Leading children’s rights organisations warn Covid-19 Inquiry risks failing to understand the pandemic’s impact if it doesn’t urgently hear from children.
- Nine months since Covid-19 Inquiry began, not a single child has been able to participate
- Promised listening exercise makes no provision for under 18s
- Charities call on inquiry to immediately hear from children as experts warn “window is closing” on capturing their experiences
- Inquiry’s interim report must be published by fourth anniversary of the pandemic, March 2024, to ensure changes for children are put into place as soon as possible
The UK’s leading children’s rights organisations are today urging the Covid-19 Inquiry to immediately hear from children or the ‘window will close’ to learn lessons from the pandemic.
Save the Children UK, Just for Kids Law and the Children’s Rights Alliance for England have said despite assurances inequalities would be at the heart of the inquiry, nine months into the process there is still no provision to hear from children who lost access to play, seeing their friends and education.
All three organisations are core participants in the Inquiry, which will hold another preliminary hearing into Module 2* on Tuesday June 6.
The three organisations have flagged that the Inquiry’s promised ‘listening exercise’ which they hoped could capture children’s experiences has still not made it clear how children will be included or allowed to participate.
A form on the website for people to formally share their experiences specifically excludes those aged under 18, which potentially denies 14 million children from having their say.
Today (Tuesday 6 June) the organisations are understood to be making the case for a child development expert to be instructed by the Inquiry, that school closures need to be specifically addressed by the Inquiry in Module 2* , and express concern that there are still no answers as to how children will be included or allowed to take part in the public participation section Every Story Matters.
Louise King, Director, Children's Rights Alliance for England and Director of Policy and Campaigns, Just for Kids Law, said: “Children’s brains are developing throughout their earliest years, and they do not remember things the same way as adults. This is why we must hear from children as soon as possible as this delay to recording their experiences is untenable.
"They suffered terribly in the pandemic due to not being able to go to school, meet with friends and play outside. Many didn’t have access to the right technology to learn. For children who were in prison, they had a very restrictive regime which took a real toll on their mental health.
“We are keen for the inquiry to assess whether the government took the impact of children into account when they were making decisions in the pandemic. Without hearing the testimony of children’s first-hand experiences, it will be impossible to learn lessons and mitigate some of the negative impact that the pandemic caused to children.”
Publishing an interim report from the Covid-19 inquiry by the fourth anniversary of the pandemic is also essential, Save the Children has said today. Without that staging post, recommended changes to help children if there is another pandemic could be several years away from being implemented.
Save the Children UK’s Director of UK Impact, Dan Paskins, said: “If we don’t hear from children this summer the window will close. We will miss out on hearing their experiences of lockdown and the opportunity to learn lessons from the decisions made in the pandemic that impacted our youngest in society so heavily.
“As a group of children’s rights organisations we appreciate the enormity of the inquiry and that it has taken some months to get it off the ground yet we were promised that children would be listened to, and nine months on there isn’t even a way of submitting your experience to the inquiry if you’re under 18, let alone speak in person. This situation cannot continue and we risk failing the Covid generation if this isn’t resolved.
“The Chair of the inquiry Baroness Heather Hallet has said addressing inequalities will be at the heart of the inquiry so it therefore essential that when one group have memories that fade fastest, some urgency is put into getting those experiences on record.”
* June 6 preliminary hearing is for Module 2 of the Inquiry, the section that looks into core political and administrative decision making by the UK Government.
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