COVID-19 Inquiry Must Set Urgent Time to Hear From Children Before Memories Fade

1 Mar 2023

LONDON, 1 March 2023 – Children’s rights organisations are urging the Covid-19 Inquiry to take evidence from children as soon as possible over fears memories of the pandemic will fade.

As module two of the inquiry continued today with a preliminary hearing, chair Baroness Hallett was told by Save the Children, Just for Kids Law and Children’s Rights Alliance for England they still do not know when and exactly how children will be able to participate. This is despite the inquiry starting in July 2022.

They are calling for an urgent timetable to be put in place so children are given the opportunity to have their voices heard about the pandemic and to do this in time for the third anniversary of school closures – March 23rd.

The three organisations are core participants in the inquiry for module two, which examines the political and administrative decision-making of the UK government.  The next preliminary hearing is expected in the summer, with public hearings starting in October 2023.

Barrister Jennifer Twite, of Garden Court Chambers, representing the organisations at the hearing in London today, said: “The children’s rights organisations do wish to express disappointment that so far no children have been heard from and we are still not clear when or how they will be. 

"We have asked for information and further explanation as to how children will be able to participate going forward.”

She said children affected by the pandemic are currently not permitted to fill out a web form set up on the inquiry website, and that some channels suggested by the inquiry on how they can get involved would not be appropriate for them.

It was also queried how children would find out about taking part in the inquiry, even if avenues were open to them.

The three children’s rights organisations also raised the importance of considering the impact of structural racism in the pandemic, and backed the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice group and other core participants calling for Baroness Hallett to hire experts in this area.

Dan Paskins, Save the Children's Director of UK Impact, said: "Memories fade fast among children and we need an urgent timetable set out by the inquiry so we can hear from children as soon as possible. 

"From missing nursery and school to spending hours of their time with just a few relatives, children made great sacrifices to help us get through the Covid-19 pandemic.  There is much to learn from the experiences of the youngest in our society to help us learn valuable lessons for the future.

”With the third anniversary of school closures around the corner, it's now imperative a timetable for hearing children's voices is drawn up. There can be no further delays.” 

Louise King, Director of the Children’s Rights Alliance for England, part of Just for Kids Law said: “Covid 19 turned children’s worlds upside down. They were confined in their homes for hours on end, where they often struggled to access learning, with little opportunity to play outside or see their friends. The pandemic also took a particular toll on children in prison where they were subjected to awful conditions for months.

 “Urgent action must be taken by the Inquiry to ensure that both younger and older children from a range of backgrounds, and with varying experiences, are able to share their experiences of the pandemic as soon as possible.”

Editors notes: 

- Just for Kids Law is a UK charity that works with and for children and young people to hold those with power to account and fight for wider reform by providing legal representation and advice, direct advocacy and support, and campaigning to ensure children and young people in the UK have their legal rights and entitlements respected and promoted and their voices heard and valued.

- The Children’s Rights Alliance for England (CRAE)  seeks the full implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in England. Our vision is of a society where the human rights of all children are recognised and realised. CRAE merged into the charity Just for Kids Law in 2015.

- Save the Children UK provided emergency support grants for families during the Covid pandemic which reached over 14,000 children in 2020 and 2021.