Balance in keeping schools open and social activity must be found – Ombudsman

Social activity important for development after ‘extremely stressful’ 18 months

Cabinet is set to endorse recommendations from the National Public Health Emergency Team for children to reduce indoor socialisation and for those aged nine and over to wear masks in school. Photograph: iStock

Cabinet is set to endorse recommendations from the National Public Health Emergency Team for children to reduce indoor socialisation and for those aged nine and over to wear masks in school. Photograph: iStock

 

The Ombudsman for Children Dr Niall Muldoon has said it is important to find a balance between allowing children some socialisation and keeping schools open, after an extremely stressful 18 months for young people.

Dr Muldoon was speaking on RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland after it emerged that Cabinet will likely endorse on Tuesday recommendations from the National Public Health Emergency Team for children to reduce indoor socialisation and for those aged nine and over to wear masks in school.

Dr Muldoon welcomed the fact the new measures for children would be recommendations and not dictats.

He said this was the second Christmas where children were being asked to refrain from meeting up with friends and family, despite the importance of socialisation for development.

He said it was hugely important that schools remain open, saying: “We want to keep a strong routine for children.”

Dr Muldoon said the recommendations for children must be reviewed after two weeks, to see if they are working, and must be appropriate and proportionate.

Dr Muldoon also called for greater clarity on guidelines about mask-wearing in schools and assurance that children would not be ostracised.

He said situations where teachers or shopkeepers were put in a difficult position because a parent decided not to give their child a mask should not arise.

There could not be a situation where children were bearing more of the brunt of restrictions, he added.

Restrictions can be damaging to families, especially those that are vulnerable, Dr Muldoon warned, adding that lockdown scenarios had made life very difficult for some families.

“Children will never be found wanting,” which had been seen time and time again, he said.