Children and teenagers are “crying out for help” after 18 months of stress and disruption caused by the pandemic, a new report has found.
In #ScotYouthandCOVID2: Young People’s Participation Through Crisis, published today, young people detail huge concerns for their wellbeing, as well as significant anxieties about the consequences of the pandemic for their future.
They are now calling on the Scottish Government to produce a clear, national plan for similar crisis situations, with a focus on education.
The report by A Place in Childhood (APiC), supported by the Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland, also includes plans to develop these asks into a Scotland-wide manifesto for change.
“We need more mental health support”
Twenty-five ‘young consultants’ were involved in the report. These were 11 to 17-year-olds from Glasgow, Aberdeen, Edinburgh, rural Falkirk and rural Stirlingshire .
They worked together from March 2021, reflecting on the return to school in autumn 2020 and their experiences of the winter lockdown.
One young consultant, Aimee, from Denny, Falkirk, called for more to mental health support to be given to young people as the country emerges from the pandemic.
The 17-year-old said: “The Scottish Government needs to recognise that young people are crying out for help.
“We need more mental health support, we want our exams and our schooling to be sorted. We need them to be clear on restrictions, and we’ve been asking for that for so long.
“They are going to have to listen to us, and they have to make a change.”
“Young people are crying out for help,” said Emma (15) when @PlaceChildhood talked to her + other Young Consultants about life in the 2nd lockdown.
— Children and Young People's Commissioner Scotland (@CYPCS) July 29, 2021
Other concerns raised in the report included confusion and uncertainty caused by ever-changing rules and unpredictable schedules, the stress of Covid-19 tests in schools and increasing feelings of guilt in meeting up with friends.
The consultants made a series of wide-ranging calls, including redesigning assessments; recognising that teachers have struggled in the pandemic and that they need to be supported too; schools and teachers ensuring that workloads are not overwhelming; and the creation of school-based discussion groups that could feed into government plans, so that children and young people can be a key part of ongoing improvements.
The report covers the issues that affected them throughout the pandemic such as motivation and school, wellbeing, uncertainty, addressing inequalities, helping with transitions from primary to secondary school, exam years and recovery from the pandemic.
Young people also emphasised the need to act on local environmental issues and climate change.
They will now gather the views of children and young people from across Scotland, focusing on listening to those who feel least heard over the pandemic.
The aim is to create a Scotland-wide manifesto for change that represents the needs of as many children and young people as possible to ensure they are a key part of decision-making as the country moves out of the pandemic.
“Children and young people have sacrificed so much”
Bruce Adamson, Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has been a human rights crisis and children and young people have sacrificed so much to comply with the measures to protect public health including limitations to their rights to education, health, socialisation and freedom of assembly, all of which has had a profound effect on them.
“Children and young people have the right to have their opinions heard in all decisions affecting them, and that has not happened enough during this pandemic.
“To counter this, young consultants have created a hopeful, productive and positive set of asks from sharing their experiences and we must listen to them and children and young people across Scotland.
“Understanding their experiences and insights and, crucially, their important ideas for change is vital to ensure the government lives up to its promise to respect, protect and fulfil children’s rights during and beyond the current crisis.”