The Lancet has been very much to the foreground during the Covid 19 pandemic crisis in the UK; asking the difficult questions of policy-makers and pointing to matters that are just not being raised at the daily Government Press Conferences.
In this article, five researchers from University College London shine an unforgiving spotlight on the terrible plight of the youngest children and their families who are experiencing homelessness. This may involve staying with friends, ‘sofa-surfing’, living in shelters or bed and breakfast lodgings. The article states that particular victims may be children aged five and under who may not be actually sleeping ‘on the streets’ but who are especially susceptible to viral infection because of pre-existing conditions such as diabetes, asthma, epilepsy, anxiety and depression. Existing social and economic inequalities will certainly be worsened ; also the ability to access healthcare. COVID 19 has added a whole new level of risk to existing inequalities including:
- Children of age five and under staying in temporary accommodation for extended periods in the absence of applications for permanent accommodation being processed
- Poor hygiene because of minimal access to soap, disinfectant and bathrooms
- No face-to face contact with health professionals and health outreach services
- A curb on routine developmental checks, immunisations,
- No supports for families in parenting difficulty
- No resources to help with breastfeeding
- No resources to shop online; charities and drop-ins now closed
- Increased risks to parental mental health; especially maternal depression which is exacerbated by housing insecurity
- No access to legal support/housing allowances/ immigration enquiries
- Risk factors for safeguarding hugely increased by the additional factors induced by a pandemic.
APPG Report Lead Author Helen Clark said:
The Lancet’ has led the way on much of what needs to be done during this time of National Emergency. It now calls upon the UK Government to act swiftly to protect these vulnerable children; highlighting that fact that housing insecurity and overcrowding will increase the transmission of COVID 19 and blight the lives of the very youngest children from the most disadvantaged group; perhaps irreparably. It is time for the UK Government now to step up and tell us precisely what their package of proposals for children is going to be at this time. They have a once in a lifetime chance to get this right. The failure to do so will have horrific effects, long after the current pandemic is in abeyance.
A CABINET MINISTER FOR CHILDREN MUST NOW BE APPOINTED WITHOUT DELAY.’
Read the full article here.