Statement: It’s a year since the Committee on the Rights of the Child warned of the pandemic’s grave effects. Now, we’ve seen them come to pass

In this statement, Commissioner Bruce Adamson reflects on the impact of the pandemic on children and young people across Scotland, and how more still needs to be done to protect their human rights.

A year ago today, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child warned of the grave physical and psychological effects of the pandemic on children. Unfortunately, we have seen that come to pass over the last year. They called on states to take a rights-based response, with a focus not just on public health, but on the broad framework of rights― including economic, social and cultural rights. We need to do better at putting children’s rights at the heart of decision making. 

The UN Committee highlighted that children’s views must be heard and taken into account in decision-making processes on the pandemic. Children should understand what is happening and feel that they are taking part in the decisions that are being made in response to the pandemic. Children and young people across Scotland have told us that they don’t feel they have been properly included in decision making or even kept properly informed, especially on things like education and exams or the rules around socialising. 

Children and young people’s rights to education, health, family life and to gather with friends have all been infringed by this pandemic. Those already at risk are suffering most; disabled and care-experienced children, young carers, those experiencing poverty. More children are now living in poverty, suffering poor mental health, and dealing with bereavement. It’s essential that a human rights approach is central to our continued response to the pandemic. Addressing the impact of poverty must remain at the heart of decision making. 

Children have the right to the highest attainable standard of health― this includes support for the mental health impacts of the pandemic. It is important we continue to consider the impacts of restrictions and decisions on things like education and socialising have on children’s mental health. 

Children have the right to an education which develops them to their fullest potential. The pandemic has drastically changed the way everyone has received education. It is essential that we ensure every child gets any additional support they need. Confusion around qualifications and how academic achievement will be recognised and supported is having a significant impact on young people’s ability to progress. This has a profound mental health impact. 

The children and young people we speak to understand the important role that they are playing to protect public health – and have been doing an incredible job – showing resilience, creativity and self-sacrifice over the last year, sticking to the rules. There have been some positives – for many being at home with families and community solidarity have been something to celebrate.  

But a year on from the UN Committee’s stark warning – we must do more to protect children’s rights and recognise the important role that they need to play in decision making. It’s important that restrictions are kept under review to make sure that they continue to be necessary, proportionate and for the most limited time possible.

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