COVID-19: PM's letter praising families for efforts during pandemic criticised as 'kick in the teeth'

·2-min read

An open letter from the prime minister praising families' efforts through the pandemic has been criticised as a "kick in the teeth".

Rosh Rooney, from Greater Manchester, says families have felt "forgotten" during the pandemic, especially those whose children have additional needs.

She told Sky News she worries every day about getting a call from her children's school or nursery, telling her that they have to stay home because of a COVID-19 case.

"My children, Sophie and Ethan, are aged four and three, are on the autistic spectrum, and both have additional learning and development needs," Ms Rooney told Sky News.

"Their school and nursery are still open for them, but I wake up every day anxious and worrying about getting a call that they have to stay at home because they have a COVID case amongst the children or staff."

She continued: "Any time away from specialist support means my children can quickly regress. For example, we're having to reteach my daughter Sophie how to use a spoon.

"So, what use is a letter? We need support.

"Mums and dads are doing the best they can, they are meant to be able to fix things.

"But no parent at the moment can fix things."

Boris Johnson's open letter to families, posted on social media, praised their efforts to tackle the challenges arising from the pandemic.

He wrote: "I'm particularly in awe of the way, parents, carers and guardians of children have risen to the unique challenges with which you have been faced."

The prime minister outlined the government's support, including the provision of laptops, as well as investment in educational "catch-up" services for when children go back to school.

Schools in England will not begin going back until 8 March at the earliest.

Helen Barnard, from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, told Sky News that words were not sufficient.

"It's good to see the PM acknowledge how tough it's been for parents, but we need warm words backed up by action," she said.

"We've seen mental health problems and the learning divide increase.

"We are going to see families paying for that for 20, 30 years to come."