Key Findings, including an assessment of the impact on children’s rights, and how the measure will contribute to children’s wellbeing
Overall, the evidence strongly suggests the need for more targeted messaging, information and recovery planning focused on the needs of specific groups of children and families, with an emphasis on mental wellbeing and trauma-informed approaches in schools in particular.
We have continued to ensure that the best interests of the child (article 3) have been central to our response to the COVID-19, including in relation to the imposition of these latest restrictions. Consideration was given to specific articles in particular in balancing the risks of transmission with the rights and wellbeing of children and young people.
We recognise the fundamental importance to the realisation of children’s rights and wellbeing of keeping schools open ensuring that children and young people continue to access their right to education (articles 28 and 29) and rights to leisure and play (article 31) and freedom of association (article 15). We will also follow the science and work to keep Early Learning and Childcare settings open, as far as possible.
For children and young people, the importance of maintaining social interaction and engagement with their peers is of fundamental importance to wellbeing. This is particularly important to older children and young people, as they develop a stronger sense of self and use their peer groups to support their own decision making, more than their parents. For children aged 12 and over, the guidance on household restrictions apply to them in the same way as adults. This will be kept under regular review, to seek to create more freedoms as part of an overall proportionate response.
For younger children, under 12, their right to play and socialise freely with their peers (article 31) was actively considered, along with their lower risk for becoming seriously unwell from COVID-19 and their perceived lower risk of transmission. This age group continue to have the least stringent measures applied and are free to meet up with their friends, with no physical distancing outdoors or indoors in public spaces, subject to other public health hygiene measures being followed. Enabling young children to play and be physically active, will bring benefits to their overall health, sleep regulation and connectedness to their communities.
Most indoor organised activities can still continue. This provides additional scope for children of all ages to meet and interact, outside of school or more formal settings. This includes parent and baby/toddler groups, provided they adhere to the relevant risk assessment and health protection advice. We know that our youngest children have suffered from lack of early socialisation, which has impacted on their speech and language development and emotional and social development. These informal settings and activities are important to protect their overall wellbeing and future development (article 6, article 31). They are also an important mechanism to support parents’ mental wellbeing, particularly for new mothers.
Continuation of support for the most vulnerable babies, children, young people and families will also remain available, including a priority to offer face-to-face and group contact where possible.
We have also retained, as far as possible, the ability of children and young people to continue to access services and activities that continue to promote their wider wellbeing. Children under 18 are still able to access indoor and outdoor sport and recreation activities, and attend other organised activities. The wider social harms for children were considered at this time, balanced with protecting overall health (article 24, article 31).
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