Adult voices on the pandemic have been loud from the start, with discussions on lockdowns, mask-wearing, working practices, vaccines and the continued easing of restrictions taking place across all media platforms.
But what about the experiences of children and young people?
School closures for many children and young people in the UK represented a significant disruption to their daily lives. For the very young, routines and predictability provide a sense of safety and security. Changes to familiar routines can cause a child to feel stressed and anxious.
Adapting to home-schooling and online classes was a momentous change for many (including parents) and a challenge for some children who had to share laptops with other family members or use mobile phones. At the same time, others did not have access to any electronic devices.
And when schools reopened, children and young people adapted once more to the new practices of social distancing, class/year bubbles, testing, and mask-wearing. And yet, they continue to experience changes to their school lives. Most notably, the bubble system, in which one person testing positive for Covid results in whole class or year groups going into self-isolation. And according to reports, has led to hundreds and thousands of pupils in England being off school.
But aside from learning, school provides an important social aspect, lost to children and young people during the early stages of the pandemic. And let's not forget the other key role schools play, as havens for pupils with troubled home lives.
For some children being at home with their families was a positive experience. Still, for others, it was dangerous and unbearable. Data from the NSPCC last year on social isolation, the risk of child maltreatment and the pandemic found certain factors increased the risk of child abuse. These included parental stress, increased vulnerability to specific types of abuse, and a reduction in safeguarding measures.
Unsurprisingly, these challenges have affected children's mental health. The Mental Health of Children and Young People in England, 2020 report published in October found a rise in the rate of probable mental disorder from one in nine in 2017 (for children aged 5 to 16) to one in six in 2020. Research participants expressed feeling lonely and that 'lockdown had made their life worse'.
Earlier in June 2020, the National Children's Bureau organised a statement signed by more than 100 organisations asking the Prime Minister to make children a priority in their response to the pandemic and financially invest in mental health. One of the signatories, the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), has also been campaigning for government funding to provide counsellors in every secondary school and FE college in England, which already happens in the devolved nations.
As we learn to live with Covid-19 and its impact, it's clear that this generation of children will need the right support, making access to counselling and CAMHS even more vital.
Service Care Solutions work with hundreds of temporary and permanent social workers, children's healthcare staff and care workers right across the UK.
If you are looking for work or are looking to recruit please contact us today.