COVID-19 has had a profound effect on households with 68% of those surveyed reporting that the mental health of their household has been affected and 58% believing that their children’s wellbeing has been affected, a significant increase of 31% compared to last year.
As expected, households struggled with the challenges of home-schooling with 34% saying they found it difficult to juggle home-schooling with work commitments.
Interestingly, over a quarter of Northern Ireland parents found that more involvement in their children’s education was a positive.
The financial impacts of home-schooling increased in 2021, with 22% saying they had additional costs due to lockdown, up from 8% last year.
More than half of parents (52%) felt the cost of feeding children at home impacted them, which has doubled from 25% last year.
Also, of note is nearly a third (32%) of parents reported that expenditure on laptops/tablets to support home-schooling has had an impact on their household finances compared to 7% in 2020.
65% of parents agreed that that home-schooling and lockdowns had a negative effect on their children’s overall educational performance, and 66% said that their children were less focused on schoolwork.
One of the biggest impacts of home-schooling and lockdowns, according to 88% of parents, was that children missed their friends and social activities.
57% of parents also said that despite this, children enjoyed being at home and spending more time with family.
As a result of the schools being closed for a number of weeks at the start of the year, 46% of parents in Northern Ireland think that a focus should be put on children’s mental health when they return to school in September. 36% of respondents believe that the school calendar should be adjusted to accommodate for missed time during the school year.
While a decision has not been made on the rollout of vaccinations to children, 64% of parents agree vaccinations should be offered to secondary school students, with 42% in agreement that vaccinations should be offered to primary school children.
The biggest concern for parents about their children when in school is the impact of further lockdowns (53%), while 43% are worried about exposure to COVID-19 and the health and safety of their children.
Commenting on this year’s findings, ILCU Head of Communications, Paul Bailey said: ''For the second year in a row, we asked parents how COVID-19 had impacted their family life.
''One third of parents found home schooling and working a struggle, with over two thirds worried about the impact on their children’s overall educational performance.
''While many parents expect their children to return to school in September, they are concerned about the effect of further lockdowns and their child’s exposure to the COVID virus.
''Many households incurred extra costs as a result of home schooling such as buying more food and having to invest in laptops and tablets to support their children’s education.
''Again, I would encourage parents to talk to their local credit union to see how they can help”.