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April 3, 2020

A press release:

  • First survey of its kind reveals children’s concerns about the Coronavirus outbreak, with 58% fearful of family members falling ill and 1 in 4 worried about food shortages.
  • Families are under acute financial pressure, with half worried about food supplies, 17% having to reduce working hours and 12% forced to take unpaid leave so they can manage childcare.
  • Research comes as Save the Children launches The Coronavirus Appeal to support families affected by Covid-19 

As UK households end a second week of living in lockdown, new research from Save the Children finds children’s mental health and wellbeing has become a grave concern for parents.

More than half of parents (56%) are worried about their child’s mental health at a time when schools are closed and contact with friends and family is restricted as a result of social distancing.

In the first poll of its kind, children aged six to 18 said they were most concerned about a family member becoming sick (58%), with their other main worries including food running out (25%), not being able to see friends (46%) and keeping up with school work (20%).  A fifth (20%) of children were also worried about their future now the schools have been shut indefinitely.

An overwhelming 85% of the children surveyed said they were upset about not seeing friends and relatives for the foreseeable future due to the unfolding Coronavirus outbreak.

The poll paints a vivid picture of families living under acute financial pressure. Asked about the biggest practical concerns that came with looking after their families, parents said ensuring they have food supplies (48%), helping children with schoolwork (44%) and money (38%) were the main worries. Other issues included job security (20%) and explaining the situation to their child (19%).

School closures mean parents have found themselves balancing caring for their children, working from home and being a teacher. A quarter (25%) are juggling working from home with childcare duties, while 17% have reduced their working hours to take care of their children. A further 12% of parents have been forced to take unpaid leave to look after their kids, while 1 in 10 have had to leave their jobs completely.

The survey comes as Save the Children launches a fundraising appeal for vulnerable children affected by Coronavirus, as well as a series of initiatives throughout the UK to support those children most in need during this unprecedented time of social and economic upheaval.

The children’s charity announced a new emergency grants programme in the UK to respond to the Covid-19 crisis, which aims to reach thousands of struggling families who are feeling the economic effects of the unfolding situation most acutely.

The programme will make sure families have access to early learning resources, as well as goods like tables and beds, to help build home environments in which children can continue learn and thrive. The programme will also support vulnerable families with gifts in kind and food vouchers, to help them make ends meet.

The charity has also set up a free, online resource hub, The Den, which will provide caregivers with a range of creative resources and activities. Featuring some of the UK’s best-loved celebrities and brands, The Den has been made hand in hand with Save the Children’s early learning experts, who have used their knowledge of what works for children at different ages and stages. Resources available will include ideas for keeping children calm and connected, creative play, fitness and food activities, and a corona-free zone including stories of happiness and hope from children across the world.

Deb Barry, Senior Humanitarian and Leadership Advisor at Save the Children says: “Throughout this challenging time, we’re here to support families by focusing on keeping children safe and healthy, and making sure they can keep learning, no matter what.

“Even before the coronavirus outbreak, four million children lived in poverty in the UK. We can’t let that number rise. Through our emergency programming we will provide those who need it most with essential food vouchers and cash grants to ensure that as many children as possible will be kept out of poverty during these unprecedented times.

“Save the Children has helped children survive and thrive in times of crisis for the past 100 years. Now, we’re calling on the generous British public to donate to our emergency appeal, and help us support children in the UK and around the world who are hardest hit by Coronavirus. Together, we’ll help families through this.”

For further information and to donate to Save the Children’s Coronavirus Appeal please visit:

To access The Den visit:

Study On Link Between Lockdown And MH At Ulster University

April 3, 2020

Psychologists at Ulster University (UU) are researching how measures taken to limit the spread of Covid-19 have been affecting mental health.

They are working with colleagues at the University of Sheffield on the joint study.

It involves a representative sample of 2,000 people across the UK.

Their initial findings suggest levels of anxiety and depressive symptoms rose after “lockdown” measures were introduced on 23 March.

However, the numbers of those who reported experiencing anxiety and depressive symptoms declined in subsequent days.

So far, 30 people of 689 who tested positive for Covid-19 in Northern Ireland have died.

Participants in the psychological survey answered questions about their current circumstances, their understanding of Covid-19, what they were doing to cope and their mental health.

Older respondents were less likely to show increased anxiety or depressive symptoms.

The study suggested that they were more likely to trust their neighbours and feel they belonged in their neighbourhood.

By contrast, younger people and those with children were more likely to show higher rates of anxiety or depressive symptoms.

That was also the case for those living in urban areas, with underlying health conditions or on lower incomes.

