Pause is a national charity that works with women who have experienced or are at risk of having children removed from their care. We offer an intensive, trauma informed model of support to women, so the removal of a child should never have to happen more than once. There are currently 30 Pause Practices across the UK and since 2013 Pause Practices have reached around 2,300 women who have had over 7,000 children removed from their care. You can find out more about the experiences of the women who work with Pause and our work in our short animation The difference a relationship makes.
We welcome the Committee’s inquiry into the impact of COVID-19 on parents and families and would be happy to support the inquiry with further written or oral evidence. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic Pause Practices continued to stay connected and support women as much as they could but we know that the pandemic had an impact on women’s relationships and connections to their children, their mental health and their access to digital support.
Two women who work with Pause talked about their experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic in an episode of Pause and Listen, the podcast from Pause: 2020 – a year in review.
The COVID-19 pandemic changed so much about how children and their birth families keep in touch and have contact with each other. The Nuffield Family Justice Observatory commissioned a rapid research review into contact during lockdown. Some of the key findings included:
The changes to contact and relationships with their children during COVID-19 has definitely had an impact on the women that work with, as well as their children and families. It is also something that Pause Practices have supported women a lot with as well. For example, one Pause Practice purchased mobile phones and credit top-up to reduce isolation through lockdown and enable telephone contact with children in the absence of face-to-face contact.
Another Practice has been supporting women with their child contact, re-establishing contact, improving attendance, discussing what makes a quality contact, allowing women to plan for face to face or virtual contact, all whist holding the age and needs of the children in mind.
85% of women who choose to work with have experienced, or are experiencing, mental health issues when they first start working with Pause. Access to the mental health support they need has often been challenging and they haven’t been able to deal with the trauma of losing their children. These issues have been exacerbated and worsened by the COVID19 pandemic.
Digital poverty and the digital divide is a huge issue for many of the women we work with at Pause. Being connected and having the right devices and software to do this, remains essential to support women’s wellbeing, maintain relationships and to access the services and help they need – including access to benefits. Several Pause Practices expressed concerns with remote and hybrid hearings and supporting parents to engage with a hearing that was fully or partially remote. These concerns included accessing the necessary technology when it came to partaking in complex care proceedings, those who have cognitive or hearing impairments unable to engage in phone hearings and no one to provide any pre or post-hearing explanations or support. Pause Practices across the UK are providing women with phones and other devices, supporting them to use online platforms like Zoom, and advocating for them to access the services they need. Digital poverty can lead to already vulnerable women becoming even more marginalised and lost.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a potentially devastating impact on many parents and families across the UK – including parents who have had children removed from their care. Being able to maintain relationships with their children, struggling with their mental health and not having access to technology needed to stay connected has had a huge impact on the women who work with Pause. We call on the Committee to consider these issues, and women who have had their children removed from their care, as we come out of the pandemic.
26 April 2021
 Knowing They’re OK, Pause (2020) https://www.pause.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Pause-Relationships-with-Children-report-DIGITAL.pdf
 Contact during lockdown: how are children and their birth families keeping in touch? Nuffield Family Justice Observatory (2020) nfjo_contact_lockdown_rapid_research_main_report_revised_20200522.pdf (nuffieldfjo.org.uk)
 Remote hearings in the family justice system: a rapid consultation Nuffield Family Justice Observatory (2020)