Politics

'Some children haven't learnt to crawl': New report reveals impact of pandemic on society

A new report from the House of Lords calls for a "radical reset" the UK state with people's wellbeing placed front and centre.

The impact of the Covid pandemic on society has been laid bare in a new report. Image: Leon Benjamin / Flickr

Some infants didn’t learn to crawl during coronavirus lockdowns due to a lack of floor space at home, a new report on the pandemic has revealed.

The report by the House of Lords Covid-19 committee examined its impact on society and found the pandemic has exacerbated existing inequalities and created “a tidal wave of new policy challenges”.

The study also proposed solutions to address this, including calls for a “wellbeing state” to be established in the wake of the pandemic to tackle the UK’s “devastating” inequalities and build resilience for the crises of the future, including climate change

Committee chair Baroness Lane-Fox said the pandemic has served as a “wake-up call”, revealing that “the cycle of politics does not cope well with long-term problems”.

Health, digital inclusion and the impact of the pandemic on families and children were some of the areas examined by the committee.

The report outlined a risk of the NHS becoming overwhelmed with mental health patients in the coming years, citing evidence from the Centre for Mental Health that 10 million people in England alone will need support as a result of the pandemic over the next three to five years, exceeding current capacity.

It also found digital exclusion has caused problems for many during the pandemic, with poorer families unable to purchase equipment for their children to take part in remote learning and low-income households struggling to access public services that are now digital-first.

The pandemic has had a significant impact on young children and families, the report found, with the committee hearing of infants who had not learnt to crawl during lockdown because of insufficient floor space at home.

Women have also been adversely affected, with mothers taking on the majority of childcare and at-home learning responsibilities, while domestic abuse incidents increased.

One in five women who attempted to leave violent partners during the pandemic were unable to access refuges or housing, evidence submitted to the committee showed.

The committee said all these challenges require a radical shift away from focus on economic growth “as a goal in and of itself”, instead focusing on wellbeing as a primary indicator of social and economic progress to improve outcomes and reduce inequalities.

Life satisfaction was introduced as an economic indicator in the most recent 2021 Budget and Spending Review, but the Covid-19 Committee has called for the Treasury to go even further.

It said the science of wellbeing is now well-developed, making it feasible for the government to use it as a criterion when deciding between policy options.

Other recommendations made by the committee include further devolution of power to local regions, measures to reduce health inequality and a select committee inquiry exploring the use of wellbeing as an economic indicator. 

The committee also stressed a need for policy decisions to be taken with long-term consequences in mind, a goal outlined in the Future Generations Bill being spearheaded by The Big Issue founder John Bird. 

Thriving as a society in the future will not be possible without a new emphasis and focus on governing for the long-term with greater emphasis on wellbeing, the report said.

Baroness Lane-Fox said: “Now is the opportunity for us to reset the state and build it back to be more adaptable, more resilient, more devolved, and more collaborative so we can effectively deal with any disasters, crises or systemic shocks that may occur in the future. Wellbeing and resilience must be at the heart of this reset for it to be successful.”

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