Social Democrats TD for Wicklow, Jennifer Whitmore, says the recent Ombudsman for Children report reinforces concerns over the negative impact that Covid-19 is having on children, particularly as they reintegrate into the school environment.

Deputy Whitmore, who is the party’s spokesperson on Children, said:

“The Ombudsman for Children in Ireland published its annual report which states that the lockdown has created significant challenges in relation to children’s development, health and education.

“Every parent and teacher is only too aware of the negative impact the current pandemic is having on children’s development, wellbeing, physical and mental health and overall education. During lockdown, any existing disadvantage a child experienced was amplified.

“And while we are all delighted to have our children back in school, it is also a very anxious time for parents and children. During lockdown, educational services all but stopped for vulnerable children, particularly those with additional educational needs or with a disability.

“The recent report by the Ombudsman confirms our fears that the closure of education services, especially for vulnerable children, means they are now falling through the cracks.

“The report says that this year children with a disability, children living in poverty and children from the Traveller and Roma communities are ‘at the bottom of the pile’ and have found it much harder to survive through the Covid-19 scenario.

“Back in June, I called for a Government Transition Taskforce to deal with the impact the lockdown was having on children and warned of the difficulties that a lack of education was having on already vulnerable children. Unfortunately, the Government did not step up to the plate and we are left to pick up the pieces and face growing inequality in our education system as a result.

“Over the past few months and in recent weeks I have received many emails from parents struggling to get the education their child needs. These parents are seeing day by day the detrimental effect lockdown has had on their child and the extra help they now need to get back to the educational level before Covid-19 hit.

“The growing educational disadvantage is real and the Ombudsman’s report has solidified this as a reality facing many vulnerable children now – and possibly many more into the future if nothing is done to tackle disadvantage.

“I welcome the Ombudsman’s quote in the media that ‘the Government and the education system in particular must ensure that no one is left behind’.

“The Government must now do everything in its power to maintain equality in our education system to stall increases in vulnerability, disadvantage and poverty. The upcoming Budget will be an opportunity to address educational disadvantage brought on by the lockdown – and future disadvantage – as we emerge from this pandemic.”

September 16, 2020

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