The lives of children during COVID-19

In episode 6 of the Generation Pandemic podcast we’re looking at the lived experience of children in the UK and Ireland during the pandemic. Joining host Catherine McDonald are Dr Aisling Murray, Senior Research Officer on the Growing Up in Ireland study team; Aoife McNamara, Participation and Rights Education Co-ordinator at the Ombudsman for Children’s Office in Ireland; and Dr Louise Moore, Research and Impact Manager at The Children’s Society. The panel discuss first hand accounts from children about their experiences, look at the nuanced effects of the things they’ve missed and highlght the need for our young people to keep talking. 



Catherine McDonald  0:04 

Hello and welcome to Generation Pandemic, a podcast from the Interdisciplinary Child Wellbeing Network looking at the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on children in the UK and Ireland. I’m Catherine McDonald, and today we’re looking at the lived experiences of children during the pandemic. Joining me are Dr. Aisling Murray, Senior Research Officer on the Growing Up in Ireland study team. Aoife McNamara, Participation and Rights Education Coordinator at the Ombudsman for Children’s Office in Ireland. And Dr. Louise Moore, Research and Impact Manager at the Children’s Society. I began by asking Aoife, what she felt had been the main effects of COVID-19?

Aoife McNamara  0:46 

I’d say the biggest impact really has been on education. So this was particularly highlighted in our No Filter survey. So 1389 children from 23 different schools across Ireland took part and 8 out of 10 of those children felt that COVID had had an impact on their education. Probably as well, one of the biggest things is that they missed out on those extracurricular activities that happen after school with 60% of children saying that restrictions had a major impact on things like sports training, school trips, choir, drama, those sorts of things. And interestingly, as well, the survey drew attention to the fact that while a lot of the restrictions in schools eased in 2021, since September 2021, over a quarter of children reported, having missed more than two weeks of school as a result of COVID-19 and 29% have missed between one and two weeks, so that we’re still seeing the impacts of this ongoing. And we do believe that this has had a major impact on children’s mental health. So one child said in the survey, that she felt that more and more children felt stressed at home than they did at school as a no support. And potentially no one at home was able to help them. And this child said that left her feeling hopeless. We also really looked in depth at the school closures through our child rights impact assessment. And it really underscored how much we rely on schools and professionals working in schools. And this really had an impact on children’s rights. So the top line kinda findings of our children’s rights impact assessment was that school closures had predominantly negative effects on children’s right to education. And those experiencing educational disadvantage were disproportionately affected. It also had a negative impact on children’s right to the highest attainable standard of health, including on their mental health and had an impact as well on their right to adequate nutrition. As school closures meant that food provided under school meals programmes didn’t happen, or didn’t reach children who might have otherwise received it. And shockingly, really, the school closures together with other lockdown measures increase children’s exposure to harm and abuse, including domestic violence, and that the school closures really reduced the opportunities for a school-based professional to identify, monitor and report on child protection and welfare concerns.

Catherine McDonald  3:05 

It’s such a complex picture, isn’t it? I mean, already, there’s so much there. Aisling, does this resonate with what the Growing Up in Ireland study team have found?

Aisling Murray  3:15 

Yeah, so I certainly recognise themes there. Growing Up in Ireland has two cohorts of children and young people that we’ve been following since 2007. So suppose we’re in a good position to in the future, consider how things were before and after COVID, if you like, but in December 2020, we did a short online survey for both our cohorts who would have been aged 12 and 22, approximately at the time, just to kind of get a snapshot of how things had changed for them as a result of COVID. So we could get that contemporary information. And yes, certainly disruptions to usual activities, especially activities outside the home were common, large portions of both children and young adults were saying they were doing fewer cultural activities, like Aoife mentioned, and they’d have done pre-pandemic. They had more screen time than they would have usually had quite a few were doing sort of more sports and exercise and they’d normally have, but it was more common for young adults and children to say they were doing less than they had done pre-pandemic. And also I think it kind of the changes to interactions with people. So they were spending more time with their family generally, but they had less face-to-face contact with friends. And that was particularly so for the 22 year olds, because at the time the schools had gone back to in person teaching but the colleges were still mostly online. So 81% of 22 year olds said that they were seeing their friends less face-to-face and they would have pre-pandemic, but then there was kind of like the emotional cost. So for our 22 year olds, we use the same measure of kind of depressive symptoms like trouble sleeping, feeling lonely, etc, during the COVID pandemic compared to just two years earlier when they’d been 20. Before COVID was on the horizon at all. And we saw a big increase in the number of young adults who were kind of reaching that threshold of concern about the frequency of symptoms they had. And it went up from 27%, pre-COVID to 48% a that thresholds at the COVID survey in December 2020. So quite a lot of disruptions to routines and things that they could do outside the home, obviously, because there were restrictions on gatherings, but also changes in the amount of contact and relationships with family and friends.

