In a new policy briefing, a team of researchers at King’s College London and Oxford University highlight the multiple effects that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on children and young people in the UK through their education and daily life, including challenges around social isolation, academic pressures, adjusting to online learning and coping with reopening of schools.
They also say there has been severe disruption to support services, and they point out how children and young people have been affected by the loss, trauma and financial insecurity linked to the pandemic which has occurred within wider society, communities and families.
To help address these short- and long-term effects, the research team has set out potential solutions that can be put into place within schools, mental health services, and the wider policy and practice environment. They suggest:
- Equipping school staff to normalise conversations about mental health to identify who needs help
- Taking a ‘whole school approach’ to children’s mental health that involves parents, carers, public health teams, governors and teachers.
- Maintaining or increasing financial support of families facing hardship caused or exacerbated by the pandemic
- Reforming the benefit system and universal credit, and exploring the feasibility of implementing a guaranteed income scheme
- Reviewing digital education tools and investing in those that have improved children’s experience of education
- Bridging the digital divide by providing children with internet access and IT equipment needed for their education.
- Allowing some children to have a gradual return to conventional learning through a hybrid model
- Strengthening the provision of early interventions and greater support at times of transition
- Developing open access mental health services for young people up to the age of 25
- Assessing the impact of changes such as more online mental health services during the pandemic
- Improving links between schools and families
- Investing sufficient resources in special education, support care and mental health funding
- Providing COVID-19-related mental health resources for those who have experience trauma and loss.