previously unknown people. However, for the majority of families it was, and continues to be, a time of great worry. Our report makes strong representations to Government, Local Authority and other policy makers to put children’s needs first when considering future policy.”
The report recommends that parents who felt isolated during lockdown should be put in touch with others in their community, especially where English is not their first language, in order to address social and cultural isolation. It is also suggested that future restrictions should include exceptions for supervised outdoor activities for children aged under five years with a focus on social interaction and contact with other children.
Professor Paechter added: “Our findings demonstrate the importance of the formal and informal support that families receive in times of emergency. The experiences of the families we spoke to suggest that the pause of children and family services should be resisted in future emergencies, and those that have not yet been restored should be continued.
“It would also be useful to evaluate the effectiveness of some of the changes, such as telephone or video, as opposed to face-to-face, contact in delivering support to families with children under five years of age, and to explore how the online resources which parents found helpful can be provided in languages other than English.”
Donna Sherratt, Programme Manager, SSBC, said: “SSBC are really pleased to have commissioned this timely research which gives a rich insight to families experiences during COVID-19. The release of the report will support partnership organisations working in health, children’s services and the community to consider responses to COVID-19 as the pandemic continues. We would like to thank all the families who took part in supporting this work and sharing their stories."
Read the Executive Summary of the research.
Notes for editors
About Nottingham Trent University
Nottingham Trent University (NTU) was named University of the Year 2019 in the Guardian University Awards. The award was based on performance and improvement in the Guardian University Guide, retention of students from low-participation areas and attainment of BME students.
NTU was also the Times Higher Education University of the Year 2017, and The Times and Sunday Times Modern University of the Year 2018. These awards recognise NTU for its high levels of student satisfaction, its quality of teaching, its engagement with employers, and its overall student experience.
The university has been rated Gold in the Government’s Teaching Excellence Framework – the highest ranking available.
It is one of the largest UK universities. With nearly 32,000 students and more than 4,000 staff located across four campuses, the University contributes £900m to the UK economy every year. With an international student population of more than 3,000 from around 100 countries, the University prides itself on its global outlook.
The university is passionate about creating opportunities and its extensive outreach programme is designed to enable NTU to be a vehicle for social mobility. NTU is among the UK’s top five recruiters of students from disadvantaged backgrounds and was awarded University of the Year in the UK Social Mobility Awards 2019.
A total of 82% of its graduates go on to graduate entry employment or graduate entry education or training within six months of leaving. Student satisfaction is high: NTU achieved an 87% satisfaction score in the 2020 National Student Survey, above the sector average of 83%.
- Category: Press office; Research; School of Social Sciences