Catherine McDonald  5:25 

So Louise, would you say these effects are echoed across the UK as well?

Louise Moore  5:29 

I think children will have had some differences and experiences between the UK and Ireland. And indeed, within the four countries that comprise the UK, which will have affected obviously, you know, how they responded to COVID. We do an annual survey with Children’s Society of children and young people aged 10 to 17 and their parents. In our survey in 2020, was actually conducted during the first national lockdown. We found then that there was a decline in children’s cognitive wellbeing but encouraging the assay last year in 2021, which was just after the lockdown suggested that children had had some recovery in wellbeing. And that’s been reflected, actually, in other work by the Department for Education showing a reduction in wellbeing during periods of lockdown and recovery and other times. One of the things that we really wanted to look at in our survey as well the effects that families and children experienced. And in particular, we asked families about the impacts and their anticipated longer term consequences. And one of the areas they did report which relates to things that other speakers have said today was about the impact on their children’s education. We asked both children and parents about how well they felt they’d coped with the restrictions that were in place, because of the pandemic and encouragingly, most of them felt that they’d coped relatively well. So responding above five in five out of 10, zero to 10 scale. But what we did find is that there were pockets of children and parents who responded below the midpoint of that scale, indicating they hadn’t coped very well, overall. And I think, you know, we have to be careful to take into account that there are real variations in experience. One of the things that we found was within that group, there were much more children in particular, whose parents had reported multiple impacts from the pandemic, so showing that they’ve not coped as well, perhaps, as a result of being disproportionately affected. What we also asked them about was individual areas, that they coped in individual areas and the areas that children told us that more children were coping less well when we’re around things like not seeing their family or friends. And then last year, we didn’t ask this in the first year, we did the survey during the pandemic, we asked them last year about how they felt about not being able to do hobbies, and pastimes, and that was another area where they seem to have coped less well. So I think there’s lots of kind of resonance with what the other speakers have said, based on the events being experienced in Ireland. And our NHS survey in the UK has obviously shown that rates of comparable mental disorder are much higher in children and young people now compared to before the pandemic. And I think we were already aware of some of the issues that was already arising children’s needs, and from a mental health perspective before the pandemic hit. And then the most recent NHS survey suggests that there’s been an increase from one in nine children and young people aged six to 16, with probable mental disorder in 2017, to one and six in 2021. So I think there’s kind of a range of things that children have experienced across the pandemic.

Catherine McDonald  8:20 

And Aisling certain groups of children and young people were at greater risk, weren’t they?

Aisling Murray  8:26 

Well, yes, because Growing Up in Ireland has several waves pre-pandemic, we can look at, I suppose, how the families who are already low income versus high income before the pandemic and how they were sort of differentially affected by what happened. And we can see that the children from families in the lowest income group say the lowest 20% compared to those and families in the highest 20% of the income distribution, that the low income families, they were more likely to say that the children had fewer activities than normal, fewer cultural activities, less time outdoors, less time spent on sports and exercise, they were obviously less likely to be saying that they were able to easily make ends meet. But they were also more likely to say that they lived with someone who was vulnerable to severe COVID and that was true for both a younger group and the older group of young adults. But aside from income, we also see I suppose a gender difference because the girls and women for both 12 year olds and 22 year olds, they were more likely to meet that threshold of concern for mental wellbeing and so I suppose its income, but also I suppose that a gender divide particularly on the socio-emotional front

Catherine McDonald  9:35 

Aoife you mentioned earlier children involved in direct provision. Can you just explain a little bit about what that is, and the experiences of those children?


