Children's Commissioner urges Govt to invest in kids left 'bruised' after Covid

The Children’s Commissioner has called on the Government to invest in the generation of children who have been left “bruised” after the Coronavirus pandemic.

Dame Rachel de Souza called youngsters the “veterans of the global crisis” as they have endured so much but “are for the most part, happy, optimistic, and determined”.

In a report titled ‘Big Ask Survey’, she heard from more than 500,000 children from a range of backgrounds across the country, finding out what they want to be at the forefront of the Government’s agenda.

Children responded to a range of questions spanning their family life, career ambitions, their health and wellbeing, education and their local community, describing what their priorities are and what they hope the government will focus on

She learned a third of unhappy children aged nine to 17 are unhappy because of ill mental health.

And young carers aged 9 to 17 are 70 per cent more likely than other children to say they are unhappy with family life.

Despite 9 to 17 year olds happiness with their life overall the sport highlights the kids specific concerns and worries.

Dame Rachel said: “The voice of half million children gives me, and those in my team, a road map for how we continue to build a brighter future for childhood in England, not just in the aftermath of the pandemic but for the long term.”

In the summer, Sir Kevan Collins former Education Recovery Commissioner described the Government’s proposals as “feeble”.

Speaking at the Education Select Committee in June, Sir Kevan said: “The amount of money we are responding with at the moment is significant sums, but this scale of shock, losing on average 115 days of face-to-face learning, requires a massive national effort to recover.

“I worry that it is not a bit of tutoring in the corner but a fundamental approach that the school needs to take.”

Education Secretary, Nadhim Zahawi, said “I am listening” to the children’s concerns.

“I’m encouraged to see that most children and young people are happy, resilient and ambitious, but there are concerns too and we must address them.

“We know that the pandemic hit young people hard, which is why we have launched a tutoring revolution to make sure they catch up and bolstered mental health support in schools.

“As we drive to level up opportunities across the country, we will continue prioritising young people’s wellbeing alongside academic success.

“This survey shows the variety of concerns young people have – and the Government has taken action to address them. From an Online Safety Bill to committing to Net Zero and hosting COP26 later this year, we are taking the necessary steps to keep our young people safe while making sure we protect the world for generations to come.”

Kate Green MP, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary backed the Children Commissioner’s call for small group tutoring, and expert mental health support in every school so kids can bounce back from the pandemic.

“The Conservatives have treated children as an afterthought throughout the pandemic and are now neglecting them in our recovery with a ‘feeble’ catch-up plan. It’s time the Conservatives step up and match Labour’s ambition for our children and their futures.”

Cllr Anntoinette Bramble, Chair of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People’s Board said: “The report puts children’s voices at its heart. But in order to deliver what young people have asked for, Ms Bramble called for more funding in early help services and family support for families experiencing financial hardship.

She called on the Government to introduce a cross-Whitehall strategy for children and young people which clearly states the role of each department in delivering better prospects for children to ensure no one is left behind.”

Liberal Democrat Education Spokesperson Daisy Cooper MP: “The Conservative’s incompetence during the pandemic has wreaked havoc on our children’s lives and education.

“Sadly, it comes as no surprise that children in deprived areas have been let down by the Government the most.”

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