Forgotten Families, a report released today, has found that the lack of clarity and consistency around the visitation of children in care during the pandemic has caused significant harm to mothers and their children.

Forgotten Families is a report based on research from the Stage project, which supports women across the North East and Yorkshire that have been groomed for sexual exploitation.

Many of the women supported by the project have children currently in care and have been unable to see their children throughout lockdown, with contact limited to virtual-only. This is unlike children of separated parents who can move freely between households and spend time with both parents. This means that women and their children are experiencing months of separation during an already difficult time.

The research was conducted with six caseworkers from the Stage project and four women who had their children in care during the pandemic. Despite government guidance stating that face-to-face contact should be prioritised for these families, we have found that this has not been carried out by Local Authorities, causing upset and confusion.

Findings from the report highlight the damaging impact of this lack of face to face contact between mothers and their children. The report found that many women were worried about the damage to their relationship with their child or being judged on their ability to parent virtually. It also found:

  • Damage to the attachment bonds and relationship between mother and child
  • Many women to be excluded as they do not have access to the appropriate technology
  • Women experienced difficulties in connecting or engaging with their children virtually, especially for those with babies, or young or disabled children
  • Created confusion and lack of consistency for children

All of the above have had a devastating emotional impact on the women Stage support and caused confusion and instability in already very challenging times. Our report is calling for the following action to be taken:

  • Consistency across Local Authority areas ensuring that organisations involved with child contact are resourced to carry out Covid-safe contact sessions.
  • Regular face-to-face contact, especially to mothers who are not digitally connected.
  • Improved communication with foster carers and social workers to give the women we support greater control over their situation.
  • Virtual contact should be limited to exceptional circumstances.  

You can read the report in full here.

The Stage project is a partnership which brings together six women’s sector charities  (A Way OutBasisChanging LivesGROWTogether Women and WomenCentre) from across the North East and Yorkshire where there are emerging, live and recent sexual exploitation investigations. The project is funded by Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s “Tampon Tax Fund” until May 2021, and also has a research element which will look at survivor experiences and the impact of support and will be producing a toolkit to enable this approach to be replicated nationally.

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