Impact on Children's Rights
5. There are widespread concerns about the impact of COVID-19 and the response to it on the rights of children and young people, including by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child who published 11 recommendations for governments. The Scottish Government has produced two reports for Together (Scottish Alliance for Children's Rights) on the action being taken in relation to these recommendations, and have committed to providing further updates. The Scottish Government is continuing to undertake Child Rights and Wellbeing Impact Assessments (CRWIA), during the current emergency for new policies and legislation[a]. This enables assessment of the impacts on children's rights and wellbeing and mitigations to be put in place.
6. One of a number of areas of concern highlighted by the Children and Young People's Commissioner for Scotland, is the impact the closure of schools and the cancellation of exams has had on children and young people not only in terms of their education, but also in relation to: mental health; access to food; and inequalities. The Children and Young People's Commissioner has commissioned the Observatory of Children's Human Rights Scotland to conduct an Alternative Children's Rights Impact Assessment (CRIA). The Alternative CRIA will provide an independent assessment on the Scottish Government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on children's Rights. It is expected that this will be published in later in July. In addition, the Equality and Human Rights Committee is conducting an inquiry into the impact of COVID-19 on equalities and human rights.
7. The crucial focus on children's rights is reinforced by learning from previous pandemics reviewed by the Institute for Inspiring Children's Futures at the University of Strathclyde. The review concluded that children can be physically and socially invisible in the context of public health containment measures. Therefore, it is essential to develop responses tailored to the distinct experiences of children and young people; ensuring they are included and their agency recognised.
8. Although there is currently little historic evidence on the impact of disease containment measures on the wellbeing of children and young people, from the evidence available the review found that in previous epidemics existing child wellbeing concerns were exacerbated and new ones emerged. New or exacerbated experiences of poverty and low income were found to affect access to services, nutritious food, adequate housing, and risks children's survival and development. In addition, emergency measures to restrict movement were found to impact everyday childhood experiences (including friendships, access to play and education, autonomy, and access to birth families for those in alternative care).These measures also create new vulnerabilities, compounded by the impact on parenting, due to isolation and a lack of external support. This leads to increases in the number of vulnerable children (including issues of online exploitation, sexual exploitation, domestic abuse, neglect and challenges to children's mental health).