Aoife McNamara  9:45 

Direct provision is the system in which asylum seekers live in Ireland. So generally, it’s in congregated living settings such as hotels and things like that. So it’s a quite intense living environment for a lot of children. So we spoke directly to some children in living in the direct provision system during lockdown. And we summarised that then in Our Life in Lockdown report. This report was a follow up to a consultation we’ve done a few months earlier, just before the pandemic had hit, which is called direct division. So for us the issues that our direct division consultation outlined really remained but we’re intensifying during the COVID-19 restrictions. So social exclusion, physical isolation from communities, lack of facilities, lack of space and privacy all remained. But boredom and loneliness and frustration was really magnified for children living in direct provision by the fact that they had to stay indoors, often in one small room with their whole family for months on end. So really, the rights of the child were greatly affected in terms of their privacy, their play, and rest, food, access to education, and information provision are really most impacted. And these difficulties were really intensified and magnified by the communal living aspect. And the children really spoke of a real difficulty in keeping up with school due to lack of support services to digital poverty and language barriers. But I think really a social isolation and fear element that most of us experienced during lockdown was really intensified for these children. So because of the congregated living setting, whenever there was an outbreak or a suspected outbreak within direct provision centres, often families were moved to isolation centres. So this did happen to one child that we spoke to. They subsequently tested negative but was removed from her home with her mum, and asked to stay in a separate hotel in Dublin, which was quite a while from where her centre was located. So we really talked about then how she felt. So I’m going to share a quote with you if you don’t mind. “The times that I felt like I was being blamed for something I did not have. When I came back to the direct provision centre, most of the kids did not want to play with me. Everyone then had to get tested. They kind of stayed away from us. It was kind of like we had the Coronavirus, but after all those days I spent in the hotel in Dublin without having Coronavirus. I felt like I was being blamed for something I did not have. And I was worried about my mom”. So I think that that’s particularly sad because most of the children in Ireland or the UK, you know, they were able to self-isolate in the comfort of their own homes. And they didn’t face this upheaval and the stigma that was kind of brought on by that as well. And you know, that was only one of the things that the children faced, really, their disruption to education was massive, and it was enormous y stressful for the children. I have another quote here that really outlines the enormous stress the children were feeling about their schooling while living in direct provision. So this child says “it was hard, it was stressful. Normally in school they’d explain it to you more, you’d be able to understand better, you’re more comfortable to ask questions. But online, you feel like you have to try and sort it out yourself. It was a lot harder. I felt so uncomfortable, so uncomfortable in online classes”. And that really speaks to this language barrier issue as well. Another child explained, “if my mom knew English, it would be great because I’d understand it way better. My mom could explain it and help me with the homework. Yeah, to be honest, it was too much. It was not good at English or reading at the time, I used to send emails to my teacher to explain to them what I did. But it was way better to go to school and understand stuff more than online”. So those real supports that teachers can provide and really breaking things down and explaining stuff was completely removed from children living in direct provision and the situation was not helped by, you know, the language barrier issue. So these children faced enormous difficulties within the lockdowns and restrictions on skills.

Catherine McDonald  13:43 

So listening to all it is a very complex picture, what our children have been through. There is the learning loss. There’s the mental health aspects, there’s the physical health aspects. And it’s interesting to hear that, that some actually reported better physical health because they were getting outside more. But obviously, we as we know, that wasn’t open to everybody. And there’s the fear and the uncertainty. So I think that it’s really hard to hear that about that child’s fear. Which would you say and Aisling, can I ask you first? Which would you say of all of those is going to have the biggest effect? What has had the biggest effect? And possibly the longer lasting effect?