Participants said they trusted social media least to get accurate information about the coronavirus, while health professionals were most trusted.

About 30% admitted “increased purchasing” of tinned and dried foods and toilet roll.

‘Nation is well informed’

The study also suggested that the majority of people were following public health advice about how to avoid spreading the virus.

For instance, 95% of respondents said they were washing their hands with soap and water more often.

Over three-quarters (76%) said they believed that “social distancing” would help reduce the risk of infection.

However, relatively few respondents (17%) said they were wearing face masks.

“The overall picture that emerges thus far is of a nation that is well informed about Covid-19, taking appropriate health-related actions and psychologically resilient,” the authors concluded.

The academics involved in the study will contact the participants regularly to see how their experiences and mental health change as the pandemic progresses.

Prof Mark Shevlin, Prof Jamie Murphy and Dr Orla McBride from UU’s School of Psychology are the Northern Ireland-based academics involved.

Other experts have provided reaction to the study’s findings on the Science Media Centre website.

Prof Elaine Fox of the University of Oxford said the survey was “timely” and that it showed there was a “good degree of resilience” in the population.

She said studies of this type were “very important to give us regular snap-shots of what is happening in the population as we move through this crisis”.

Dr Andreas Reif from the Goethe University Frankfurt, though, said that the study was of “limited use”.

“What we see is ‘depressive symptoms’, or worrying, but this is not ‘depression’ – depression usually does not come overnight,” he said.‬

Blind ‘Not Vulnerable Enough’ For Food Deliveries

April 2, 2020

A blind couple struggling to get online food deliveries because they are not considered vulnerable enough are calling on the government to ensure they have access to priority shopping.

Glen and Rowan Graham, from Devon, said they are scared because they cannot drive themselves to the supermarket.

The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) is campaigning to class blind people as vulnerable.

The government said it was “working to identify others who may need support”.

The RNIB said the government’s category of vulnerable people currently only includes those at risk of developing coronavirus.

After receiving an “enormous amount” of inquiries by struggling people, the RNIB launched a petition, which the Grahams, both 49, are supporting.

The petition calls on the government to give the blind priority.


Ms Graham, who is self-isolating due to underlying health conditions, said the situation was “quite frightening” as blind people were being “blocked” from accessing essential goods.

“The trouble is a blind person can’t navigate a supermarket, they can’t go and find the items they want,” she said.

“Long term it’s quite frightening because how will people such as ourselves get shopping, how are you going to feed yourself, how are you going to feed your dogs, your cats? How are you going to do that?”

Mr Graham said isolation “tipped blind people into a vulnerable position or an extremely vulnerable position that they didn’t have before”.

The government said: “Up to 1.5 million people in England have been identified as being the most clinically vulnerable and at higher risk of severe illness if they contract coronavirus.”

It said in a statement it was working with retailers and volunteer groups “to identify others who may still need support in getting essential food supplies”.

Coronavirus: GP Surgery Apology Over ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ Form

April 2, 2020

A GP surgery has apologised after sending a letter asking patients with life-limiting illnesses to complete a “do not resuscitate” form.

A letter, from Llynfi Surgery, Maesteg, asks people to sign to ensure emergency services would not be called if their condition worsened due to coronavirus.

“We will not abandon you.. but we have to be frank and realistic,” it said.

One patient said it left her feeling “worthless”. Cwm Taf health board has issued an apology from the surgery.

The letter says in an “ideal situation” doctors would have had this conversation in person but had written to them due to fears they were carrying the virus and were asymptomatic.

“Completing a DNACPR will have several benefits,” the letter said.

“1/ your GP and more importantly your friends and family will know not to call 999. 2/ scarce ambulance resources can be targeted to the young and fit who have a greater chance.”

According to the Guardian newspaper, the letter was sent to a small number of patients and the staff at the surgery were apologising directly to those who had received it.

Patient Elizabeth John, who has vaginal cancer which spread to her lungs and is incurable, said the letter has caused her family “great distress”.

“With treatment, my cancer can be kept at bay, so I am not ready to dig my grave even though I am a burden on society,” she said.

“This letter made me feel worthless and I felt as if I had been sent a death warrant by the grim reaper.”

But the 61-year-old, who has had the condition for eight years, added: “If there is a choice of a 20-year-old having a ventilator and myself having a ventilator, of course I would give that ventilator to that 20-year-old.”

Cwm Taf said the advice was not a health board recommendation.

“The surgery have been made aware that the letter has caused upset to some of the patients who received it,” a statement said.

“This was not their intent and they apologise for any distress caused. Staff at the surgery are speaking to those patients who received the letter to apologise directly and answer any concerns they may have.”

