This report summarises the latest evidence and intelligence about the impacts of COVID-19, and associated measures, on children, young people and families in Scotland. It highlights that there have been differing impacts for CYP and families, depending on their specific circumstances, which will continue to require tailored responses. However, looking across the evidence and intelligence outlined in this paper there are a number of key, core issues for attention:
- Family Income – existing financial difficulties and experiences of poverty have made it more difficult to cope with the impacts of the crisis and have been exacerbated by the crisis; and further impacts on employment and income will be felt. Ensuring adequate family income is the key challenge to be addressed to improve outcomes for all CYP.
- Emotional wellbeing and mental health – the impacts on the emotional and mental wellbeing of CYP require attention across the whole population, but, in particular, for CYP who have greater challenges in their life, have experienced isolation and loneliness, and have past traumatic experiences which have been exacerbated by the pandemic crisis. Emotional wellbeing and mental health issues will not necessarily be easily resolved by the easing of lockdown and there is a need to prepare for the longer-term and persistent effects of COVID-19 on the mental health and wellbeing of CYP, as well as parents/carers.
- Education – CYP and families have had mixed experiences of school closures and home learning. There have been challenges with digital access, low engagement with education for some CYP (depending on their individual and family circumstances), and worries about exams and future prospects (in particular for older young people). However, school closures have led to improved wellbeing for some CYP. These variations underline the need for tailored approaches to address different needs and support the wellbeing of CYP on their return to school. Transitions are highlighted as a key issue, in particular for disabled CYP and CYP with additional support needs.
- Service provision – the reduced contact with some services as a result of lockdown has inevitably impacted CYP and families, and contact is increasing again as lockdown is eased. However, in some areas challenges will be felt for sometimes (such as the backlog in court cases and Children's Hearings and capacity of care services). There have also been reported positive developments which can be built-on going forward, for example, different types of engagement, the use of technology, and the development of trusted relationships.
- Relationships – as noted above, relationships with practitioners are clearly central to the support for CYP and families to date and going forward. However, the fundamental importance of all types of relationships, including within families, with friends and wider support networks, has been brought to the fore by the pandemic crisis. CYP have reported the crucial importance of family support to their wellbeing. Greatest concerns are for CYP who have relationship difficulties and adverse experiences (domestic abuse has been highlighted as a key concern during lockdown). This "relationship inequality" has been exacerbated by the pandemic crisis and without the right support could have long-term negative effects.
- Virus – lastly, it is important not to overlook the impacts of the virus itself and the resulting worries, in particular for CYP and parents/carers with underlying health conditions. For some families these worries may become more pronounced as lockdown is eased. The impact of bereavement has not been covered in this report, but are also an important issue for attention, for families who have been impacted by COVID-related or other deaths, and constrained opportunities to process grief and connect with support because of lockdown restrictions.
This period of increased stress and pressure to date has taken its toll on CYP, families and practitioners, as well as beneficial changes having occurred in some contexts. Continued adaptation and support will be required going forward to respond to the specific impacts on CYP and families in different circumstances and to build-on positive developments.