Impact on young people: the procrastination has to stop

The impact of lockdown (part 1) on young people has been bad enough. Things need to be addressed now rather than waiting for a finish line we don’t know exists.

 “We’ll deal with it after” – the term we all know is meaningless having had a forced lockdown and realised it’s not time we needed to get those things sorted we always blamed on needing more time to do. We needed intent.

The impact of lockdown on young people seems to be the national wardrobe that needs fixing if only we had more time to do it.

It seems everyone knows about the impact on young people – the social, economic, physical and emotional wellbeing factors that will need to be dealt with, when there is the time to address them.

Since the start of the pandemic, children’s charities have called upon Government to address children and young people directly – no briefing to the public has done this (yet). Whilst experts warned that the impact would be disproportionate on young people and unequal when it came to socioeconomic factors too, aside from announcing a taskforce to look at it, nothing has actually happened as an intervention.

Whilst 30% of children lived in relative poverty before lockdown began (many with at least one working parent), around a million additional young people have been exposed to food poverty during lockdown. Young people’s mental health, particularly the most vulnerable and marginalised in society has been disproportionately impacted.

Before the lockdown young people didn’t trust adults to act on things like climate change. What this crisis has emphasised is that children and young people don’t feel listened to. Whether it was the ineptitude around A-levels, the mixed messaging around returning to university or ongoing blame in the media painting all young people as breakers of rules, youth audiences are treated as a homogenous group that should listen and not be heard.

What’s more, children and young people are almost being left until breaking point before support is provided. Mental health services were already stretched before lockdown. Children are returning to school in a less active, less mentally healthy position. This leaves them in a space which is unchartered territory – a lack of trust for authority and systems of support.

In recent months many have been calling for better engagement with young people in order to understand how to better engage them through the pandemic.  It’s perhaps no surprise then that telling young people what to do hasn’t exactly landed well as a communications technique.

As we head into Lockdown (part 2: the sequel everyone expected but didn’t want), will we see more procrastination over dealing with the impact of the pandemic ‘once it’s over’, or will we see interventions for young people, particularly as they’re continuing with school, college and university? I think I know the answer, I’d just like to be surprised.

I’ve been writing a paper specifically looking at what various research reports have indicated are the biggest issues facing children and young people in the UK as a result of COVID-19 and the first lockdown. It’s out soon – drop me an email if you’d like a copy.

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