The impact of COVID-19 is far-reaching, with concerns across community and voluntaryorganisationsthat it is exacerbating challenges, gaps and inequalities in policy and provision,already hardfelt by some of our society's most vulnerable ormarginalised.
In this article we explore the impact of the pandemic on children, young people and families across Northern Ireland withBarnardo’s NI,Julia Buchanan, Assistant Director for Policyat thechildrenscharity.
Tell us a little about your organisation and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on your work and key services at this time?
As the largest children’s charity in Northern Ireland, Barnardo’s NI supports over 12,000 children, young people and families every year. We deliver a wide range of services across NI, from providing family support and early intervention, to working directly with children and families who have experienced adversity and need our support. This includes supporting children and young people who experience the care system; young people who are sexually abused;children who struggle with poor mental health; and refugee or newcomer families.
The current Covid-19 emergency has presented a challenge like no other in Barnardo’s 154 year history, and the children and families we support need us now more than ever. Our staff and volunteers are working tirelessly to ensure the most vulnerable children are getting the support they need and that they are getting it quickly - whether that is a delivery of groceries and essentials, a regular digital counselling session, or protected face-to-face interventions where necessary.
Although we have taken the decision to close some of our buildings in line with public health guidance, we have not stopped delivering services and we continue to support children, young people and families across Northern Ireland. Our 40+ services are using creative methods to ensure sustained support to our service users, using digital technology to maintain contact with young people, providing pre-recorded resources for families to use at home, or adapting our residential homes to comply with social distancing and PPE requirements.
Like many charities, we are also experiencing the financial impact of Covid-19 and we are taking measures to protect jobs and the longer-term sustainability of the charity across the UK. We also have concerns about further financial impacts for the sector still to come after the immediate crisis. Charities are critical to supporting the vulnerable in society and the demand is already increasing; we need to ensure financial sustainability in the sector to respond to both the current need and to the likely increased post-pandemic future need.
What are your key concerns as regardsthe impact of the COVID-19pandemic on thechildren, young people and families, you work with and on behalf of?
The Covid-19 pandemic has had an enormous impact on our society, affecting how we lead our everyday lives. However, whilst putting systems in place to address the threat of coronavirus, safeguards that normally protect vulnerable children and young people could inadvertently be breached. Our policy briefing highlights how we need to ensure that those protections are preserved, even more so in times of crisis.
We are concerned that child protection issues are not being identified and referred to the appropriate agencies, in the absence of the usual support systems such as schools and other face-to-face engagement. Based on our service data from recent years, we usually see an increase of safeguarding issues just before or during periods of schools closures such as summer holidays, with particular increases in our early intervention and drug or alcohol misuse services. We know that there has been an increase in domestic abuse calls to police and helplines during lockdown; and too often, children and young people are the hidden victims of domestic abuse. In addition, increased online traffic may pose an increased risk of digital dangers including grooming and sexual exploitation, indicating a need to promote online safety and to support parents and carers to navigate digital safety. More families are being pushed into crisis and the most vulnerable children are in the greatest danger as vital support systems diminish.
Mental Health Impacts
The long lasting impact of this crisis may be seen for years to come and it is vital we can sustain the support needed for children and young people both during and after the pandemic, particularly in areas like mental health and wellbeing, where the effects of the current situation may not be seen immediately. It is important that we recognise the impact of the crisis and of the public discourse on the mental health and anxiety of young people, and the impact that can have on their long term wellbeing. Social distancing measures can exacerbate feelings of loneliness and isolation, leading to chronic loneliness which can impact on long term mental and physical health and wellbeing. We need to make sure that access to mental health support continues throughout this period, and that there is recognition of the particular vulnerability of certain groups – for example, young carers, children in or leaving care, children with disabilities or complex needs, and newcomer and refugee families with limited family or social networks.
We’re also concerned that many families have been pulled into poverty as a result of losing their jobs, businesses or increased financial pressures during this time. Children are already at a higher risk of poverty than the general population: experiencing poverty can cause stress and worry for a child, which can have a negative impact on their development. The added dimension of ‘digital poverty’ is also a concern, given the reliance on digital devices for children and young people to access education as well as maintain friendships throughout this period, and yet not every family will have access to the equipment needed
The important thing to remember, though, is that children and young people are not a homogenous group, and this crisis will impact every family differently. We need to make sure that the various needs of every child are recognised so that vulnerable children and young people are not forgotten in developing the response to the pandemic.
In light of these, what are your key asks for government and other senior decision makers at this time?
