The harm caused to children by lockdown was preventable, leading charities and experts will tell the Government in a damning report. The Telegraph has more.
The Children’s Rights Organisations alliance says social distancing and the closure of schools and playgrounds during the Covid pandemic had “long-lasting and era-defining impacts”.
The group, which includes Save the Children, Just for Kids Law and the Children’s Rights Alliance for England, was established to give written evidence to the Covid Inquiry.
Its report, entitled ‘What About The Children?’, argues that harm could have been avoided if ministers had considered children’s rights when making decisions on how to limit the spread of the virus.
It will be submitted to the inquiry – which resumes evidence hearings next week, scrutinising Government decision-making and the response to the pandemic – on Wednesday.
Its headline finding is that the “worst impacts of the pandemic for children could have been prevented if their voices were heard and if children’s rights were considered by U.K. decision-makers”.
Anne Longfield, who was Children’s Commissioner for the first year of the pandemic and is backing the paper, said: “This report sets out in very stark terms how children were frequently at the back of the queue when the Government made its biggest decisions about lockdown and reopening the economy.
“Three years on, and many children and families are paying the price for the mistakes that were made. So many of the long-term problems arising from Covid could have been alleviated, or even prevented altogether, had the interests of children been made a top priority by the Government. This must never happen again.”
During the pandemic, the number of young people seeking help for mental health problems surged, jumping from 12.1% of children in 2017 to 17.8% last year.
Last month, a survey of more than 6,000 parents in England found that lockdown had damaged the emotional development of almost half of children.
Meanwhile, the proportion of pupils meeting the expected standard in reading, writing and maths by the end of primary school fell from 65% in 2018-19 to 59% in 2022-23.
The report says that, had schools been deemed essential infrastructure – putting them on a par with hospitals and public transport, which remained open during Covid – children may not have suffered harms such as loss of learning, child abuse and high risk of poor mental health.
It adds that early years experts were “particularly concerned” about children’s speech and language development, with some noticing delays in babies’ physical development after the closure of nurseries.