The government must act now to prevent any further damage
Two separate reports have today confirmed our worst fears about the impact of the pandemic on marginalised children, according to Social Democrats Children’s Spokesperson Jennifer Whitmore.
Deputy Whitmore was commenting following the publication of the Annual Report of Ireland’s Special Rapporteur on Child Protection and the publication of a Child Rights Impact Assessment, on the impact of school closures on children, by the Children’s Ombudsman.
“These two crucial reports confirm our worst fears about the impact of the pandemic on children. It is beyond doubt that school closures had a negative impact on all children while disproportionately impacting disadvantaged and marginalised children.
“Closure of schools, the digital divide, lack of access to key supports such as School Meals and Child Referral services had a detrimental impact on many children, including those being forced to live with domestic abuse or continued poverty during lengthy lockdowns. There must also now be serious concerns the numbers of children now living in consistent poverty, given the large number of people who lost jobs during the pandemic together with huge increases in the cost of living.
“The government had to act to mitigate the spread of covid in the community, but further special measures should have been put in place to insulate the most vulnerable children from the worst impacts of the pandemic. As the annual report of the Special Rapporteur makes clear, considerable numbers of children experienced significant abuse, neglect, trauma or other ill-effects that may otherwise not have occurred if the pandemic had not happened.
“The government must act now to prevent any further damage. It must front-load resources to ensure children, disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, are fully supported in terms of accessing school and health, including mental health, services.
Special consideration should also be given to the establishment of a cross-Departmental task-force on children, something I repeatedly called for throughout the pandemic.
“The consistent failure of successive governments to conduct a Child Rights Impact Assessment (CRIA) in advance of new government policy, or legislation, being implemented must also change. Ireland ratified the UN Convention on the Right of the Child in 1992, but incredibly the State has never used a CRIA to inform its decision-making. CRIA should be at the heart of decision making to ensure it is child centred and there are no unintended negative consequences for children from government decisions.”
28 January, 2022