Uh oh, you are using an old web browser that we no longer support. Some of this website's features may not work correctly because of this. Learn about updating to a more modern browser here.

Skip To Content

Our Covid-19 Inquiry report

The pandemic was a deeply frightening time for society. Lives were turned upside down, our normal ways of existence vanished and the virus took the lives of loved ones before their time. For children the experience was traumatic – and we must not shy away from stating this boldly as politicians and decision makers begin to give evidence at Module 2 of the Covid-19 Inquiry.

So today we release a new report, What About The Children? in partnership with the Children’s Rights Alliance for England and Just for Kids Law, and backed by former Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield. Our conclusion is that the loss of children’s freedoms could have been prevented if political leaders had better considered their rights and views.

We've looked at how experts gave strong warnings early on about the negative effects of school closures on education and childhood. And yet, we ended up in a landscape where measures came into force that marginalised children, from the reopening of pubs before schools to the design of social restrictions that had a disproportionate impact on the youngest.

We’ve also heard from our incredible Youth Advisory Board of teenagers who have given an honest perspective on how lockdown impacted their lives. One girl said it was “the worst [time] of their life”, others pointed out the “bubble system” stopping them having close contact with friends and the uncertainty about exams left them “on edge”.

This isn’t about being anti-lockdown. Far from it.

We understand the government had to make incredibly difficult decisions in March 2020 and school closures may have been necessary for a period of time. Yet as the months ticked by we believe pandemic policies’ impact on wellbeing was avoidable.

Just to take three examples briefly, we have to question why there was a prioritisation of venues like pubs reopening before schools. Why did the 1:1 rule, where adults were allowed to meet a friend outside, not mean the same for younger children? 

Those so young that needed supervising simply could not go and meet a friend. Grassroots sports clubs and other places for children’s activities remained closed while restaurants re-opened. Social distancing guidelines did not consider children’s access to play, and how in turn that might affected their mental health. 

There was also an assumption that all children were in happy and secure homes. Tragically we know that many were hidden from the view of professionals during lockdown, to their detriment.


Our report makes it overwhelmingly clear that lessons need to be learned and better systems put in place to protect children if we are ever to suffer a pandemic again. The experience of Covid-19 can serve to equip the UK government with an effective blueprint for a future response if it makes structural changes now.

Three places to start would be for the UK government to appoint a Cabinet Minister for Children and Young People, and make sure in times of crisis that they are involved in key decisions. They should pass a law to make schools "essential infrastructure" so MPs have more oversight before they can be closed, and they should properly fund a Children’s Recovery Plan to tackle the long-term effects on children’s social, emotional and educational needs. 

Learn about our work in the UK


Share this