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Coronavirus and Us – September 2021

This report details our work on protecting children’s rights in Wales between September 2020 and September 2021.

Read the full version (PDF)
Widgit symbols version to support children with additional learning needs  (PDF)

Summary version

In March 2020, Wales was put into lockdown because of Coronavirus. It meant that life changed a lot for all of us. And it meant that the way children learn, play and get more help if they need it changed a lot, too.

Our report

In September 2020, we wrote a report about what we had done to protect children’s rights in Wales during the first 5 months of the pandemic.

This report is what we’ve done since then, between September 2020 and September 2021. It’s also about how children and young people have been helped by others like the Welsh Government, and if they could have done more.

You can read the full report in the link below, but we have also written a much shorter version on this web page.

Our Main Aims

When we found out about the lockdown, we decided to do four main things:

Make sure children, young people and their families have clear and reliable information and advice

Since September 2020, we have:

  • Made sure our Coronavirus Information Hub has up-to-date information for children and their families, including information about exams and appeals.
  • Created a Haf o Hwyl/Summer of Fun area on our website with information about free, organised activities across Wales during the summer holidays.
  • Encouraged other organisations, including Welsh Government and Qualifications Wales, to write clear information for children and young people about important changes.
  • Supported children and their families through our independent investigations and advice service.

Check that children who might need more support than others are safe and getting what they need

Since September 2020, we have:

  • Listened to young people in ‘closed settings’ such as young offenders institutions, children’s homes and mental health units and made sure that the Government and Public Health Wales knew what their issues were.
  • Asked the Government to make sure that the rules around isolation were fair to children who are looked-after, disabled and those without gardens.
  • Worked with the Government to make changes to rules for meeting up for children who are home educated.
  • Published reports on the impact of lockdowns on certain groups of children, including disabled children and children from Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority backgrounds.
  • Did some research on children’s access to digital devices to make sure pupils had access to online learning from home.

Make sure that children and young people are listened to

Since September 2020, we have:

  • Repeated our Coronavirus and Me survey and received 20,000 responses in less than 2 weeks.
  • Held a listening day to find out what young people thought of the ‘firebreak’.
  • Met with our advisory panel of young people every month to hear from them what life was like.
  • Worked with a group of young people to take part in a European-wide project to create a report on how governments should respond to pandemics in the future.

Help government and other services hear about and respond to children and young people’s experiences and views.

Since September 2020, we have:

  • Shared the results of the Coronavirus and Me survey with Government the day after the survey closed in January. We also created reports for every council in Wales, sharing the views of children and young people from their area with local decision makers.
  • The World Health Organisation has said that our work on Coronavirus and Us, and how the Government responded, is a particularly good example of children’s involvement during the Covid19 pandemic.
  • Persuaded Government to fund ‘Haf o Hwyl / Summer of Fun’. They gave £5 million to councils across Wales.
  • Arranged a discussion for Government with young people to make sure their views were heard by those making decisions about exams.
  • Provided lots of advice, often at last minute, to the Government on rules and regulations to make sure they considered children’s rights.

Our other work

As well as taking on more work in response to the pandemic, we decided to continue all our other work. You’ll be able to read about this work in our Annual Report 2020|21, to be published in October 2021.

What are some of the things Welsh Government and others did well?

  • Several Ministers, including the First Minister met young people to listen to their experiences and answer questions.
  • The Welsh Government, including the First Minister, made sure they met regularly with Commissioners and other decision-makers to listen to concerns and answer questions.
  • The Government protected most legal entitlements for children with Special Educational Needs.
  • Funding was made available by the Government for a Haf o Hwyl/Summer of Fun – free activities for children across Wales over the summer holidays.
  • All schools could offer online teaching through free digital tools and software through Hwb.
  • Children and young people told us that most schools and colleges kept getting better at providing online lessons and supporting them.
  • Children of key workers and vulnerable children were able to attend childcare hubs in the firebreak lockdown and the long lockdown between December 2020 and March 2021.
  • Welsh Government was the first Government in the UK to make sure that children who receive free school meals were fed when schools were closed, including during school holidays.
  • We’ve seen some creative ways of making sure children can access school nurses and specialists when there were restrictions in place.
  • No children under 18 were charged with breaking Covid-19 rules.

What could have been better?

  • Government could have done better in making sure they were considering children’s rights in every decision.
  • Access to parks and leisure centres was different across the country, even where cases were low.
  • Some children were not able to take part in online learning at all.
  • Only one parent/carer was allowed to be with children in hospital.
  • Rules were sometimes not followed appropriately for children, for example, healthy young people in care homes were treated to the same isolation rules as frail older people in care homes.
  • Some children, including disabled children and those from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds, have experienced more difficulties accessing their basic rights.
  • Information about key decisions, including about the firebreak and vaccines, was not shared in an accessible way with children and young people.

What we promised to do next

In our first Coronavirus and Us report, we promised to:

  1. Keep listening to children’s experiences and tell the Government and others what they need to do to help children.
  2. Publish new reports showing how the pandemic has affected different groups of young people.
  3. Look at why the Government has decided not to change the law to help children who learn at home, and to make sure private schools have to follow similar rules to keep children safe as state schools.

We promised to deliver all three within 2 months. We delivered them all, on time.

What next for the Government

We have asked the Government to consider and respond to what we’ve said in this report and the others we published during the year about the pandemic. We have also asked them to follow our advice when they prepare for future emergencies to make sure children’s rights are considered and protected, always.