We have been working with government and political stakeholders throughout this crisis to highlight our concerns for children, young people and families, and welcome the engagement so far and the commitment to recognising the impact of Coronavirus on children, young people and families. We urge the NI Executive to build on this and to continue engaging with the sector, to ensure children are not forgotten in this crisis.
Our Key asks include:
- Child protection and safeguarding must be prioritised. In recognition of the increased risks during lockdown, we need to avoid revised safeguarding thresholds, which may leave at-risk families without the vital support they need including early intervention or prevention support. With fewer social supports and opportunities to identify risk, timely effective intervention is essential.
- Mental health support and access to counselling must continue throughout this crisis and afterwards, with particular supports made available to vulnerable groups, in recognition of the impact of loneliness during isolation and the impact of existing trauma, which may be exacerbated during lockdown.
- Support should be available to families that have been pulled into poverty as a result of the pandemic, as well as to families who are already experiencing poverty.
- The pandemic is a threat to the existence of charities. Funding security, including longer-term commissioning, is needed to ensure the vital services delivered by the third sector can continue to address the legacy of the pandemic in years to come.
Huge thanks to Julia for taking the time to highlight these important issues.For further queries regarding any of the key issues raised,please contact Julia Buchanan, Assistant Director, Policy [emailprotected]
Barnardos NIare members of NICVA'sPublic Affairs Forum. Via ourPublic Affairs Forumwe continue to support community and voluntary organisations in amplifying their experiences and messaging to government and others at this time. This forum brings togetherthose working in policy and public affairs across the voluntary and community sectorto share information and insight and to discuss key issues in policy and policy development.
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Adolescents may be particularly affected by an increase in anxiety and decrease in social connectedness to peers and teachers and a decrease in access to mental health services as a result of the pandemic. Finally, the loss of a loved ones places a significant burden on the well-being of children.How has COVID-19 affected children and families? ›
The pandemic may have worsened children's mental health or exacerbated existing mental health issues among children. The pandemic caused disruptions in routines and social isolation for children, which can be associated with anxiety and depression and can have implications for mental health later in life.What impact did the COVID-19 pandemic have on families? ›
Challenges for all households peaked early in the pandemic and then improved by summer 2021; however, adults living with children have consistently reported more difficulty paying daily household expenses, providing adequate food for their family, and have been less secure in their housing payments compared to other ...How is COVID-19 affecting children's development? ›
Delays in Early Development
COVID-19 shut down social activities. One recent study compared early childhood development in children born during the pandemic versus those born in the previous decade. Children born between March 2020 and June 2021 had lower scores in language, motor skills and thinking.
Long-term effects on social and behavioral health
For older children, behavioral symptoms reported included clinginess, distraction, irritability, and fear of asking questions about the epidemic .
Most common are fever, cough, trouble breathing, and gastrointestinal problems like bellyache, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Other complaints include headaches, muscle aches, loss of taste and smell, and cold symptoms.Does COVID affect children more than adults? ›
What are the symptoms of coronavirus in kids? People of any age can contract COVID-19, and the nature of COVID-19 symptoms is fairly similar regardless of the patient's age. In many cases, however, kids with COVID-19 have more mild symptoms than adults.How did COVID-19 impact the people? ›
COVID-19 dealt a heavy blow to youth employment. Forty million people who would have had a job in the absence of the pandemic did not have one at the end of 2021, worsening youth unemployment trends. Youth earnings contracted by 15% in 2020 and 12% in 2021.What are the positive effects of family? ›
Some advantages of having a family are increased happiness and satisfaction. Studies have shown that spending time with family can help reduce stress and anxiety, lead to a healthier lifestyle and lengthen your life. Family gives you motivation to be the best version of yourself.How has the Covid-19 pandemic affected life? ›
The COVID-19 pandemic may have brought many changes to how you live your life, and with it, at times, uncertainty, altered daily routines, financial pressures and social isolation. You may worry about getting sick, how long the pandemic will last, whether your job will be affected and what the future will bring.
