Many of my constituents have been in touch today about their children, from parents of babies who can't find baby milk, right up to parents of GCSE and A Level candidates worried about the cancellation of exams. Clearly we all want to protect our children from the knock-on effects of COVID-19 as well as the virus itself.
BABY MILK STOCK-PILING
It seems that not only are people stock-piling baby milk for their own baby, there are people out there reselling baby milk online at grossly inflated prices. This is truly appalling.
All of the major baby milk manufacturers have made statements saying that there is NO SHORTAGE OF BABY MILK or interruption of supply, and they have no reason to believe that will change. Supermarkets are being restocked daily and that will continue uninterrupted. So there is NO NEED TO STOCKPILE baby milk, and everyone will be able to access it if we are all sensible about it.
Please do not stockpile this vital item, especially the early stages versions. Doing so makes things especially difficult for low-income parents who cannot find these items at the lower cost supermarkets they depend on.
Here is a link to a Made for Mums page about the supply of baby milk, which includes links to statements from the major manucfacturers: https://www.madeformums.com/baby/formula-milk-shortage-whats-actually-true-and-what-you-can-do/
I have also heard that food banks are running low on everything, including baby milk. If you are donating to a food bank, a can of powdered baby milk might be an especially welcome donation. Food banks also gratefully receive monetary donations - here are some links to local food banks:
The Government announced yesterday that all schools are to close from tomorrow, March 20. Some schools will be kept open to children of key workers and others employed in essential work. There will be guidance on what is considered essential work soon, but we expect it will include employees of grocery stores, delivery drivers, etc.
Schools will also continue to offer provision for some children with additional needs who require the specialist education support they can only get at school. Please speak to your head teacher if you are in this position. For a statement by Ian Dodds and AfC's plans please click here: https://kr.afcinfo.org.uk/local_offer/blog_articles/2631-covid-19-support-for-parents-and-carers-of-children-with-special-educational-needs-disabilities-and-complex-health-conditions
Achieving for Children has special resources available for helping younger and SEN children understand coronavirus, including easy to read and makaton explanations. Check them out here: https://kr.afcinfo.org.uk/pages/local-offer/information-and-advice/covid-19-updates-and-resources/easy-read-and-support-resources-about-covid-19
Youth centres and children's centres will also close from 23 March.
KidsSENDIASS will continue operating and offering support. For a list of other children's voluntary services and their current status, please click here: https://kr.afcinfo.org.uk/pages/local-offer/information-and-advice/covid-19-updates-and-resources/voluntary-and-community-sector-support
Families eligible for free school meals will be offered vouchers from next week to compensate for the meals their children will not be getting at school. These will be distributed through the schools, so please contact your child's school for details.
Many schools in the area have already announced plans to offer online resources to continue your child's education at home. They are advising that you try to recreate the school day for your child in order to maintain a sense of normality and structure for them. So start your 'school day' at the normal time, sit them down at the same place to work, keep a quiet environment while they are working, etc.
National Geographic has some great advice on making the most of your time here: https://www.nationalgeographic.co.uk/science-and-technology/2020/03/how-engage-your-kids-during-coronavirus-isolation
And here is a fun list of ideas of things to do with your children while you are all at home, if you are in need of a little inspiration:
The Government also announced yesterday that all GCSE and A Level exams have been cancelled for this year. They have not provided any details yet about what this means for entry to sixth form colleges and universities, but more information is scheduled to be given later today.
If you have exam year pupils at home, please reassure them that Ofqual and the government are working to ensure that their hard work over the past two years does not go to waste and that everyone receives the recognition and opportunities they deserve. Please wait for further news from the government and your child's school about what educational provision will be offered to secondary school pupils going forward.
STAYING HEALTHY, STAYING IN TOUCH
I can't stress enough how important it is to maintain our hygiene measures every day, and to be alert for symptoms in our families. Please look again at the official NHS advice and be rigorous in your self-isolation if you may have been exposed. Here is the link: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/
Don't forget, my advice about getting out into the outdoors applies to children as well as adults. You can take your child to the park to play as long as you stay two metres away from other people. This may be tricky in your local playground, but it will be easy to keep your distance in the wilds of Ham Lands, the 300 acres of Kew Gardens or the 2500 acres of Richmond Park, the heart of our constituency. With spring officially arriving (finally!) this weekend, get to the parks to enjoy it!
Whether they are self-isolating or just social distancing, I'm sure our teenagers will manage to keep contact with their friends via social media and phone calls. We adults need to remember to do the same ourselves, taking the time to call friends and family to check in and catch up, so we all feel less isolated and alone.
Here is my latest video with advice: https://www.facebook.com/saraholneyld/videos/639821733261365/