Disadvantaged children and those with special needs most affected by restrictions

ESRI researchers find that pre-existing inequalities have widened due to Covid-19 pandemic

The researchers concluded that school closures and the lack of face-to-face interaction with peers and broader family networks were having direct effects on the lives of children and young people

The researchers concluded that school closures and the lack of face-to-face interaction with peers and broader family networks were having direct effects on the lives of children and young people

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The impact of the coronavirus pandemic will be felt the most by young people from more disadvantaged backgrounds and those with special educational needs, a new report has found.

The Implications of the Covid-19 Pandemic for Policy in Relation to Children and Young People report, conducted by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), draws on existing and emerging Irish and international research on the effects of the pandemic restrictions on children and young people.

The researchers concluded that school closures and the lack of face-to-face interaction with peers and broader family networks were having direct effects on the lives of children and young people.

Researchers said the available evidence in Ireland and internationally suggested that pre-Covid-19 inequalities documented by the Growing Up in Ireland and other studies have grown in the wake of the pandemic.

The negative effects on wellbeing and mental health have been more apparent among those from disadvantaged backgrounds as well as among younger adults.

The impact is also gendered, with women more likely to report feelings of depression, anxiety or sadness during the period of restrictions.

The ESRI identified a need for schools to implement measures to counter the negative impact for learners, families and teachers.

The researchers said that specific measures were especially important for those in the most marginalised groups – such as those from disadvantaged backgrounds, children with special educational needs, migrants and refugees – who lack the resources or skills to engage with home schooling.

Merike Darmody, one of the report’s researchers, said actions must be taken to not only address the short-term impact of the pandemic but also longer-term issues.

“The disruption of learning is likely to have long-term consequences for many, especially for more disadvantaged children and young people,” she said.

“While short-term measures are important to address the immediate needs of children and young people, the actions taken need to be underpinned by policies addressing larger structural inequalities.”

Vital resource

Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman said the report, which was produced in partnership with the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, was a “vital resource” for policy-makers as the country reopened.

“The report points to the need to address inequalities, support educational re-engagement and wellbeing, and the need to assist young people whose transition into the labour market has been disrupted.

“We know that children and young people have been among the hardest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic. This report will be a vital tool as we work to address that impact, making clear the need to tackle inequalities, support wellbeing and re-engagement with education, and help young people back into the labour market.”