Children of the Pandemic
The Covid-19 crisis is asking a great deal of the nation’s children, as well as their parents, carers and wider families.
Schools and childcare facilities have closed, exams are on hold, and normal social activities are confined to online interactions. In short, for a generation of children, a normal childhood is out of reach for the foreseeable future.
As our economy is grinding to a near halt, this crisis has exposed schools and childcare as vital social infrastructure that they are — without them large parts of our economy cannot function, and parents cannot go to work.
This childcare crisis will affect men and women differently. The vast majority of lone parents in the UK are women, and women in two-parent families are more likely to be the second earner. Without further action from government to protect parents in work, this crisis could see women lose significant portions of their income or be pushed out of the labour market altogether as families are faced with impossible choices in trying to balance work with full-time caring responsibilities. This could result in lasting damage to hard-won progress towards gender parity in the world of work.
Children are adapting to this situation and are doing so for the health and safety of their grandparents, relatives and the wider community. However, the role of government is to ensure that they and their families are not at greater financial risk for doing so, and that existing inequalities in children’s physical and mental health, educational attainment or living conditions do not grow as a result of the crisis.
No child should struggle to eat or live healthily and learn to their full potential because of the Covid-19 crisis. With the number of children living in poverty already set to increase to five million in 2020, this could be a time of increased fear, hardship and disruption for many.
To prevent this, steps need to be taken quickly and urgently to strengthen our social safety net and allow access to essentials like outdoor space and digital access. While the government has taken strong actions to support firms and some workers, further measures are needed in support of children and their families.