Lockdown harm to children was preventable and had 'long-lasting and era-defining impacts', ministers told

27 September 2023, 05:23 | Updated: 27 September 2023, 05:29

COVID-19 lockdowns damaged children 'preventably'
COVID-19 lockdowns damaged children 'preventably'. Picture: Alamy

By Kit Heren

The harm caused by the Covid-19 lockdowns to children was preventable, charities will tell the government.

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Children suffered "long-lasting and era-defining impacts” from social distancing, and schools being closed, according to the Children's Rights Organisation, which includes Save the Children, Just for Kids Law and the Children’s Rights Alliance for England.

The group's report, What About The Children?, claims that the government should have taken children's rights into account when making decisions about how to handle Covid. It will be submitted to the Covid inquiry on Wednesday.

The report will find 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 UK decision-makers".

Anne Longfield, former Children's Commissioner, 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.

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Teachers were forced to teach school lessons online virtually from home under coronavirus  restrictions
Teachers were forced to teach school lessons online virtually from home under coronavirus restrictions. Picture: Alamy

“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.”

The number of children who were looking for mental health treatment surged during the pandemic, while a survey of 6,000 parents found that almost half of their children had suffered emotional development problems because of Covid.

The proportion of children able to read, write and do maths to the required standard by the end of primary school also dropped. Meanwhile school absences have also risen considerably since the pandemic.

Dan Paskins, the director of UK impact at Save the Children, said: "The UK’s pandemic policies harmed children and young people, and this report concludes the dramatic impact on their well-being was avoidable.

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“While all children were impacted by the pandemic, those who were already having a tough time were most likely to be failed by government policies.

“Decision-makers had lots of tough choices to make, and this isn’t about blaming individuals, yet the evidence is overwhelmingly clear that lessons need to be learned and better systems put in place to protect children in future crises.”

Louise King, the director of the Children’s Rights Alliance for England, said: "The evidence in our report clearly shows that children suffered during the pandemic because the UK Government failed to adequately consider their rights and interests.

"We need to see action now to mitigate the harm children have already suffered over the last few years, and permanent changes to make sure that mistakes aren’t repeated in the future – changes which place children at the heart of government decision-making."

A Department for Education spokesman said: "Time in school is vital for a child’s education, well-being and future life chances. We know children were amongst those most affected by the pandemic, and we are helping them catch up academically as well as socially.

"We have made £5 billion available to help pupils recover from the impact of the pandemic, including over £1.5 billion for the National Tutoring Programme and 16-19 Tuition Fund, which have supported millions of students to catch up on lost learning."