14 MILLION CHILDREN “SILENCED” BY COVID 19 INQUIRY
LONDON, 14 August 2023 - More than 40 of the UK’s leading children’s charities and child development experts have issued a warning to the Covid-19 Inquiry chair of “unacceptable delays” to taking evidence from children on lockdown.
Save the Children UK, the NSPCC and the National Children’s Bureau are among the signatories of an open letter sent to inquiry chair the Rt Hon Baroness Heather Hallett asking her to commission experts to start recording children's experiences immediately.
This intervention comes as new research released in recent weeks reveals the scale of the damage to children’s social and emotional development during the pandemic, as well as impacting on their communication skills.
Dan Paskins, director of UK Impact at Save the Children said: "Children are being silenced by this inquiry. Despite repeated promises from chair, the Rt Hon Baroness Heather Hallet, she would urgently ensure children's memories are captured and the issue matters to her, no measures are in place to make this happen.
"Children are not an afterthought or an inconvenience in this inquiry process. Their lives were turned upside down by government decisions and any barriers in the way of them having their say need to be removed immediately."
Louise King, Director of the Children’s Rights Alliance for England, part of Just for Kids Law, said: “Hearing from children is now a critical issue for the proper functioning of the Covid Inquiry and these delays have gone on long enough. Children are one quarter of the population and there is simply no inquiry into what happened in the UK between 2020 and 2022 without them.
“More than 40 organisations and child development experts are sending the strongest message possible that this lack of progress is no longer acceptable and this must be a wake up call for immediate action. We can’t sit by while more stories emerge of the pandemic’s impact on children without hearing from them directly and getting their views and personal experiences on record.”
The letter explains how there is still no clear public strategy and approach for listening to children and young people, especially those who experience inequalities or discrimination, nine months after this issue was first raised by Save the Children, Just for Law Kids and the Children’s Rights Alliance England.*
The inquiry’s recent advertising campaign for Every Story Matters (ESM), and the accompanying website emphasised “that all stories are important, and all stories should be told by those who wish to tell them”.
However, neither the website nor the advertising campaign makes any mention that this is an adult only activity and there is no provision for under 18s.
Sir Peter Wanless, NSPCC Chief Executive, said: “Children’s needs often went under the radar during the pandemic but we heard first hand through Childline and the NSPCC Helpline about its devastating impact on many young people, particularly those subjected to abuse and neglect.
“Many of the children who suffered the most did so because they were hidden from those who could help them. It’s crucial the Covid Inquiry finally gives young people a voice so we can fully understand the support and services required to avoid a generation of children being defined by the pandemic.”
Phillip Anderson, Strategic Director of External Affairs at the National Children’s Bureau, said: “Babies, children and young people have had their lives turned upside down by the pandemic. With school closures and social isolation undermining their development, many were also deprived of vital services like social care and health which were unable to provide business-as-usual support.
“So, it is vital that the Covid-19 Inquiry listens hard to what a quarter of the population went through and reflects closely upon the experiences and ideas of children and young people themselves. If another pandemic strikes the next generation needs to be protected.”
The open letter is calling on the chair of the inquiry to:
- Make a public commitment to hear from children, and in particular those from disadvantaged backgrounds or those who experience other inequalities or discrimination.
- Ensure the research is carried out in partnership with an expert academic institution together with local community organisations with roots and credibility in particular communities which experience inequalities and discrimination.
- Make a commitment that the findings from this research will directly inform the scope of the planned children’s module** of the inquiry and publicly set out how children’s voices have influenced the inquiry once the research has been conducted.
Notes to editors:
* Save the Children UK, Just for Kids Law and the Children’s Rights Alliance for England are Core Participants in Module 2 of the Inquiry which deals with the UK government’s response.
** A specific children’s module of the Covid-19 Inquiry is likely to take place in 2025 – 2026.
Signatories to the open letter:
Dan Paskins, Director of UK Impact, Save the Children Fund
Louise King, Director, Children’s Rights Alliance for England, part of Just for Kids Law
Saqib Deshmukh, Interim Chief Executive, Alliance for Youth Justice
Emma Rigby, CEO, Association for Young People's Health
Joseph Howes, CEO, Buttle UK
John Galloway, Member, The Campaign for State Education (CASE)
Professor Cath Larkins, Co-Director, The Centre for Children and Young People's
Participation, University of Central Lancashire
Professor Tony Bertram, Director, Centre for Research in Early Childhood (CREC)
Professor Chris Pascal, Director, Centre for Research in Early Childhood (CREC)
Amy Whitelock Gibbs, Chair, The Children and Young People’s Mental Health Coalition
Kathy Evans, Chief Executive, Children England
Dr Judith Turbyne, Chief Executive, Children in Scotland
Paddy Kelly, Director, Children’s Law Centre
Stephen Kingdom, Campaign Manager, Disabled Children’s Partnership
Melian Mansfield, Chair, Early Childhood Forum
Patricia Durr, CEO, ECPAT UK
Sarah Thomas, CEO, The Fostering Network
Sereena Keymatlian, Director, Haringey Play Association
Andrea Coomber KC (Hon.), Chief Executive, The Howard League for Penal Reform
Ali Fiddy, CEO, IPSEA (Independent Provider of Special Education Advice)
Katie Fennell, National Coordinator, KIND UK
Fiona Sutherland, Director, London Play
Silvia Hurtado, Director, The Markfield Project
Anna Skehan, Supervising Solicitor and Legal Practice Lead, MiCLU (Migrant and Refugee
Children’s Legal Unit) Islington Law Centre
Dr Nick Owen, MBE, CEO, The Mighty Creatives
Anna Feuchtwang , Chief Executive, National Children’s Bureau (NCB)
Phil Kerry, CEO, New Horizons Youth Centre
Zahra Bei, Co-Founder, No More Exclusions
Sir Peter Wanless, CEO, NSPCC
Rita Waters, Group Chief Executive (England and Wales), NYAS (National Youth Advocacy
Moira Sinclair, Chief Executive, Paul Hamlyn Foundation
Ingrid Skeels and Alice Ferguson, Co-Directors, Playing Out
Julie Randles, CEO, Power2
Bill Badham, Co-Director, Practical Participation
Sherry Peck, CEO, Safer London
Dr Caron Carter, Senior Lecturer in Childhood & Early Childhood Education & Postgraduate
Research Tutor in Education, Sheffield Hallam University
Professor Alison Clark, Honorary Senior Research Fellow, Thomas Coram Research Unit, UCL
Yvonne MacNamara, CEO, The Traveller Movement
Claire O’Meara, Director of Advocacy, The UK Committee for UNICEF (UNICEF UK)
Helen Lomax, Professor of Childhood, University of Huddersfield
Arabella Skinner, Director, Us for Them
Professor Jacqueline Barnes, Chair, What About The Children?
Tricia Johnson, Committee Member
Edwina Mitchell, Independent Researcher
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