Scope of the CRWIA, identifying the children and young people affected by the policy, and summarising the evidence base
The changes apply at a societal level and as such all children and young people under 18 are impacted. There is a disproportionate effect on children because the duration of this pandemic, and the associated restrictions, takes up a greater part of the lives so far, in comparison to adults. This means that for some children, born during the pandemic, their whole lives have been during this period. For school age children, their learning has been disrupted and their ability to meet freely with their friends restricted.
There is a strong recognition that social interactions, with friends and wider family plays a key role to optimise children’s development and their wider wellbeing, this has different impacts depending on their age and stage of development, and the circumstances they are currently living in. A range of evidence has been gathered on the impact on children during this time, and it shows that although for some aspects of some children’s lives there have been positive effects, such as being able to spend more quality time with their parents in the home, for the majority of children the impacts have been negative across most aspects and this continues to be the case. For some children, these impacts will be life long, bringing cumulative trauma and adversity that could have been prevented or minimised at an early stage.
Essential services have been maintained during this time, that are both trauma informed and responsive to need. These services have provided a ‘life line’ for some families, particularly with younger children and new parents, who may not have had access to any other support during this time. However, when they have not been delivered in line with their evidence base, there is evidence that harm may have occurred to children living in toxic environments. Lack of visibility of young children, in their own homes has led to harm that is only being unsurfaced now.
A range of different studies have explored with children and young people what they see as the impact of COVID-19 and related mitigations on their lives. In drawing together the evidence we have focused on the views of children and young people themselves where possible, but evidence from parents is included where relevant (especially for young children).
The evidence drawn on is mainly from Scottish research, supplemented by summaries of UK evidence where relevant.
It is important to note that most of the Scottish COVID-19 surveys are drawn from self-selecting or convenience/ opportunity samples. This means that the findings are likely to be biased in some way, and are not representative of, and cannot be generalised to, the wider population. Results of individual studies should therefore be interpreted with caution.
Nevertheless, in combination the sources provide a relatively consistent picture of the views and experiences of children and young people in Scotland during the pandemic over the past 20 months. There is a need to learn from what had the biggest negative impact on the development of children at each age and stage to inform our future responses. This evidence is drawn from Scotland and UK sources. It is clear that an emerging impact of the longer term effects of the mitigations applied to address the immediate risks to health have had a negative impact on some of the youngest in our society, that as yet, cannot be fully determined as some of the impacts will be life-long.
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