More than half of children in Cumbria experienced an increase in anxious behaviour last year as families dealt with the impact of the pandemic, a new survey has found.
The ‘Cumbria together – have your say’ survey, commissioned by Cumbria County Council in December, revealed the impact of the pandemic and lockdown on family life of those with children aged five years and under.
More than 350 families with young children across the county have shared their experiences of the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns during 2020 in the survey.
Parents shared financial worries and concerns for the social, physical and educational development of their children.
More than half reported an increase in anxious behaviour in their children, with the consequences of the pandemic affecting sleep, confidence and social skills.
Many parents also shared their concerns that their young children were missing a vital development phase they could not get back.
In response, Cumbria County Council has announced a range of initiatives to support families. These include extending the food voucher scheme across Easter; launching a new speech, language and communication initiative this summer and providing online training for parents to enable them to support their child’s emotional development, as well as promoting online support groups for the duration of social restrictions.
The council is expanding the ‘Healthy Families Cumbria Pledge’ to more early years providers to help families stay healthy and happy.
The ‘Healthy Families Cumbria Pledge’ is aimed at ensuring children in Cumbria will have the best possible start in life through a joined-up approach between families and everyone who works with young children.
Once lockdown restrictions are loosened, the council will restart support groups through children’s centres and introduce ‘Child and Family’ hub centres across the county for families to drop in for advice.
Anne Burns, cabinet member for children’s services said: “While the pandemic has been difficult for everyone, the ‘Cumbria together – have your say’ report has given an important voice to families with young children who may be struggling, so we can provide extra support during those vital early years.
“The early years of a child’s life are so important for their development, it is unsurprising, but concerning that so many families feel the pandemic has affected the emotional and social wellbeing of their child.
“I’m pleased that support groups run through children’s centres will be restarting from April 12 and staff in our early years’ settings are being trained to provide additional support to children around the issues that our families told us are important to them.
“I would encourage any family with financial concerns to seek advice through [email protected].”