Worst Impacts of Lockdown Harms on Children Could Have Been Avoided: Report

But parents campaign group UsforThem asked why most children's charities couldn't 'advocate strongly for children at the time it would have made a difference.'
Worst Impacts of Lockdown Harms on Children Could Have Been Avoided: Report
A young girl paints a picture of herself on the school window as children of key workers take part in school activities at Oldfield Brow Primary School in Altrincham, England, on April 8, 2020. (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Owen Evans

Children's charities have criticised the government for the "preventable" harm caused to children during lockdown in a report for the COVID Inquiry.

In a report (pdf) called "What about the children?" released on Wednesday by Save the Children, the Children’s Rights Alliance for England and Just for Kids Law said that the impacts of the government response to COVID-19 will be "long-lasting and era-defining."

The report was handed over to The COVID-19 Inquiry, the UK's official probe which will “examine, consider, and report on preparations and the response” to the pandemic in England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.”

However, parents campaign group UsforThem said that lockdowns created "a systemic safeguarding failure" and that damage might have been halted if only more children's charities had spoken out in the Spring of 2020.

 A member of staff wearing personal protective equipment takes a child's temperature at the Harris Academy's Shortland's school in London on June 4, 2020. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
A member of staff wearing personal protective equipment takes a child's temperature at the Harris Academy's Shortland's school in London on June 4, 2020. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

'Great Damage'

Save The Children said that it was their view "that the COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately impacted children and young people because decision-makers did not consistently and robustly consider their rights and interests."

"School and playground closures, social distancing rules and lockdowns meant many children missed hundreds with other children and missed the services and people who were once there to support them," it wrote.

It added that much of the "harm caused during the pandemic could have been prevented if the UK’s decision-makers considered children’s rights or talked to children when they were creating laws and guidance."

"Instead, adult-focused policies caused great damage and saw children deprived of their right to education, right to play, and right to live free from harm," it wrote.

"The pandemic affected everyone, but for babies, children, and young people, the impacts will be long-lasting and era-defining," it added.

The report highlighted many cases where lockdowns and restrictions had "a profound impact" on babies, children, and young people, especially those who were living in unsafe homes.

For example, babies who were born during lockdown went under the radar due to the lack of health visits leaving them exposed to abuse.

The report also said online grooming increased and that the Directors of Children’s Services have linked a recent significant increase in social services referrals, domestic abuse, and child safeguarding to concerns about lockdown restrictions as well as the closure of childcare settings.

Looking ahead, some of the measures it called for included classifying schools and early years settings as essential infrastructure for future health emergencies, putting them on a par with hospitals and public transport, which remained open during COVID-19.


Writing on X, formerly known as Twitter, Molly Kingsley, a co-founder at UsForThem, the parent campaign group formed in May 2020 to advocate against school closures, said that it was "bittersweet to see children's charities finally find their voice."

"The harm was predictable and predicted and might have been stopped had it not been left for a vanishingly small number of us—at UsforThem and a few brave professionals and journalists—to stand against the lockdown juggernaut in spring 2020," she added.

Ms. Kingsley told The Epoch Times that there is "a real question that the Inquiry needs to ask about why not more children's charities felt they could advocate strongly for children at the time it would have made a difference."

For being vocal, she had been monitored by the government's Counter Disinformation Unit (CDU) along with other vocal critics of COVID-19 policies at the height of lockdowns.
Last year, the online payment system Paypal closed UsForThem's account "due to the nature of their activities," leaving them for a time, unable to access thousands of pounds in donations.

"We had a systemic safeguarding failure where none of the organisations or very few of the organisations tasked and paid to protect children managed to, why did this happen?" she said, adding that organisations now should look at the excess death spike in younger cohorts and their parents.

She also noted that the report says that 5 million "children’s language skills are not age-appropriate" because of government COVID-19 policies, but it does not mention masks anywhere.

"It's interesting that they've got a bullet point about speech and language, 5 million kids, one in every two children in the country, that's a massive, massive statistic, who are behind in speech and language. And yet they have still shied away from having a conversation about the extent to which masking of children and adults played a part in that," she said.

A Department for Education spokesman told The Telegraph: “Time in school is vital for a child’s education, well-being and future life chances. We know children were amongst those most affected by the pandemic, and we are helping them catch up academically as well as socially.

“We have made £5 billion available to help pupils recover from the impact of the pandemic, including over £1.5 billion for the National Tutoring Programme and 16-19 Tuition Fund, which have supported millions of students to catch up on lost learning.”

A spokesman from the COVID Inquiry forwarded The Epoch Times to a statement by Inquiry Chair Baroness Hallett that said she "has made clear" that the process "will investigate the impacts of the pandemic on children and young people."

The Department of Education and Save The Children did not respond to a request for comment.