In Our Shoes – what it’s really been like for children, young people, and families since Covid-19
The Covid-19 pandemic affected all our lives. But the news, and Government policy, often focused more on what was happening to adults. Children were less likely to become ill with Covid-19 than adults. They weren’t the focus of lockdown measures. But their lives were still deeply affected.
Since those difficult days of social distancing and school closures in 2020-2021, some families have been able to return to normality. But for others, the effects are still carrying on. Whether it’s catching up on lost learning, struggling to get support for health or educational needs, or difficulties with mental health, many children, young people, and families are still experiencing the ripple-effects of the pandemic.
These effects are much harder-hitting when families are trying to manage without enough money to be healthy. One-third of families in Leeds now live in poverty, which impacts on children’s life chances, academic prospects, and health in later life.
The impacts of the pandemic were much worse for families experiencing poverty. During lockdown families in deprived areas found it harder to get hold of healthy food, and had less access to green spaces to be active in. Families with less money often live in crowded, damp, or cold housing, which also means illnesses, including Covid-19, can become more serious, or be more likely to develop. Trying to keep up with home schooling was also more challenging, with problems accessing laptops and WiFi.
Many families were made poorer by the pandemic. This is getting worse because basic things like food and energy now cost more money than ever.
Victoria Eaton, the Director of Public Health in Leeds, thinks it’s unfair that some children were affected more than others – and she wants this to change. To help make change happen, she has written a report about the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on children and families, called In Our Shoes.
In the report, the Director of Public Health makes lots of suggestions for change. Firstly, she thinks all children and young people should be at the heart of the work that affects them. She also calls upon Leeds City Council and its partners to:
- Focus on keeping children safe,
- Prioritise work around children’s and parents’ mental health,
- Increase access to healthy food and create more chances to be active and access green spaces,
- Support children to catch up on lost education,
- Focus on how to make life fairer for families living in poverty in Leeds.
The report also calls for children’s healthcare to be accessible, especially dentistry, speech and language therapy and mental health services.
The In Our Shoes report, which was Victoria Eaton’s first annual report as Director of Public Health for Leeds, has been commended by the Association of Directors of Public Health (ADPH). The Chief Executive of the ADPH said: “This report gives a powerful snapshot of the inequity of outcomes for children and young people in the city.”
An event was held last month to thank the children, young people and families who contributed to making the report happen. It’s thanks to their stories that the impacts of the pandemic can be so vividly described.
The full report can be accessed by clicking the link below, alternatively, you can view the summary.