Children and young people’s rights must be the priority for Welsh Government as they plan for the country’s recovery after the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Senedd’s Children, Young People and Education Committee fear that young people and children are at risk of being left behind after the far-reaching impact of COVID-19 on wellbeing, education and mental health, especially on the most vulnerable.
Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, the Committee has examined the virus’s impact on children and young people, and has focused its efforts during lockdown on the Welsh Government’s response to the pandemic looking at the following main areas:
- arrangements for ensuring continued access to education and childcare for children and young people;
- the impact of COVID-19 on vulnerable children;
- the impact of COVID-19 on the physical and mental health of children and young people; and
- the impact of COVID-19 on higher and further education
The Committee has written regularly to the Welsh Government to highlight areas of concern and to ask for more clarity on its work and plans.
All correspondence has now been published in an interim report, detailing the Committee’s scrutiny and Welsh Government’s responses so far and the issues will be debated by all Members of the Senedd when they meet in Plenary on Wednesday, 15 July.
“Their rights must be a priority if any plans for recovery are to be a success.”
Committee Chair, Lynne Neagle MS, says that prioritising the rights of children and young people is vital to the success of a recovery plan post COVID-19;
“There is little doubt that COVID-19 and the measures taken to manage it have impacted the lives of children and young people significantly. Children don’t have a vote, they don’t have a trade union and they have been largely hidden in this crisis. We have to make sure their voices are heard loud and clear.
“Despite the heroic efforts of our public services, their education has been disrupted, contact with friends and family has been limited, and access to clubs or activities they enjoy has ceased. Some may have suffered the loss of a loved one as a result of the disease, whilst many will feel anxious about COVID-19 and hearing about the thousands of people who have died.
“Restricted access to outside space and physical activity during the lockdown has impacted their health and well-being and has put many of the more vulnerable at greater risk of harm. We have also heard that the loneliness and isolation created by recent measures has affected their mental health and well-being.
“A leading paediatrician described these consequences of COVID-19 as the “collateral damage” experienced by our children and young people, and we are committed to ensuring that their effects are addressed and minimised as a matter of urgency.
“During our inquiry so far, we have heard evidence from children and young people about the impact COVID-19 has had on their lives, as well as hearing from experts and organisations who provide support for them.
“It has left us in no doubt that we cannot afford to ignore the impact of the pandemic on their wellbeing and their prospects in education and beyond.
“As a Committee, we want to ensure a children’s rights approach is not lost in Welsh Government’s process of managing this pandemic, nor in our scrutiny as a Senedd. Their rights must be a priority if any plans for recovery post COVID-19 are to be a success.”
Evidence gathered from experts, young people and children
As well as scrutinising Welsh Government ministers for education, and health and social services, the Committee has received written and oral evidence from other bodies and experts in the field. These include local authorities and social services, local health boards, health and mental health practitioners, as well as children’s charities and the education sector – universities, colleges, Qualifications Wales and unions.
An open consultation invited people and children to share with the Committee their experiences of COVID-19. There were also opportunities for children and young people to submit questions for the Committee to ask during their evidence gathering and scrutiny of government ministers.
The Committee’s interim report on the Impact of COVID-19 on Children and Young People is available online here
The issues will be debated by all Members of the Senedd when they meet in Plenary on Wednesday, 15 July. The meeting is streamed on Senedd.tv