Skip to main content

New evidence of Covid cost on people sparks calls for action

Figures show significant increase in mental health and domestic abuse referrals and child safeguarding calls

Published by Professional Social Work magazine - 29 April, 2021

Fresh evidence of the toll the pandemic is having on children, adults and families has been highlighted by heads of adult social services and children’s charity the NSPCC.

the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) said its figures suggest a 70 per cent rise in referrals from people experiencing mental ill health since last November.

Early findings from a survey of directors in England also point to a 57 per cent increase in need relating to domestic abuse during the period.

Meanwhile the NSPCC said calls to its helpline rose nearly a quarter in the year to this March. Concerns were mostly about parental mental health, domestic abuse and alcohol and substance misuse.

In his inaugural speech as president of ADASS this week, Stephen Chandler said the focus on failings in care homes during the pandemic had overshadowed a much wider crisis of care.

“What has not been highlighted strongly enough is the disproportionate impact on the poorest and most marginalised in our communities,” he said.

“Covid has shown the impact of a lack of investment, long-term planning and resilience in the social care sector.

“It has shown the lack of value that successive governments have placed on our lives when we are older, disabled or caring for others.”

He urged those in the adult social care to use their “span of experience” to inform the government’s long-promised plans for reform.

He added: “The Prime Minister said as he entered Downing Street that he would ‘fix the crisis in social care once and for all’.

“This is important as it recognises the crisis we face but also recognises it’s not a simple task. We have been told that the government is planning to put into the public domain some initial thinking and plans and I hope in this role to support you in ensuring our voices are heard, our partners voices are heard and the voices of people who need care and support are heard and used to shape that reform – and to ensure it happens.”

Chandler also drew atttention to more than 850 care workers and almost 50 social workers who have lost their lives due to Covid-19.

Meanwhile, Sir Peter Wanless, chief executive of the NSPCC, called on the government to act to provide better support to families in light of the increase in child safeguarding concerns.

“We’ve been hearing first-hand about the immense pressure families have faced during the pandemic and the heavy toll this has taken on children and young people.

“For some children this has included experiencing abuse, bereavement and other harm.”

The charity said nearly half - 47 per cent - of the 85,000 calls to its helpline in the last yer led to a referral.

Further concern was raised this week that young children are losing language learning skills based on feedback from schools and 50,000 four to five-year-olds in England.

It follows warnings by watchdog Ofsted last November of some children showing signs of mental distress during the pandemic with increases in eating disorders and self-harm. It said some younger children were losing basic skills, such as using a knife and fork, and reverting to dummies.

One in six five to 16-year-olds now has a mental health problem compared to one in nine in 2017 according to NHS figures.

The government is pumping an extra £79 million into supporting the mental health of young people after health and social care secretary Matt Hancock said they had been "particularly impacted by disruption" due to the pandemic.

However, England’s Children’s Commissioner has called on ministers to be as bold and ambitious as the post-war Beveridge government in its approach to rebuilding childhood.