Anne Longfield, Children’s Commissioner for England, has published a major new report examining the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on children. The report, ‘Childhood in the time of Covid’ calls for a comprehensive recovery package for children and provides a roadmap for what should be done to help children to recover from their experiences of the last six months and the ongoing crisis.
While for some children there were certain aspects of the pandemic that brought benefits such as spending more time with their families, the report sets out how for many of the most vulnerable children the disruption of the last six months has been damaging and compounded existing inequalities. Even before the crisis struck, there were 2.2 million vulnerable children living in risky home situations in England, including nearly 800,000 children living with domestic abuse and 1.6 million living with parents with severe mental health conditions. The report warns these numbers are likely to have swelled, fuelled by families locked down in close quarters for weeks and months, and an emerging economic crisis adding pressures on family finances.
At the same time, the disruption to children’s education has been sizeable, with schools closed to millions of children for six months. The report predicts a widening of the attainment gap between children from disadvantaged or vulnerable backgrounds and their peers.
The Children’s Commissioner calls for a comprehensive recovery package for children to help mitigate the damage done by the crisis thus far, arguing that central to this package must be significant investment in early help for families starting from the early years. The report says the nation’s efforts to ‘build back better’ must begin with a focus on children, sometimes sadly lacking during the pandemic. Should there be more lockdowns, the report calls on children’s needs to come first.