Changes to Birth Companions’ services in response to COVID-19
Statement on January 2021 Lockdown
As we enter a new year and adjust to another national lockdown, Birth Companions will continue to do everything we can to support pregnant women and new mothers facing disadvantage.
The COVID-19 pandemic has already had a huge impact on so many of those we support. Women are experiencing anxiety, isolation and financial hardship, and issues accessing the services and practical items they need. Many women are living in precarious and inappropriate housing, reliant on food banks and public transport. Digital poverty is entrenching existing inequalities as key services continue to be provided remotely.
We are deeply concerned about the consequences of the new lockdown. While we all understand the need for these restrictions, it is more important than ever that the consequences for those in the most difficult circumstances are fully recognised and responded to.
Throughout the coming months we will maintain our focus on responding to the needs and amplifying the voices of pregnant women and new mothers in prisons and in the community. We will continue to provide our services remotely until further notice, with staff, sessional workers and volunteers supporting women via phone and email. We will offer in-person birth support and visits where this is possible and appropriate, and continue to provide practical items to women including phone credit, taxis, maternity clothing and baby boxes.
Our policy and engagement team will work to ensure that the care of pregnant women, new mothers and babies experiencing multiple disadvantage is given the consideration needed by policymakers and practitioners. Our Lived Experience team will continue to provide invaluable consultation and coproduction services to organisations who recognise the crucial role played by experts through experience.
As we all move forward it will be important to gather ambitious, creative and collaborative solutions to the issues already affecting women, and those that are only just starting to emerge. It is vital that commissioners and funders invest in specialist services to address the already acute and escalating needs. Work done now can and will help mitigate the risks the pandemic poses to the long term futures of women and their children. Birth Companions has a central role to play in this endeavour.
The impact of COVID-19 on women facing multiple disadvantage
We know that people who already experience multiple disadvantages will face significant challenges in the months ahead. Those who are already socially isolated, who rely on food banks and free school meals to help feed themselves and their families, who rely on public transport and who are in precarious housing and employment situations, do not have any buffers to help them weather this storm. For the women we support, these issues come alongside the anxiety and isolation many women from all walks of life experience during pregnancy, birth and the early stages of motherhood. So our work and our support is as important now as it has ever been, albeit in an adapted form.
As well as maintaining communication and offering personalised support throughout this period, we will also be making sure that the voices and needs of women facing multiple disadvantage continue to be heard and considered during these busy and uncertain times.
We will update this page on a regular basis, you can also follow us on social media for updates (links below).
Latest information and guidance relating to COVID-19 can be found at the following sites
Public Health England - General advice and guidelines
Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists - Advice and guidelines for pregnant women
NHS England - General advice and guidelines
World Health Organisation - General advice and guidelines during the COVID-19 outbreak
Unicef Baby Friendly Initiative - Infant feeding advice
Royal College of Midwives - advice and guidance for pregnant women
Doctors of the World - NHS guidance in different languages
Coronavirus and Prisons - Guidance about visiting prisons
Maternity Action - Information on benefits for Parents and Babies
Prisoners Advice Service - free legal advice and support to prisoners in England and Wales regarding their rights