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Young people ‘crushed’ by COVID pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic is having a “crushing impact” on young people, the children’s commissioner for Wales has warned.

In a second nationwide survey of the views and experiences of children and young people in Wales, ‘Coronavirus and Me,’ carried out last month, Professor Sally Holland found young people expressing frustration and sometimes anger, about the impact of the pandemic on their lives.

“Three to seven year olds spoke about missing friends, family members and experiences. Seven to 11 year olds’ most common comment at the end of the survey related to missing friends, followed by missing their teacher or school and thirdly enjoying time with their families. From mid-teens on, we saw signs of additional distress potentially compounded by worries about exams and their futures. 30% of 17 and 18 year olds who took part are worried ‘most of the time’,” said the report.

Loneliness rates are high and not being able to see friends is having the biggest impact on children’s lives, followed by not being able to see other family members and the impact of school and college closures, the report adds.

The children’s commissioner for Wales gathered the views of nearly 24,000 children and young people share in May 2020 and ran the consultation again on 12 January 2021. The latest report presents the views and experiences of 19,737 children and young people, age 3-18, in the current lockdown.

The report found:

- While over half enjoy learning at their own pace from home, many are worried about falling behind with learning – levels of confidence and motivation with education are seen to be decreasing with age.

- A large majority of 15-18 year olds are concerned about falling behind, their qualifications and are reporting low motivation to do school work.

- When comparing results of the surveys, it can be seen that 12-18 year olds responding in January 2021 report that they are happy ‘most of the time’ markedly less than those who responded in May 2020 and rates of feeling worried ‘most of the time’ are notably higher.

- Children who often face more barriers to accessing their rights even when there is no global pandemic, have also faced more struggles on average than their peers.

- Disabled children and young people are more likely to be worried about coronavirus, more likely to feel sad, more likely to feel unsafe.

- Children and young people of Black, Asian and other ethnic minority ethnicities are more likely to feel lonely and less likely to say they feel safe.

However, despite the worries and concerns that children and young people are reporting, many are also expressing positive experiences, as they did in May 2020, including enjoying spending time at home and receiving good support from schools and youth workers.

Professor Holland says that the results provide a clear road-map for Welsh Government on what needs to be prioritised for children and young people over the next few weeks and months.

“My request to those making and implementing pandemic responses is clear; whilst accepting that the over-riding priority must be on preventing death and serious illness, there are many more dimensions to children’s lives that need to be considered. Listen and consider what we’ve heard through this consultation and take all measures possible to curb the crushing impact this pandemic is having on many young lives,” Professor Holland concluded.

Coronavirus and Me: A second nationwide survey of the views and experiences of children and young people in Wales. January 2021

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