A new report, ‘Implications of the COVID-19 pandemic for policy in relation to children and young people’, was announced today by Minister Roderic O’Gorman.
The report is published by the ESRI, and produced in partnership with the Department of Children and Youth Affairs. It draws on existing and emerging Irish and international research on the effects of the pandemic restrictions on children and young people.
With a view to providing insights into the potential consequences of the current crisis from infancy to early adulthood, the report reviews in particular research evidence in the areas of:
– Family and peer relationships,
– Health and wellbeing,
– Education (from early childhood to third-level) and
– Post-school transitions
The positive impacts of COVID-19 measures are few but studies suggest an increase in positive family time and, in a UK study, that 40% of parents anticipated a closer relationship with their children after the pandemic.
Available evidence in Ireland and internationally suggests that pre-COVID-19 inequalities documented by the Growing Up in Ireland and other studies have grown in the wake of the pandemic.
The negative effects on wellbeing and mental health have been more apparent among those from disadvantaged backgrounds as well as among younger adults. The impact is gendered, with women more likely to report feelings of depression, anxiety or sadness during the period of restrictions.
While there is less systematic evidence on the effects on children, findings are suggestive of increased inequality for them too.
School closures and the move to online learning will have the greatest impact on disadvantaged families and their children. Schools need to put measures in place to counter the negative impact for learners, families and teachers, especially for those in the most marginalised groups (those most disadvantaged in terms of social class, families with children with special educational needs (SEN), migrants, refugees and others) who lack the resources or skills to engage with homeschooling.
In addition to formal education, learning outside school is also severely affected, with limited options available to young people, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds.
While the pandemic impacts on the outcomes of all children, the gap between the advantaged and less advantaged is likely to widen as it will be harder for the more vulnerable groups to ‘catch up’.
The report concludes that:
School closures and the lack of face-to-face interaction with peers and broader family networks are having direct effects on children’s and young people’s lives.
Young people from more disadvantaged backgrounds and those with special educational needs will feel the impact of the pandemic most.
Parental job loss and the possibility of longer-term unemployment will affect child wellbeing through increased stress in families.
Merike Darmody, co-author of the report, elaborates:
“The disruption of learning is likely to have long-term consequences for many, especially for more disadvantaged children and young people. While short-term measures are important to address the immediate needs of children and young people, the actions taken need to be underpinned by policies addressing larger structural inequalities.”
Minister Roderic O’Gorman said:
“This report is an important resource for my Department as we work to address the impacts of the crisis on children and young people. The report points to the need to address inequalities, support educational re-engagement and well-being, and the need to assist young people who have experienced disruption in transitioning into the labour market.
“We know that children and young people have been among the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. This report will be a vital tool as we work to address that impact, making clear the need to tackle inequalities, support well-being and re-engagement with education, and help young people back into the labour market.”
Implications of the COVID pandemic for policy in relation to children and young people by Merike Darmody, Emer Smyth, and Helen Russell, is published as part of the ESRI Survey and Statistical Report Series.
SOURCE: Materials provided by ESRI
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