Responding to Covid-19: issues affecting services for children and young people
Since April 2020, the Children’s Society, supported by several charities has been collecting insight from professionals working to support children and families through lockdowns, the return to school and associated changes and pressures.
We have heard from 273 professionals, whose collective responses have provided a useful picture of the issues facing children and young people during the pandemic — the graph below shows the top 7 issues raised during the course of the project so far.
Issues with young people’s mental health
Concerns about the long and short term impact of Covid-19 on young people’s mental health and well-being have been raised with increasing frequency throughout the pandemic.
Professionals report young people are more anxious and self-conscious than ever before. Many are concerned about the numbers of young people reporting feelings of loneliness, isolation and concerns about the future.
Children’s mental health must be seen as a priority by the Government — all young people must be given the chance to talk about their concerns and share their experiences of Covid-19.
Reaching children and families in need of support
Children have been much less visible throughout the pandemic with face-to-face teaching and services ceasing for the majority. Professionals are concerned that vital opportunities to spot children in need of support have been lost.
This has been compounded by a number of issues including families not having access to digital technologies, young people becoming fatigued by online communication, a lack of safe spaces for children in crowded households to communicate in privacy and a reluctance to share data on families in need by schools and other agencies.
Digital exclusion was a big worry at the start of Covid-19, tapering off in September and October, but rising again in line with Covid-19 cases and as schools have again been closed to many pupils.
Professionals are worried about children being unable to access online learning, young people and families not being able to access services online, performing needs assessments and visits using digital platforms and maintaining social contacts have been made impossible.
The pandemic has had a huge financial impact on families already struggling. Reports of delays to Universal Credit payments and ongoing issues with access to free school meals are just a few examples of the growing divide. The impact on parent’s mental health has also been a key issues.
‘The mental ill-health that was already fragile is being made worse’.
Asylum seeking young people and their families have been particularly effected. They are often digitally excluded and have lacked support in accessing education, mental health support and other online groups and services.
Concerns about professional health and safety
Whilst encouraging that concerns around access to PPE have started to tail off, we are still hearing from professionals who are worried about their own health and safety when at work.
We have overwhelmingly heard from professionals that they want to be able to support children and families in the best way that they can but this should not be at the expense of their own health.
A lack of clear guidance from the government
A key issue shared relates to the large amounts of, often conflicting, guidance, as well as issues with information being spread slowly and changes being brought in at short notice.
There has been a clear lack of robust direction from government departments and professionals have reported finding this confusing, leading to less confidence in the Government.
It is clear that almost a year into the pandemic, the Government is yet to adequately respond to issues such as young people’s mental health and well-being, digital exclusion and difficulties with access to financial support for struggling families still making headlines.
With lockdowns in place across the UK and schools closing for a second time it is vital that we carry on hearing from professionals working on the ground to help ensure that services do not have to face all the same issues again.
We will continue to fight to make sure these voices are heard. The government must listen and act on the key issues effecting young people as a result of Covid-19.