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Sharp rise in child development issues in wake of covid

PUBLISHED

Families are being ‘left without the support they need’, as overstretched services struggle to handle ‘a significant and growing minority’ of children not developing as expected.

Figures published by the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities earlier this month show 79.6% of children who received a two-to-two-and-a-half year review with an ages and stages questionnaire during quarter three of 2021-22 met the expected level in all five areas of development measured.

The five areas assessed by the screening questionnaire are communication skills, gross motor skills, fine motor skills, problem solving, and personal-social. A lower-than-expected score in any of the five areas will likely mean some sort of intervention, which may include further monitoring from health visitors or referral to a specialist service. However, health visitor numbers are declining. ber 2015.

Alison Morton, Institute of Health Visiting executive director, said: “The latest national child development data highlight a worrying picture with fewer children at or above the expected level of development at two-to-two-and-a-half years. While the majority of children are developing as expected, a significant and growing minority are not.

“The pandemic and its impacts are not over. In many areas, despite health visitors’ best efforts, they are now struggling to meet growing levels of need and vulnerability and a backlog of children who need support. In our survey, health visitors reported soaring rates of domestic abuse, mental health problems, child behaviour and development problems, poverty, and child safeguarding.

“In addition, onward referral services like speech and language therapy, and mental health services, also have long waiting lists and families are left without the support that they need.”

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Source: HSJ, 16 May 2022

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