Anxiety, tensions at home and uncertainty around exams were among the issues most frequently raised by children and young people contacting the Childline Listening Service during the period of Covid-19 restrictions in 2020, the ISPCC has stated.
The organisation, which provides a range of resilience-focused services to children, young people and families across Ireland, was commenting today as it welcomed the publication by the Ombudsman for Children’s Office of its 2020 Annual Report entitled ‘Childhood Paused’.
The ISPCC outlined the view that Ireland must ‘build back better’ for children by recognising the trauma and challenges which continue to be experienced and putting much-needed support services and education in place.
ISPCC Chief Executive John Church said: “Childhood is short and it has been acutely impacted by the events and restrictions of the past 15 months.
“Children and young people have experienced significant upheaval, being cut off from school, social activities and sports, extended family members and friends and vital supports.
“They have spoken with Childline about the toll the restrictions have taken on their mental health, with many referencing how uncertainty regarding exams was prompting them to feel anxious, stressed and overwhelmed.”
“Languishing on long waiting lists”
He added: “That every one of the children and young people who contacted the Ombudsman for Children’s Office in 2020 reported that the pandemic was affecting their mental health ought to serve as a stark reminder of the need for timely and appropriate support services to be made accessible to all.
“Reports of children becoming very distressed and yet languishing on long waiting lists cannot be tolerated if our society is to uphold the rights of every child to live their best possible childhood.
“When Covid-19 restrictions had to be introduced in Ireland, attentions rightly turned to those for whom home was not a safe place – those who were and continue to be victims of domestic violence.
“A reduction in child protection referrals to the Child and Family Agency Tusla in 2020 highlighted the vital safeguarding role which can be played by teachers, coaches, extended family members and others.”
“Children and young people’s voices must be heard”
“Child protection is everyone’s responsibility. Any individual who has any concern in relation to the safety or welfare of a child ought to consider reporting these concerns to Tusla or the Gardaí.
“As our country begins to open back up, our policymakers ought to be cognisant of the kinds of challenges that many children and families will continue to face.
“Children and young people’s voices must be heard and they must be afforded the time and space to talk about their pandemic experience.
“As Ireland begins to recover and re-build following Covid-19, it must show children and young people that they matter, too. It must build back better.”