Born in Bradford landmark study reveals heartbreaking insight into the impact of lockdown

A survey of 2,000 families in Bradford has revealed worsening health for people since lockdown - and how the furlough scheme has pushed those on the lowest incomes into further financial difficulties.

More than 2,000 families across Bradford were questioned, as part of the city’s landmark Born in Bradford (BiB) programme, and results revealed a heartbreaking insight into the impact of lockdown on people's lives.

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Results found one in five mothers had clinically significant depression and one in six had clinically significant anxiety with concerns about the mental health of their children also common.

Pictured, mother Salma Nawaz (central), with her children Adam, Umar and Haris Nawaz. During lockdown, with three children at home, lockdown has been difficult for Salma. Photo credit: Ian Beesley and Born in Bradford.

While one in three mothers said they were lonely some of the time, and one in 10 said they were lonely most or all of the time.

Dr Josie Dickerson, the acting director for Born in Bradford, told The Yorkshire Post: "We were especially concerned with results concerning mental health. We know that it’s increased from before lockdown to during lockdown... there has been a big jump in the number of people who have been suffering from anxiety and depression.

"We really want to understand the impacts of that and we think that the loneliness, and being isolated and having financial stress, are two of the biggest risk factors to causing increases in depression and anxiety."

For Salma Nawaz, from Bradford, after the birth of her youngest child five years ago, she suffered from post-natal depression. She had a year of counselling, and has since managed her condition by going on walks, and finding time to be by herself. During lockdown, with three children at home, that wasn't possible.

Pictured, Dr Josie Dickerson, the acting director for Born in Bradford. Photo credit: Born in Bradford.

She said: "It reminded me of when I had depression and at times I felt that I wasn't in control of the situation. There was too much noise, I couldn't think. I was worried that I would go back to the old me, the old me when I couldn't even change a nappy - it would be like climbing a hill, the anxiety of doing anything was overwhelming.

"I fear for my mental wellbeing if there's another lockdown. Even now I feel a lot more moved and worried about how people around us are managing, telling the children to be thankful and to value what you have."

Financial worries were also common, in the results published ten days ago, as one in 10 said their food didn't last and they couldn't afford to buy more, so they were eating less or skipping meals entirely.

One in 10 said they had real concerns about being evicted or having their home repossessed and one in three said they were worse off and 37 per cent said they were worried about the job security of the main earner.

Susan Hinchcliffe has been leader of Bradford Council since 2016

Despite Rishi Sunak's recent announcement on the expansion of the job support scheme to protect companies and workers forced to close during coronavirus lockdowns this winter, which will support eligible businesses by paying two-thirds of each employee’s salary – 67 per cent – up to a maximum of £2,100 a month, Dr Dickerson, stressed the previous scheme covering 80 per cent had already put many families in the city in a vulnerable position, with fears this would worsen.

Dr Dickenson said: "Everyone assumed that furlough as a scheme would be there to protect families - while they were not able to work but actually when you take 20 per cent off someone who is working minimum wage, or people who are self employed like taxi drivers... the furlough scheme of 80 per cent is taking away a big chunk of their wages.

"That is covering all of their bills or all of their families food shop which means they just literally have not got enough money. For people that were managing are suddenly being thrown into real financial insecurity and that is a big worry for us.

"When you are on a minimum wage - you need all of your wage to be able to survive, and I think that is what a lot of our families tell us - they were just about keeping their heads above water before all this started - working really hard.

"These are families that work in challenging jobs and do their best to provide for their families - but you take away any of that wage and there is not enough to provide the bills and the food for their families. And I think that is what our research has highlighted as a key concern."

Coun Susan Hinchcliffe, leader of Bradford Council, said more financial help was needed from the Government so that people in the district felt "more secure".

She said: "The results present a stark picture about how COVID-19 has affected some of the families in our district. It’s a reminder that the pandemic affects more than just people’s physical health.

"It is also about putting food on the table, having money to pay the bills and a decent job, not to mention the toll the pandemic and lockdown takes on mental health."

She added: "We need more financial help from the Government so that people in our district feel more secure."

One of the initiatives in Bradford which has been helping young families with a focus on pregnant mothers and young children, during coronavirus is the National Lottery funded programme Better Start Bradford, which runs more than 20 projects in the areas of Little Horton, Bradford Moor, Bowling and Barkerend.

The organisation has had to adapt its programmes to virtual delivery including working with the Bradford Hospital Trust midwifery services to provide virtual antenatal care to women across Bradford.

Alex Spragg, the programme director for Better start Bradford, stressed the need to expand the current programmes due to the chronic health inequalities that exist within Bradford.

She said: "We recognise that a lot of issues that have come out of the Born in Bradford report - impact on the families ability to be able to give their children the best start in life.

"We are very concerned about the financial implications for the families - and we know that has a huge knock-on effect in terms of both physical and mental health.

“The organisation only works in three wards of Bradford... opportunities for some of the projects and some of the interventions that we are developing to be working elsewhere across the district would be welcomed."

Coun Hinchcliffe said Bradford Council had launched initiatives across the city to aid the most vulnerable including delivering food parcels across the district and increasing online counselling through services such as KOOTH and Mind.

Coun Hinchcliffe added: "We know that there will be much more to do over the coming months. The outcomes of the survey will help us plan a more focused response with our partners so that we get the right support in the right areas. But we cannot do this on our own... we also need everyone in our district to support one another, look out for each other to help keep one another safe.

"Following the government’s guidance and remembering Hands, Face, Space is an important way of protecting our families and loved ones. We want to remind people too that if they do need support with their mental health and wellbeing, that health services in our district are #StillHereToHelp."

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Thank you

James Mitchinson