These findings are echoed in the views of many K-12 parents: About six-in-ten (61%) say the first year of the pandemic had a negative effect on their children's education. Just 7% say it had a positive effect, while 28% say it had neither a positive nor negative effect.What impact does the pandemic have on today's socialization? ›
Coronavirus has significantly changed the course of (almost) all activities of public life. It's had a profound inpact on socialization - how we go about our usual daily communication, socializing, playing, learning, how we interact with each other and learn to to behave in a way that is acceptable to society.How does lack of social interaction affect child development? ›
Social isolation in early childhood can indeed affect a child's growth and development. In fact, children deprived of social relationships can experience cognitive and speech delays, as well as physical and mental health concerns in adulthood.What are surprising long term effects of COVID? ›
The COVID-19 illness itself or its effect on the body can cause mental health illness. People have developed depression and anxiety after their COVID-19 infection. For others, their preexisting mood disorder can get worse. Some ICU survivors also experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).Are there long term effects of Covid now? ›
However, as we discussed, there are common symptoms that are reported, such as extreme fatigue, post-exertional malaise, cognitive dysfunction, tachycardia, loss of smell and taste. These are some of the common features associated with long COVID.What are other long term effects of Covid? ›
The most common symptoms of long COVID are:
- extreme tiredness (fatigue)
- feeling short of breath.
- loss of smell.
- muscle aches.
Most children who catch the COVID-19 virus have only a mild illness. But in children with MIS-C , after infection with the COVID-19 virus, the blood vessels, digestive system, skin or eyes become swollen and irritated. MIS-C is rare. It most often happens within 2 months after having COVID-19 .How long does COVID last in kids? ›
Symptoms can last anywhere from 1 to 21 or more days, but most children are better within a week. If your child gets COVID-19 they should stay quarantined at home for 10 days after positive testing or onset of symptoms, and must demonstrate improving symptoms without fever for 24 hours.Can children get COVID twice? ›
It is best to talk to your child's healthcare provider. ACPHD does not require testing or a note from your healthcare provider to go back to school. People can be reinfected. Evidence shows that reinfection can happen 90+ days after initial symptoms or positive test.When is COVID most contagious? ›
You are most infectious (or contagious) in the first 5 days after your symptoms start. You can also spread COVID-19 in the 48 hours before your symptoms start. If you never have symptoms, consider yourself most infectious in the 5 days after you test positive.
MIS-C is a rare condition that sometimes occurs in children who have had COVID-19 infection. Symptoms of MIS-C typically develop two or more weeks following infection with COVID-19 and involves inflammation of different parts of the body, such as the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal system.How does COVID-19 affect youth mental health? ›
These rates are also higher than adult populations during the early months of the pandemic, estimated to be around 15 – 25% (36–46% for those with a diagnosed mental disorder) experiencing moderate to severe anxiety or depression (Dawel et al., 2020; Fisher et al., 2020) and the small increase reported in adolescents ...How did COVID affect students mental health? ›
“20% of college students say their mental health has worsened…” Read more. “Nearly three in 10 (29%) say their child is “already experiencing harm” to their emotional or mental health because of social distancing and closures.How to write COVID-19 in an essay? ›
Our preference is to use 'COVID-19' when writing about the coronavirus, rather than 'Covid-19' or 'covid-19'.How is the pandemic affecting families with special needs? ›
Conclusion: Family quality of life for children with disabilities decreased as the impact of COVID-19 pandemic increased. Perceived social support, parental self-efficacy and psychological resilience had mediating roles in the relationship between the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and family quality of life.What are the effects of the Covid 19 pandemic? ›
The pandemic has affected the public's mental health and well-being in a variety of ways, including through isolation and loneliness, job loss and financial instability, and illness and grief.How does family affect health and well-being? ›
Having a positive family environment could support good mental and emotional health, which in turn could lead to better physical health. Strong family relationships marked by open communication, honesty, humour, and reassurance could strengthen your mental and emotional well-being.How does economy affect families? ›
Higher poverty rates are associated with increased rates of family conflict, child neglect and abuse, and intimate partner violence.What are some challenges faced by families with disabilities? ›
- Learning about the disability.
- Researching, locating and accessing effective treatments and resources.
- Coping with the emotional and physical demands of caring for an individual with a disability.
However, overall, Black, Hispanic, and American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) people have borne the heaviest health impacts of the pandemic, particularly when adjusting data to account for differences in age by race and ethnicity.
Behavioral Change Since the Pandemic Began
The pandemic is affecting us all, with 93% reporting at least one behavior change since the outbreak began. These behaviors may lead to further increases in conditions like anxiety, major depressive disorder as well as tobacco, substance and alcohol use disorder.
The outbreak of COVID-19 affected the lives of all sections of society as people were asked to self-quarantine in their homes to prevent the spread of the virus. The lockdown had serious implications on mental health, resulting in psychological problems including frustration, stress, and depression.How has COVID affected the world? ›
The crisis had a dramatic impact on global poverty and inequality. Global poverty increased for the first time in a generation, and disproportionate income losses among disadvantaged populations led to a dramatic rise in inequality within and across countries.