PROMINENT CHILDREN’S RIGHTS ORGANISATIONS have explained how the youngest in society were not considered adequately or “even at all” in many key decisions made by the UK government during their Covid-19 response.
As module two of the Covid-19 Inquiry began on 31 October, the hearing was told how “today’s children will forever be the Covid generation”, how their lives were turned upside down and it is now fundamental that children’s voices are heard.
The representation from Save the Children, Just for Kids Law and Children’s Rights Alliance for England comes as the organisations were officially announced as Core Participants for module two of the Inquiry, which will examine the political and administrative decision-making of the UK and devolved governments.
Barrister Jennifer Twite, of Garden Court Chambers, representing the organisations at the hearing today, said: “The impact on children, the rights of children, were not considered adequately or even at all in many key decisions.” She added: “We wanted to acknowledge that today’s children will forever be the Covid generation.
“The impact on them goes far beyond the closing of schools and other education settings. At times the practical effect of lockdown rules meant children were prevented from seeing others their own age even when adults were allowed to meet friends from other households.
“During the first lockdown while outdoor exercise was allowed for adults, there was a lack of clarity that children could play and fences went up around playgrounds. Soft play centres were among the very last places to receive guidance about reopening. Many of the non-pharmaceutical interventions which affected everyone, disproportionately impacted children. Six months in the life of a 12-year-old is vastly different to six months in the life of a 28-year-old. Children’s lives were turned upside down at crucial stages in their development.”
The organisations believe it is now vital to hear from children as part of the inquiry, and Twite told the hearing: “It is fundamentally important children’s voices are heard especially given our concern that children’s voices have very much been lost within this pandemic.”
They have said today they want to work constructively to ensure that facts are revealed, but also wish to acknowledge what went well. It is most important that lessons are identified so that they may be properly learnt for the future.
Kirsty McNeill, Save the Children’s Executive Director for Policy, Advocacy and Campaigns, said: “We pushed hard for children’s experiences to be included in the Covid-19 inquiry and we are pleased to have been selected as core participants in this process, alongside Just for Kids Law and the Children’s Rights Alliance for England.
“This puts us in a position to fully examine and explain the many negative impacts on children after the government failed to consider their rights, best interests, health and wellbeing. Even when adverse impacts on the youngest in society were explained to decision makers, we felt this was all too often ignored.
“The lives of today’s children will be deeply marked by the pandemic. They made huge sacrifices for the greater good, whether it’s the impact on their education or simply not being able to see their friends. From the closing of playgrounds, nurseries and schools to children’s experiences with the justice system, there is a chance now to interrogate these decisions and make constructive recommendations for the future.”
Louise King, Director of the Children’s Rights Alliance for England, said: “The response to Covid-19 demonstrated how children’s rights and voices are regularly overlooked in government decision-making with devasting consequences for children. The raft of emergency legislation, regulations, and guidance affecting many aspects of children’s lives, which were brought in during the pandemic, without the usual consultation process or parliamentary scrutiny, also showed a worrying lack of democratic scrutiny for children’s rights. We are therefore delighted that we have been selected to be Core Participants of the Covid Inquiry to ensure that the impact of government decision-making on children during the pandemic is properly scrutinised and lessons learned.
“Crucially, we will also be helping to ensure that children themselves are able to have their voices heard on how the pandemic impacted on their daily lives and have their views taken into account by the Inquiry.”
* More information on the UK Covid-19 Inquiry here.
* Source: Children’s Rights Alliance for England