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Covid-19: Public inquiry must include effects on children, say experts

The government’s upcoming Covid-19 public inquiry must include the effect of the pandemic on children and young people, a group of leading doctors and scientists have said.

The draft terms of reference for the inquiry were published on 15 March but made no specific mention of children or young people other than a single reference to “restrictions on attendance at places of education."

“There is no doubt that school closures and broader lockdowns harmed children,” said the letter to the Times signed by 50 people including Russell Viner, former president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, and Andrew James, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists. “Educational losses have been most marked in children from deprived families and in vulnerable children.”

They pointed out that mental health problems increased from being experienced by one in nine children and young people before the pandemic to one in six during 2020 and 2021. Childhood obesity rates last year were at least 20% above previous years.

One of the signatories to the letter, education committee chair Robert Halfon, has also written directly to the inquiry chair Heather Hallet.3 “The closure of schools and the restrictions placed on education settings has been nothing short of a national disaster for children and young people, not only in terms of their educational attainment but also with regards to their mental health and wellbeing, their life chances, and their safety,” he wrote.

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Source: BMJ, 24 March 2022


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