Last year’s school closures had a range of negative effects on children, according to a report from the Office of the Children’s Ombudsman.
In addition to a negative effect on the child’s right to education, which has had a disproportionate impact on children who are already academically disadvantaged, the closures have also led to the disruption of vital health services provided in schools, such as such as the school vaccination programme, hearing, vision and dental care. checks, as well as the school meals program, according to the report.
The children’s mental health and well-being were also affected as well as their social and emotional development for some.
While the closures have also contributed to an increased risk of children experiencing harm and abuse, including domestic violence, they have also reduced opportunities for school-based professionals to recognize and report protection and protection issues. well-being of children.
The study focused on five categories of children: those with mental health difficulties, homeless children, children living in direct provision, disabled children and Traveler and Roma children. The CRIA has found that these groups of children are among those whose rights have been disproportionately affected by school closures.
Commenting on the findings, OCO policy officer Dr Karen McAuley said the child rights impact assessment was a snapshot in time that aimed to capture the impact on children’s rights of the decision to close schools in 2020 and early 2021.
“Although all children were affected, our CRIA found that the closures had a disproportionate negative impact on the five groups of children targeted, and that their specific needs were not sufficiently taken into account in the initial decision. general to close schools in March 2020,” Dr. McAuley said.
“As such, our CRIA not only emphasizes the need for the State to give due consideration to children’s rights when making decisions, including in emergency situations, but also to consider special measures required”.
The Office of the Ombudsman for Children was one of 13 organizations that participated in a joint project between the European Network of Children’s Ombudsman and UNICEF to conduct a pilot CRIA on the impact of Covid-19 measures on the rights children.
The OCO CRIA was conducted between April and October 2021 and consisted of a desk review of relevant national and international documentation, as well as interviews with several key stakeholder organizations.
Speaking to RTÉ’s News at One Childrens, Minister Roderic O’Gorman said school closures during the pandemic were “an extremely difficult time” for children and that it was the most vulnerable children who had the most suffered from these closures.
He said the government recognized the impact of the closures and made the decision to keep schools open over Christmas and it was the right decision at the time.
He said that in the future, they must ensure that provision is made in all nurseries and schools for the most vulnerable children, regardless of the public health situation.
He also said they hope to open a number of new youth services across the country this year.
“So, while recognizing that Covid has undoubtedly been extremely difficult for children and young people, particularly the most vulnerable, there are a range of measures taken across government in education, in early childhood, in Tusla and in youth services to provide supports and to seek compensation for the losses young people have suffered.”