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HomeUK NewsCovid pandemic had severe impact on young people, says report

Covid pandemic had severe impact on young people, says report

The coronavirus pandemic and restrictions that it had in the UK had “a severe impact” upon children and young people

That is according to a new report from the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People (NICCY).

Over half (52%) of 16-year-olds who had taken part in the research felt that their mental and emotional health had worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Insufficient consideration” was given to how children and young people’s lives would be affected, it said.

Aspects of young peoples’ lives the report had considered included education, mental and physical health, as well as wellbeing.

However, the report said that some of the “restrictive measures” had been necessary “to protect the population from the spread of the virus”.

This comes after the number of young people who have taken up smoking increased by a quarter during the first COVID-19 lockdown, new research suggests. A study funded by Cancer Research found that hundreds of thousands more people smoked compared to before the pandemic hit.

“The long-term impact of the pandemic on children and young people’s mental health has the potential to be significant, particularly if appropriate support and intervention is not provided,” the report warned.

The report, which is called A New and Better Normal, also said that many of the pre-existing inequalities have since widened.

The group’s findings are based on the responses from 4,385 young people through both surveys and focus groups.

Some members of the group echoed concerns that were previously raised elsewhere.

A report by the National Children’s Bureau has previously said that the families of children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) felt that they were “forgotten” in the response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Many therapies and essential services that they relied upon were withdrawn and have yet to fully return.

The NICCY report have drawn attention to the widespread suspension of services and the effect they have on children.

Many face-to-face services in early years, for children aged 0-3 and their families, had been suspended.

“The risk of increased emotional or behavioural problems in younger children due to the pandemic is a concern,” said the children’s commissioner Koulla Yiasouma in her report.

“Health visitors were redeployed to provide Covid-19 related care and services resulting in a reduction in the number of health assessments and home visits.”

“Reductions in health visiting appointments, in addition to restrictions in access to other early years services, removed an important support system for parents, particularly first-time mothers and those from disadvantaged backgrounds.”

More than a quarter (27%) of young people surveyed also said they could not “get medical treatment during the pandemic for a health issue not related to coronavirus”.

This comes after young people in Scotland under the age of 26 are now eligible for free NHS dental care treatment. The free dental care service will also cover those who had started a longer NHS course of treatment before their 26th birthday.

Another young person who took part in the focus groups had lost their mum during the pandemic and had problems getting bereavement support.

“Yes [I’ve sought support for bereavement] but there is a waiting list and my guess is that it’s as long as the Amazon River,” they told the report’s authors.

There was also a ban for periods on external visits for young people in the Juvenile Justice Centre, including from family.

“Existing barriers faced by children with disabilities or complex health needs in accessing support and services significantly worsened during the pandemic,” the report noted.

In a companion study undertaken by academics from Queen’s University Belfast on behalf of NICCY, a number of experts also expressed serious concern about the safety of children and young people during the pandemic.

Related concerns were previously raised by the Safeguarding Board for Northern Ireland.

Mark Clegg, from west Belfast, is a father to three children aged under nine, all with additional needs.

The family get support and respite from the Kids Together centre in west Belfast but services stopped temporarily at the start of the pandemic.

Eve Cooper
Eve Cooper
I've been writing articles and stories for as long as I can remember and in the past few years I've had the fortune of turning that love & passion for writing into my job :)

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