We are incredibly proud of how hard our NCT volunteers, practitioners and staff have worked to support new families through the pandemic, and continue to as Covid-19 restrictions lift.
Covid-19 has had a huge impact on every aspect of how we live our lives. For many expectant and new parents, experiences of pregnancy, birth and early parenthood have been far from what they expected or would have wished for.
Some parents have reported silver linings, such as more time at home together and a slower pace of life. However, for many, it has been a time of isolation, anxiety and challenge. Parents of babies born from winter 2020/2021 onwards experienced their whole pregnancy under Covid-19 restrictions and lockdowns, affecting the care and support that they have received.
Stripped back health services and community support, restrictions in maternity care and limited access for partners, reduced practical support from family and friends, financial insecurity – these have all combined to leave many parents struggling to cope. In August 2020, the Babies in Lockdown report showed how families most at risk of poor outcomes have suffered the most, widening the inequalities that already exist in early life experiences.
NCT is here to support all parents and Covid-19 meant doing things very differently
NCT volunteers, practitioners and staff have worked extremely hard to continue providing practical and emotional support and evidence-based information to parents by adapting existing services and creating new ways to reach parents and bring them together.
Watch Our year together video here to see what we did in 2019 and 2020, much of it against the backdrop of Covid-19.
We’re so proud of everything we achieved, which includes:
Over one and a half million parents having visited the information centre on our website since the lockdown, accessing regularly updated and evidence-based articles relating to Covid-19 and pregnancy, birth and parenting.
Our free Infant Feeding Support Line has been busy supporting parents to feed their babies, with a greater urgency of need and volume of calls received – providing a safety net in the early days and weeks after birth. Many thousands more have accessed the support of our skilled breastfeeding counsellors in other ways, including through more than 60 community drop-ins that moved online.
Over 84,000 pregnant women and their partners have joined an NCT Antenatal course online, preparing for birth and beyond while building a vital social network for ongoing support. Pregnant women and their partners have described this support as a lifeline, giving them chance to learn, prepare and meet others at a time when other support had been stripped away. It has been heartening to see groups providing ongoing support and meeting in-person as restrictions have eased.
Our NCT branches and volunteers continued to provide free community support across the UK - ranging from online activities to help break the isolation with safe spaces, friendship and fun, through to NCT Walk and Talks in public spaces and trained peer support for women experiencing mental health issues or facing particularly challenging situations.
How we are delivering services as Covid-19 restrictions ease
The social, emotional and practical support provided through our charity's support has been able to materially alleviate the impact of ongoing restrictions for thousands of parents every month since the pandemic began.
Alongside the online support and information we have provided throughout the pandemic, we have always understand the importance of opportunities for parents to come together in-person, where it is safe and practical to do so.
As national restrictions have lifted and guidance has allowed, we have carefully and gradually unlocked our services and activities using a safety-first approach which ensures we keep you, our parents-to-be, your babies and our NCT course leaders, as safe as possible whilst providing the best quality of experience. This has been scrutinised by an external Health & Safety consultancy and is in line with guidance endorsed by Public Health England and the approaches of those delivering health and social care to pregnant women and their babies - The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and The Royal College of Midwives (RCM).
We were able to begin opening up in Autumn 2020, when we launched NCT Walk and Talks - outdoor socially distanced walks for expectant and new parents at a time when many in-person activities and support in local communities was unavailable. In many cases, these were able to run over the winter lockdowns in line with national restrictions and specific exemptions within guidance, and have now supported over 45,000 parents.
In spring 2021, as UK nations began unlocking, we were able to re-open our popular Bumps and Babies groups, Breastfeeding drop-ins and bring parents and babies from our Antenatal courses together in-person, for the first time, postnatally for in-person reunion sessions. All of these have operated successfully with approved safety guidance including social distancing, mask wearing and shorter or individual, pre-booked sessions to reduce the risk of Covid-19 infection.
In May were ran our very first in-person NCT Antenatal course for expectant parents in Jersey, where Covid-19 infection rates were extremely low and social restrictions had relaxed a great deal. To do so we moved the course to a new, Covid-19 secure venue with thorough protocols in place and maintained 2-metre social distancing and wearing masks throughout the course. From July 16th 2021, we’re aiming to re-start in-person antenatal sessions in other nations of the UK, where the legal restrictions, specific guidance, and practical circumstances mean we can run these safely whilst providing a quality experience.
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