The experiences of children and their families during the COVID-19 pandemic should be put ‘front and centre’ of any plans to rebuild the country, according to a new paper out today.
The discussion paper by the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) warns the impact of the pandemic on children’s physical, mental and emotional health and wellbeing cannot be underestimated.
It also argues that the pandemic has heightened the challenges many children and families are facing, from poverty and poor-quality housing to access to technology, safe places to play and food and laid bare stark inequalities in our society that cannot be ignored.
And it adds nobody knows how long social distancing measures will be in place or if there will be a second wave of the virus but worrying signs are emerging about the scale of new and escalating need resulting from the pandemic.
The paper says councils also need to consider the robustness of the children’s system as a whole and its capacity to meet the needs of children and families, now and in the future.
It warns it is vital that local and national partners work together for the benefit of children and young people and there is cross government accountability for how policies affect children’s outcomes.
In the paper, the ADCS calls on government to implement the principle recommendation in Sir Michael Marmot’s 2020 review of health inequalities in England, as well as his specific recommendations to address the inequalities children face, including increasing spending on the early years and ensuring the allocation of funding is proportionately higher for more deprived areas.
‘Although COVID-19 appears to pose a lower risk of infection to children and young people, we are concerned about the secondary impacts of the virus on them,’ said ADCS president, Jenny Coles.
‘Surveys undertaken in lockdown highlight increased fear, anxiety and loneliness amongst children and young people and many children have been unable to access support services they rely on. Children are in danger of being the long term victims of the disease, like they have been with austerity.
‘This is why ADCS is calling on government to put children and their outcomes at the core of national recovery planning,’ she added.
‘To achieve a country that works for all children in a post-COVID-19 world, long term strategies to close the gap in terms of education, health and poverty are urgently needed.
‘Just before the pandemic transformed our way of life and laid bare the inequalities in this country, Sir Michael Marmot published a review of the health of the nation which found a deterioration usually only evident following a ‘catastrophic’ economic or political shock, such as the breakup of the Soviet Union.
‘The report suggests austerity is driving rising levels of child poverty and stalling life expectancies outside of London. The key recommendation was the initiation of an ambitious health inequalities strategy, led by the Prime Minister and a Cabinet-level cross-departmental committee. There can be no delay in levelling up the inequalities faced, children’s life chances and all of our futures depend on it.’
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