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New and expectant mums face increased mental health risks caused by the Pandemic

NEW report raises concerns as services supporting women and babies come under strain. During and after pregnancy, women have faced greater likelihood of poor mental health during the Pandemic, including:- anxiety, depression, loneliness and suicidal thoughts, according to a new report commissioned by a coalition of leading maternal mental health organisations. Women of colour and women from poorer economic backgrounds are more likely to experience mental health problems during and after pregnancy, according to the research.

The rapid review of evidence commissioned by the Maternal Mental Health Alliance (MMHA), and conducted by Centre for Mental Health, for the 1st time compiles all available evidence into 1 place. This shows that access to crucial services reduced for pregnant women, new mums and babies across the UK, especially during the early stages of the Pandemic. While health and care staff worked hard to deliver safe care, significant gaps emerged. Women also experienced a reduction in informal support from friends, relatives and networks of other women sharing their experiences.

Extra pressures include anxiety about giving birth during lockdown, without partners present, fears of losing jobs, heightened levels of domestic violence, bereavement, worries about catching Covid19, and concern about new infants catching the disease.

The MMHA, a network of over 100 national organisations, together with lived experience champions and clinicians, is calling on Ministers to fill the pre-Covid gaps in specialist perinatal mental health. In addition, the wider system surrounding these services, including:- health visiting and maternity, needs to be protected and enhanced. Furthermore, up to date monitoring and research of maternal mental healthcare should be commissioned. It also says that without sustained funding, many Voluntary and Community Services will not survive, despite the increased demand from women for their services.

Luciana Berger, Chair of the Maternal Mental Health Alliance (MMHA) said:- "Today's report should serve as an ear splitting warning siren about the dangers to women's maternal mental health and potential risks to the wellbeing of their babies. The Pandemic has placed additional challenges on new and expectant mums getting the care and support they need, taking many already stretched services to the point of breaking. Women of colour and women from disadvantaged backgrounds have been particularly impacted, and Ministers must address this injustice with urgency."

Sarah Hughes, Chief Executive of Centre for Mental Health, which carried out the research, said:- "The Covid19 Pandemic has been a mental health challenge across society, but it has not affected everyone equally. It has placed especial pressure on women during pregnancy and after they've given birth. And it has made inequalities that were always there in plain sight even more pronounced. We need to take this opportunity to review and reframe what support women should expect for their mental health during the perinatal period, and to make sure that we prepare for any future crisis to avoid another loss of support at a crucial time in people's lives."

Aleema Shivji, Comic Relief Executive Director for Impact and Investment said:- "The Pandemic has put an unprecedented strain on the nation's mental health and it is sadly no surprise that, as this report proves, pregnant women and new Mums who face enormous challenges, have sadly been worst affected. It's clear that more work is needed urgently to help tackle the shame and stigma attached to maternal mental health for mums to feel recognised, supported and able to ask for help. At Comic Relief we have prioritised funding mental health services for over 25 years, but it is clear this is still needed now more than ever."

Today's report Maternal mental health during a Pandemic was commissioned by the Maternal Mental Health Alliance and conducted by Centre for Mental Health, and covers all 4 parts of the UK.

Liverpool makes landmark pledge to protect all of its parks

LIVERPOOL City Council has announced that all of the City's parks are to be protected forever. The City's Acting Mayor, Councillor Wendy Simon, is set to make the plans official, at Cabinet, Friday, 19 March 2021, which will see the protection of 100 much loved parks and green spaces, totalling 1,039 hectares.

Chrisie Byrne, Chair of Liverpool Parks Friends Forum which represents every park friends group in Liverpool, said:- "We are extremely proud to have been part of this historic moment in the history of Liverpool's parks, working alongside Liverpool City Council and Fields in trust. We look forward to working in partnership now and in the near future when our fantastic and diverse parks will be secured and protected in a deed of dedication in perpetuity for us and future generations to enjoy. Parks have played a huge role in people's lives for generations before us and never more so than during this Pandemic we all have had to face, so now we can carry on enjoying them knowing they are safe. Never before has any City Council in the UK secured 100% of its parks this way, and we hope that other cities follow Liverpool's lead to protect theirs for their communities. We would like to thank Liverpool City Council, Fields In Trust and Ian Byrne MP who have all helped us to bring this to fruition."

