COVID-19: 'Recovery' can't just mean business as usual

Featured article - 31 July 2020
By Sam Royston, Director of Policy and Research, the Children’s Society

Sam Royston

The coronavirus pandemic – alongside the interventions, including school closures and social distancing measures, which have been necessary in response - has disrupted the life of every single child in the country. The pandemic is not only an unprecedented public health emergency, but also a challenge our society and our economy have not seen in peacetime.

It demands a response from every organisation working to improve the lives children and young people, and requires real commitment to collaboration – working in partnership to constantly remind the Government that children and young people must be at the heart of every department’s work towards recovery from this calamity. The same must be true in town halls across the country as councils lead their communities in the effort to rebuild.

However - as set out in a set of principles agreed across the sector- 'recovery' must not simply mean a plan for return to business as usual, which was already failing far too many children. Instead, a new vision of childhood is needed to support children, young people and their families to recover from the impact of COVID-19.

Such an approach needs to protect and promote children’s rights and entitlements. It needs to treat children, young people and their families as partners – working with them rather than just for them. It must have an explicit focus on reducing inequalities – challenging the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on BAME groups, and on children in poverty. It needs to be backed by investment in children and young people’s futures through a comprehensive, long-term funding settlement. And it must value and invest in the workforce - without whom there can be no recovery for children’s services.

Children at the heart of recovery

For this reason, experts from across the children’s sector have been working closely together to consider how we can support the Government, by identifying the actions needed to build a recovery which puts children at the heart.

Together, we have produced a set of briefings which build on the principles above to begin to set out an approach to delivering a recovery which works for children across six key areas - child poverty and social security; mental health and wellbeing; early years recovery; supporting children in care and care leavers; safeguarding and child protection; and school returns. You can find links to some of the briefings below, with more at the bottom of this blog.

Start of a blueprint

It outlines a huge set of recommendations for central and local government – the beginnings of a blueprint which could make recovery work for children. Together they also outline many of the gaps in current policy still to be addressed.

We hope that taken as a whole, these briefings and recommendations help make a start in setting out an approach to ensuring children are at the heart of Britain’s approach to recovery. However, the real work - taking the action needed to build a better recovery- still faces us.

To take these next steps, we need to work closely across the third sector, Government departments, councils, parliamentarians and children and young people themselves, to ensure we are working collaboratively to build a better future for children and young people, which has their needs and voices at the very heart.

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