Government urged to do more to safeguard rights as more children slip into poverty

A new report by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission has expressed ‘significant concerns’ about how the pandemic is exacerbating existing inequalities, and having a devastating impact on children’s rights, well-being and futures.

The Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has reported concerns to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child of risks faced to children’s rights as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The watchdog found that more children are being pushed into poverty, that educational inequalities were widening and that children’s mental health was worsening.

Even before coronavirus the number of children living in poverty in Britain was increasing. However, the Commission has warned that even more families now risk being pushed into poverty as a result of the pandemic, and the groups who already faced poverty are likely to see their income reduced further. They added that families with children are among those who have been hit the hardest.

The report found that school closures and inequalities in home-learning environments also risk exacerbating growing attainment gaps for certain groups, including disabled pupils, some ethnic minorities, and those who are socio-economically disadvantaged.

The watchdog warned that the shift to online learning risks undermining the right to education and may have a long-term effect on attainment. It also cites challenges affecting special educational needs and disability (SEND) provision in schools, with staff shortages, social distancing rules and the need to concentrate resources on the health emergency resulting in local authorities reducing SEND provision and, in some cases, ceasing it all together.

Rebecca Hilsenrath, Chief Executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission said: “The pandemic has had a profound impact on all of us. However, the repercussions for children have extended into every single aspect of their lives, from their education, to their homes, their mental health, and much more.

“The decisions being made now to mitigate the impact of the pandemic will have a long-lasting effect on our children’s futures. We are asking the Government to put children’s rights at the heart of its decision-making so that the next generation can be supported to overcome the challenges and barriers that 2020 has thrown up.”

The EHRC’s submission contains a wide-reaching set of recommendations for the UK and Welsh governments to enhance and protect children’s rights.

Recommendations include conducting a critical analysis of the short and long-term impact of the pandemic on children; and developing a comprehensive child poverty strategy for England, setting out a clear action plan to eradicate child poverty and address the inequalities faced by children and young people.

Other areas of concern raised in the report include increased risk of abuse during the pandemic, worrying trends such as the high levels of violence experienced by children in the criminal justice system and the detention of children with autism and/or learning disabilities.

The report has been published ahead of the UK’s sixth periodic review by the UN of the UK and Welsh Governments’ records on children’s rights. The last review took place in 2016.

Read the report in full at https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/en/publication-download/children%E2%80%99s-rights-great-britain-submission-un

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