Young people are facing “unprecedented threats” to their future from the Covid-19 pandemic and should be prioritized, says a group of charities.
Children are “in a mysterious world, full of uncertainties”, 146 organizations say.
In a letter to the prime minister, they urge the government to put children’s needs on an equal footing with health and the economy to prevent their chances of life from being harmed.
The government said that “throughout the pandemic, we prioritize the safety and well-being of children”.
Charities and other bodies, including Action for Children, Barnardo, National Children’s Bureau, NSPCC, Children’s Society, Unicef UK and Child Poverty Action Group, say Covid-19 “threatens to launch shadow on young people for years on end.
“They don’t know when they can go back to school. They worry when they can see friends and family. They are concerned about the family’s finances,” they warn.
“We know that this uncertainty and concern will lead to anxiety and mental health problems.
“We know that closed schools affect children’s educational performance and life chances – the poorest, the most.
“We know that black, Asian and minority ethnic communities will be hardest hit.
“We know that there are more financial difficulties ahead.”
Charities say the voices of children, young people and families must be at the center of the recovery and reconstruction process and there must be renewed investment in the services they trust.
‘Put children first – they are Covid children’
Jennifer, from Bristol, a mother of two children with disabilities, told the Chillylife that the past few weeks have been very difficult for her family.
She says that one of her children had regular panic attacks during the night, while the other said recently, “I want to throw myself out of a window, I just want this to end.”
The youngest son was so scared that he refused to go out in the garden “because he thinks he will catch something just because he is out”.
“It is a real struggle for me to try to get him out and get some fresh air.”
With the help of Action for Children, she now has a springboard in the garden to encourage him to venture outside.
Jennifer says there are times when she feels that she has disappointed her children and goes to shower when everything gets too much.
“Nobody can hear you crying in the shower, can they? So they don’t know. It’s not good for them to see that you’re not dealing.”
She feels that the needs of children and families were overlooked during the pandemic.
“We came and applauded the NHS, for caregivers, but someone thought of children – they are Covid children – and how were their little lives turned upside down and their routines ruined?”
His message to the government is simple: “They need to start putting children first and their mental health”.
Charities say: “The government, understandably, has so far focused on the immediate consequences for health and the economy.
“Now it is time for the country to put a strong and protective arm around its children, to prevent childhood from being interrupted and the chances of life being derailed.”
A government spokeswoman said: “Schools and colleges have remained open to vulnerable children and we are in contact with those most at risk.
“We have expanded support for charity on the front lines and provided new resources for schools and teachers to support children’s mental health.”
The government has announced a recovery package for lost teaching time, an investment plan to improve schools and college buildings and will continue to invest in early childhood education, he added.
The letter to the Prime Minister comes as a survey by Barnardo suggests that the blockade has affected the mental health and well-being of young people.
The survey of 4,000 British children and youth, aged eight to 24, found that one-third had experienced an increase in stress, loneliness and worry.
Almost three quarters (74%) said they had not attended school or college.