Using Children’s Rights to Recover from the Pandemic

Using Children’s Rights to Recover from the Pandemic

Last week, the Building Children’s Futures: Using Children’s Rights to Recover from the Global Pandemic project report was launched. This project was funded by the EU Commission and led by the Children’s Rights Alliance in partnership with the Department of Children Equality Disability Integration and Youth (DCEDIY), Tusla, and Children and Young People’s Services Committees (CYPSC), Eurochild, UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre, School of Political Science and Sociology, University of Galway, and Foróige.

Using Ireland as a case study, the project aimed to document how child participation structures worked during the Covid-19 pandemic and to identify best practices in Covid-19 responses in Europe. The project explored how a child rights-based approach, that utilises Child Rights Impact Assessments (CRIAs), can be embedded in decision-making in the future during times of emergency.

Research Objectives
  1. To examine the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic public health measures on activities and services for children and young people, with a focus on those that were disproportionately impacted.
  2. To document how decisions were made on measures introduced during the pandemic at national and local level.
  3. To document how child and youth participation structures operated during the pandemic and whether they had a role in informing decision-making.
  4. To develop solutions to support the Covid-19 recovery and prepare for future crises.

To achieve these objectives, the researchers, in collaboration with children and young people who acted as co-researchers, undertook a qualitative research study conducting consultations with children and young people living in disadvantaged circumstances and interviews with senior public officials.

Research Findings

The children and young people who took part in this research identified the following rights as being impacted by the pandemic:

  • Right to education,
  • Right to play,
  • Right to recreation and leisure,
  • Right to health and access to healthcare,
  • Access to family.

Solutions were sought, to ensure that these rights would not be undermined in further pandemics or emergencies.

Proposed Solutions
An evidence-based response?

The findings reiterate the importance of an evidence-based approach to decision-making and the importance of this evidence being informed by the views of children and young people. It is recommended that:

  • In a crisis, decisions on restrictions to be imposed must be informed by research data and/or consultations on how they will or will likely impact children’s rights.
  • The lived experience and perspectives of children and young people, including children and young people experiencing disadvantage, as well as their parents and advocates, should inform the research data and/or consultations underpinning decisions on restrictions to be imposed during a crisis.
  • The voices of children and young people should also be central to informing the evidence base for communication strategies in future crises.
  • Continued support should be provided to Hub na nÓg in their efforts to improve cross sectoral awareness in relation to existing participation structures and resources available as well as capacity building to support public officials to consult with children and young people on decisions directly affecting them.
  • In addition to decisions being informed by research evidence and/or consultations, professionals with expertise in children and young people should be strategically positioned within the decision-making or advisory structures informing the government’s response to the crisis.
Child Rights Considerations for Decision-Makers in Times of Emergency

As found in previous research in Ireland, the transition to online learning proved to be a poor substitute for in-person education. In future emergencies, the report recommends that:

  1. The closure of schools should be a measure of last resort. If closures are necessary and proportionate response, they should be accompanied by a strategy to re-open them as quickly and safely as possible.
  2. In the event of homeschooling, there should be improved support and monitoring of the engagement and progress of children and young people, in particular children with disabilities, children with special educational needs, Traveller children and children experiencing poverty and educational disadvantage.
  3. Given the importance of play and recreation activities for children and young people’s physical and mental health, as well as the opportunities provide for social interaction, greater priority should be given to safely creating these opportunities for children and young people.
  4. Where possible, disruptions should be avoided to health and special care services for children and young people.
Measures to Mitigate the Impact of Crisis on Children’s Rights

Operating within the public health restrictions imposed during Covid-19, this research found that government departments, state agencies and local government sought to introduce measures to ensure continuity of services and supports and mitigate the impact of the public health restrictions on children’s rights.

Common approaches emerged in the data in terms of the measures different state entities took to ensure continuity of services and supports. Some of these measures outlined above were intended to offset the disproportionate impact on children and young people experiencing disadvantage. In future crises, learning can be drawn from the measures adopted.

Conclusion

The report provides important learnings for future interventions that might affect the lives of children in the future. The full report can be found on the Children’s Rights Alliance website. If you have any questions or would like to know more about Early Childhood Ireland’s policy work, please do not hesitate to contact us at [email protected]

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