Ogmore MP Chris Elmore, whose constituency covers Maesteg, said: “There is no getting around it, it is deeply concerning, the contents of this letter.”

“The Welsh Assembly Member for Ogmore, Huw Irranca-Davies, and myself were made aware of it on Monday evening. We were straight on to the health board to find out what had gone on.

“The board then investigated and it wasn’t a standard letter, so the health board spoke directly to the surgery.

“They have now asked the surgery to contact patients who received the letter to apologise and more importantly offer appropriate advice of what actually could happen in the circumstances of their particular health conditions.

“We are very concerned about the stress it has caused.”

Helena Herklots, the Older People’s Commissioner for Wales, said she was “shocked” the letter was even written.

“This is shameful and unacceptable,” she added.  

“Whilst difficult and painful decisions will need to be made in the weeks ahead, these must be taken on a case-by-case basis, through honest discussions between patients, doctors and their families that consider risks and benefits, as well as people’s own wishes.”

George Alagiah On Living With Cancer And Coronavirus

April 1, 2020

BBC newsreader George Alagiah, who is being treated for bowel cancer, has revealed he’s had a mild case of coronavirus.

As a cancer patient, he underwent tests after developing a fever – and a few days later his oncologist rang to say he had tested positive for the virus.

The News at Six on BBC One presenter was first diagnosed with cancer in 2014 but revealed in 2017 that the disease had returned.

“In some ways, I think that those of us living with cancer are stronger because we kind of know what it is like to go into something where the outcomes are uncertain,” he told colleague Sophie Raworth.

Carers Lacking PPE

April 1, 2020

Pat Jones, who cares for adults with learning difficulties in Bridgend, says she and her colleagues have very little personal protective equipment, and are resorting to buying home-made cloth masks.

She is concerned carers may spread the virus to the vulnerable, elderly people they look after, which will increase pressure on the NHS.

Ms Jones said: “At the moment we have two masks between a team of eight.

“They’re surgical, single-use masks so they’re not actually any good – and nobody is using them because nobody wants to be the one that used the mask. That’s all we have, two surgical masks.”

Benefit Changes Leave Disabled People Facing Poverty, Charities Warn

March 31, 2020

Hundreds of thousands of disabled and chronically ill people face poverty after being left out of emergency measures to bolster the benefits system to help claimants cope with the coronavirus crisis, 100 disability charities have warned.

The Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC) said in an open letter to the work and pensions secretary, Thérèse Coffey, that changes introduced last week to raise the weekly rate of universal credit by £20 would not apply to those on legacy benefits.

Many claimants will not receive the increase, worth more than £1,000 a year, because they receive employment and support allowance (ESA), a disability unemployment benefit that pre-dates universal credit, the consortium said.

The DBC includes charities such as Leonard Cheshire Disability, MS Society, Parkinson’s UK, Mind, Macmillan Cancer Support, Age UK, Guide Dogs, Royal British Legion and Terrence Higgins Trust.

The charities have called for measures to protect vulnerable claimants from sudden falls in income, including a definitive commitment from ministers not to apply benefit sanctions, and a repayment holiday on advance loans from the Department for Work and Pensions to see new claimants through the five-week wait for a first universal credit payment.

The DBC warns that disabled people claiming tax credits who lose their jobs over the next few months will be worse off because they will not qualify for income protections promised when universal credit was introduced.

Transitional protection is a temporary top-up payment added to universal credit to offset any benefit losses when claimants are transferred from tax credits – but it is not payable when claimants move because of a change of circumstances, such as job loss.

“Disabled people in work and parents of disabled children stand to lose far more than most people if they lose transitional protection – sometimes amounting to thousands of pounds a year. This will make it even more difficult for them to recover from the economic shock of the next few months,” the letter says.

It also calls on ministers to protect the incomes of disabled people whose benefits are automatically reduced or suspended when they start an appeal against a benefit decision. About 90,000 people are currently awaiting an appeal.

Ella Abraham, the DBC’s campaigns co-chair, said: “These are unprecedented and extremely worrying times for so many people, across all of our organisations we are seeing the detrimental impact this is having on disabled and unwell people’s physical and mental health.

“It is therefore crucial the Department for Work and Pensions implement these changes with immediate effect to ensure people are not pushed further into poverty.”

A DWP spokesperson said: “This government is committed to ensuring that disabled people are supported during these unprecedented times.

“We have increased the standard universal credit allowance, suspended all face-to-face assessments for health- and disability-related benefits and removed the requirement for people to attend jobcentre appointments.

“We will respond fully to the issues raised by the Disability Benefits Consortium in due course.”