 Aisling Murray  14:20 

I suppose, for Growing Up in Ireland are two cohorts they were both at transition points. So the younger cohort, 12 year olds, they were actually when the schools closed in March of 2020. Many of them were in their last year of primary school. So then, they restarted school in September, but actually, they went from primary school to secondary school, like a major transition in any time period, but they were doing that in the context of COVID. And I suppose without the benefit of what the sort of the preparation in the closing stages of primary school might have been able to give them. And for our older cohort, they were a bit more distributed and what they were doing between employment, study, but a lot of them were also in the closing stages of undergraduate courses. So in terms of like quite a lot of them said they missed out on a work experience or internship because of COVID as part of their third level course. So it will be kind of I think that sort of disruption to learning. And I suppose the disruption that followed after lockdown because of individual closures or third level remaining online, I suppose all of it necessary because of the public health emergency. But it will be interesting to see as these two cohorts develop as to like kind of what impact that disruption will have had on their longer-term prospects and achievements. And also, I guess, that kind of divide between lower income and higher income families that that sudden lockdown, like whether they had adequate internet connection, whether they had compatible computers at home whether children and young adults are quiet places to study, quite large variation in that. So even though the lockdown affected everybody, the resources available to individual families and young adults to cope with that change were quite different. And that might have a lasting effect as both younger and older cohorts progress through education and into the labour market.

Catherine McDonald  16:06 

Yes. And it was that loss of the sort of almost like the rites of passage that go with certain stages of leaving primary school, leaving secondary school. I’m thinking sort of residential trips, proms, leavers parties, all of those sorts of things that mark that time in your life, and that, you know, you’re unlikely to ever forget. Louise, have the Children’s Society looked into that type of thing? And if so, what’s being said, and how do we get that back for them in some way?

 Louise Moore  16:35 

I think in terms of transitions, and specifically is not something that we looked at as part of our research. But we know from kind of the long research programme on wellbeing that we have that transitions can be difficult for young people, there are kind of well known deaths in wellbeing as children get older. And the pandemic was kind of said previously, has made that really more difficult for children, there’s those who didn’t get to do in person exams and those who left or move to schools without contact with their peers and teachers. And the difficulties posed, obviously, in terms of gaining work experience. In recent days. In England, in particular, there have been media reports that teachers are seeing increased anxiety about exams in the run up to the first set of GCSEs, and A levels being sat by young people in three years. And there’s also been reports that higher education students have poorer wellbeing scores than the adult population. Again, it’s not clear there, by how much of that is down to the pandemic and other factors. But practitioners certainly reported that on entry in higher education, children, young people will show in social anxiety about being out and kind of fear about COVID, they weren’t interacting. So there was real unpredictability in terms of high risk behaviours and loneliness. And I think that’s something we really need to take into account going forward. I think whilst you know, kind of, for example, things like the wellbeing data showing some encouragement in terms of recovery, we don’t know how long that’s going to be sustained. And it’s really important that we continue to track that going forward. Because we you know, you don’t know whether the bounce back is because of the changes in terms of children’s, you know, being able to do more, and that initial almost relief and things kind of getting back to normal, but we know that some children have been really disproportionately affected by COVID. And I’m from a practice perspective of the Children’s Society, you know, we had to mobilise our services pretty much overnight from being you know, face-to-face to online. And there were challenges around that in terms of, you know, content, digital technology, obviously, concerns about young people who are victims of domestic violence being placed in the family with, you know, kind of, not support that they might normally have in school and other areas. So I think going forward, we’ve got to be really mindful of the experiences that children have had, and that there might be an impact down the line. So we’ve really got to take into account their personal experiences. And I think one of the really key things is that we need to listen to children, we need to find out kind of how they’re feeling and what they need in terms of their recovery from the pandemic.

Catherine McDonald  18:59 

Absolutely. Aoife what have you heard and found out about those transition stages in children’s lives and how they’ve undergone those in the pandemic?

