The Government must act on the growing need to support young people during the Covid-19 crisis, as they are the hidden victims of the pandemic.
This is the message from the UK's leading children's charity, Barnardo's, which says it must come up with a joined-up strategy to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on the lives of children and young people.
Barnardo’s Chief Executive Javed Khan said: “The Government must take urgent action to protect this generation of children from the devastating effects of the pandemic. With the third national lockdown underway, there is a growing need to support young people, who are the hidden victims.
“March’s Budget is a key opportunity for the Government to invest in children and help to mitigate the impact on their education, mental health and wellbeing.
“In 2020 many children missed out on months of education, causing the most disadvantaged to fall further behind. This is especially true for families in ‘digital poverty’ who don’t have access to devices or WiFi at home. With most pupils once again relying on online lessons, it is vital that the Government ensures all pupils have access to devices and data as soon as possible.
“And, if they can and it’s safe, vulnerable children should attend school.
“The suffering economy means more families will struggle because of lost jobs and will find themselves in poverty. And young people looking for their first jobs face extreme difficulties in a very unstable market. The Government needs to ensure the welfare system is adequate to support families while they find employment, and it must make the Universal Credit increase of £20-a-week permanent to help stop hundreds of thousands of people falling into poverty.
“Sadly, many children are already struggling with poor mental health and others are facing harm at home, online or in the community. It’s essential that schools and other professionals offer support to children who could be at risk - whether by phone, video call or message app.
“Children must be a priority in the ‘post-Covid era’. The Government needs to appoint a Cabinet-level Minister for Children and Young People to work with families, schools, local authorities, businesses and charities to oversee a joined-up strategy that puts young people at the heart of policy and funding decisions and mitigates the impact of the pandemic on their lives.”