In a unique partnership with the charity Fields in Trust, Liverpool City Council will become the 1st Local Authority to adopt this vision, ensuring that the outdoor areas will not be built on or sold off, safeguarding them and ensuring a tangible legacy for local communities.

Liverpool's Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Highways, Councillor Sharon Connor, said:- "We are the 1st Local Authority in the country to make a promise on this scale, and it's a real statement of intent highlighting how committed we are to protecting green spaces in the City. There are a huge number of benefits to working in partnership with Fields In Trust, but at the heart of it, we can ensure all our residents have access to our parks and in doing so improve health and wellbeing across the City."

The landmark decision will also outline the ambition that every resident will live no more than a ten-minute walk from a high quality green space; this could be a beautiful park, a smaller neighbourhood green space, football pitches or play area. Any location that enables people to exercise, play or simply relax and unwind. The announcement forms part of The Great Outdoors pledge, 1 of 10 promises made by the City Council to build a better, brighter future for all.

Fields in Trust Chair of Trustees, Jo Barnett said:- "Through the Pandemic we've realised just how valuable parks and green spaces are to our health and wellbeing, yet across the UK only 6% of parks are protected and access to them is not equitable. We welcome this pioneering commitment by Liverpool City Council to recognise the proven physical and mental health benefits of local parks. These are valuable places; places where we can all move, breathe, run and play. We need to champion and support these precious spaces by protecting them for future generations to enjoy. Because once lost, they are lost forever."

Through partnership work, it will secure the future of dozens of much loved parks and green spaces across the City in a phased approach which aims to be completed by the end of 2023. For the 1st phase, Fields In Trust has carried out at a thorough strategic review which has identified the spaces which have the most potential to improve physical and mental wellbeing. As a result, 20 areas; which equates to 60% of the City's green space; will be protected in the 1st 12 months. And, by the end of the process, more than 1,000 hectares of land will be protected. Liverpool City Council will retain ownership of the green spaces and will continue to be responsible for the maintenance of all the parks.

Liverpool's Acting Mayor, Councillor Wendy Simon, said:- "Liverpool is blessed to have so many stunning green spaces, and this new initiative means we can ensure everyone has access to free, local outdoor spaces for sport, play and recreation, forever. The health, wellbeing and community benefits these locations deliver are priceless, demonstrated so clearly during this Pandemic where they have become such a central and important part of our lives. And the benefits aren't just health related. Access to green spaces improves our neighbourhoods, tackles climate change, supports education and economic growth and they frequently become the stage on which we host many of our hugely popular cultural celebrations. Our partnership with Fields In Trust is a ground breaking, forward thinking approach to protecting our parks and green spaces and we look forward to working with them to secure the future of these vital assets."

The importance of parks and green spaces has never been highlighted more than in the past year, when they have become an essential place to exercise, relax and reflect. They have, for many people, been a safe place to meet loved ones and connect with friends and neighbours; they will continue to play an important role in the City's recovery from the Coronavirus Pandemic.

Fields in Trust's evaluation of Liverpool's green space shows that there is around 25.3 square metres per person, around a quarter of the size of a 6 yard box, on a football pitch. Yet only 4 hectares of Liverpool's parks are currently protected leaving them vulnerable to loss or building development. This new commitment will protect green spaces in every 1 of Liverpool's 30 wards which will remain as green spaces forever. This is vital when 16% of people, in Liverpool, have no access to a private or shared garden. (Source: ONS)

With the population of Liverpool set to increase by 10.3% over the next 20 years, any future loss of parks and green spaces would disproportionately impact the most disadvantaged and underrepresented communities, who would be missing out on these health benefits, as well as opportunities to get out into nature, have a kick about and connect with their neighbours.

In championing the UK's green spaces Fields in Trust is calling on other Local Authorities to follow Liverpool's lead, and legally protect parks and green spaces for good, ensuring the health and happiness of future generations. To read more about Liverpool's 10 Pandemic pledges, visit the website.


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