Children’s lives put at risk by lockdown laws as parents find it harder to buy car seats

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Despite car seats legally required in cars for babies and toddlers, hundreds of independent specialist shops have been classed as ‘non-essential’ by the Government. This means parents are missing out on important advice and personal one-to-one fittings for the child and the car. Becky Elliot, owner of baby shop Bababoom in Loughton, Essex,  described the classification and ‘ludicrous and potentially life threatening’.

The experienced midwife, 46, has set up a petition – already signed by 6, 177 people – on the official Government website calling for nursery shops to be added to the list of essential retailers.

“On my High St, people can go onto a vape shop and by a coffee at Costa Coffee but cannot make an appointment to come into my Covid-safe shop and buy an absolutely crucial and legally-required car seat to safely drive their child around,” she said.

“It is ludicrous and it means parents are making decisions to buy their car seats online without advice and proper fitting for either the child or the car.

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“Why was it decided that access to vaping or coffee is more important?”

The independent retailers group Bira is backing the campaign pointing out that it is against the law for a newborn to leave hospital without a car seat – a fact recognised in Wales, Italy and Germany, which deem baby equipment stores ‘essential’.

Andrew Goodacre, Bira’s CEO, said: “There seems to be an unfortunate paradox in the guidelines for essential shops where an off-licence is seen as more important than a shop providing essential products  for parents and babies.

“Does this really represent our values in society at the moment? Scotland and Wales have addressed this and we are calling on the English Government to add baby equipment shops to the ‘essential’ list. We need to get our priorities right.”

Upto 70 percent of car seats are not correctly fitted, according to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RSPA).

Rebecca Needham, of the RSPA, said: “It’s unfortunate that face-to-face opportunities to learn about car seats, which are a vital piece of child safety equipment, have been curtailed during lockdown.

“In 2019, eight children aged 15 and under were killed in road accidents in Great Britain when they were passengers in cars.”

Children must normally use a car seat until they are 12 years old or 135 centimetres tall, whichever comes first.

Mike Cherry, chair of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “The lockdown is really tough for the many small businesses which have been forced to close their doors.

“That’s why a comprehensive package of support is needed for those affected, including the expansion of support grants or the introduction of a German-style revenue replacement scheme 

“It’s vital that shut-down retailers and their suppliers are helped through the lockdown so they’re there to be part of the economic recovery when restrictions can ease.” 

Cllr David Renard, economic spokesperson for the Local Government Association said: “These are incredibly challenging times for small businesses and high streets across the country and it is councils who are leading local efforts to support them through this crisis. 

“Councils have distributed more than £11bn to 880,000 small businesses through the previous grant scheme earlier this year.

“This has been a vital lifeline to businesses struggling and worried about the future and councils continue to work hard to distribute new support grants as we enter these new sets of restrictions. 

“Councils continue to work with their businesses and high streets to ensure they can survive this crisis and continue to flourish in the future.”

Comment by Rebecca Needham

IT’S unfortunate that face-to-face opportunities to learn about car seats, which are a vital piece of child safety equipment, have been curtailed during lockdown.

In 2019, eight children aged 15 and under were killed in road accidents in Great Britain when they were passengers in cars.

It’s a legal requirement for a child to travel in an appropriate child restraint until they are 12 years old or 135cm tall – whichever comes first.

There are very few exceptions to this, and hospitals will not usually allow a new baby to leave until a suitable car seat has been presented.

The best way to choose the right car seat for your child is to have a trained fitter try a range of seats in your car.

Usually, we recommend visiting a retailer where this service is offered, to help you select a seat and also to be shown how to fit it properly.

Not all seats fit all cars, and alarmingly up to 70 percent of car seats are thought to be fitted incorrectly.

If a seat is incompatible with your vehicle or fitted incorrectly, or if a child is not fastened in properly or is too big or small for the seat, the seat may not give the full protection it was designed to.

As in-person browsing and demonstrations of car seats are not widely available at present, we recommend that those seeking to buy a new car seat do lots of research online.

Check with car seat or vehicle manufacturers that the seat you wish to purchase is compatible with every car in which it will be used, and watch – and rewatch – video demos to find out how to fit it properly.

We recommend checking that the seat is fitted correctly before every journey and that your child is fastened in properly each time.

We strongly advise that you avoid purchasing second-hand car seats, online or in person, because you cannot be sure whether the seat has been involved in a prior crash, dropped or damaged, and it may not come with the full manual.

  • Rebecca Needham is a road safety officer for England at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.

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