 Aoife McNamara  19:09 

Yeah, I can share some anecdotal evidence with you. Currently, we are doing a children’s report to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child as Ireland is being examined this year. And we have find all of those things that both Louise and Aisling are discussing that children struggled on the real social aspects and the things that they were missing out with, and that they are now expected to pick up almost where they left off. And so they’re trying to get back into their hobbies, and they’re trying to put themselves out there and they’re trying to get back into the swing of doing exams and those formalised kind of education things. So really, what we find in our No Filter survey is that children are facing a lot more uncertainty because they haven’t been exposed to as many things potentially as other children before them had. So you know, some children’s Junior cert was cancelled, so that will be our equivalent of GCSEs and now their facing in to doing leaving certs without having ever done some state exams. So I have some quotes for some children around that uncertainty of exams and how that’s affecting them. So in the No Filter survey one child explained that “the pandemic has made the school environment very difficult. Large amounts of students and teachers are absent from school due to COVID. Therefore, progress in the curriculum can’t be made. And it seems impossible to catch up. Inflated points have increased the stress on students, and we’ve grown unsure of what our future looks like regarding college courses”. And that is a girl who’s aged between 15 and 17, from Dublin. And another child explained that “with COVID-19, we’ve missed out on so much, including our junior certificate, and we’re worried about the leaving certificate, especially how crazy high points have got. This is very stressful, since we missed out on so much learning. And we are at a disadvantage this year as we’ve never sat state exams. And a lot of teachers were out for the most of the year with COVID-19 of some sort”. And again, that’s a girl aged between 15 and 17 from Wexford. So that kind of uncertainty and that lack of experiences and doing those transitions, you know, from junior cert or GCSEs, and into A levels or leaving certs has really impacted children. But one I suppose real positive from this is how much that we have heard from children in this period. So for us in Ireland, the Irish Secondary School Union, the ISSU has gone to extraordinary lengths to put across the views of children in exam years, and have positioned themselves extremely well to influence government and the Department of Education. And I think one of the most telling things and that was evident from their hard work is the fact that the Minister for Education, Norma Foley has signed a statutory instrument, updating the membership of the National Council for Curriculum Assessment. And that’s going to now include the president of the Irish Second Level Students’ Union. So that is showing the kind of power and influence the children have had, they have taken it into their own hands to kind of redress the imbalance that they have felt over the last few years. And you know, governments are obviously taking this on board and listening. So I think that’s particularly interesting.

Catherine McDonald  22:11 

Absolutely. And it’s really interesting you say that, actually, because in a previous episode in this series, where we focused on learning loss, and I think also in the mental health episode, we were hearing about the resilience of these children of this generation, they are speaking up, and they are demonstrating their resilience by sort of voicing their experience and that that might allude to a whole skill set that they might not have had had, they have not gone through the pandemic, I don’t know what you’d say to that Aoife?

Aoife McNamara  22:37 

Yeah, I think that’s particularly interesting, actually. And it would be something that we would really love to look into. For us, we are seeing a lot of children with worries and fears that they didn’t previously have, but that they have channelled a lot of their energies into, you know, self-organisation, and ensuring that their voices are out there. So I think yeah, that’s potentially something really interesting to explore.

Catherine McDonald  22:59 

And Louise, what would you say about that?

Louise Moore  23:01 

I think our research has shown that children overall have shown, you know, kind of great resilience over the pandemic, there’s obviously, of course, some children who have been really adversely affected, and that, you know, we can’t take away from that. But in our survey last year, in 2021, one of the things that we asked children about is how positive they felt about the future, even in the context of a, you know, kind of national and international pandemic. And 72% of children said they felt positive about the future. And I think that really resonated with us that Children’s Society that inspite of everything they’ve been through seven in 10 children feel positive. I know, still three and 10. And we want to get them all there. But I think that does really show you know, kind of an encouraging sense about the generation of young people that we have, and their ability to, you know, kind of deal with really extreme things and come out the other side and still feel positive about the future.

Catherine McDonald  23:52 

Aisling what would you say to that?

Aisling Murray  23:54 

Well, certainly, I think one of the interesting things from growing up in Ireland survey is the, the level of individual differences among the responses to both from children and young adults. So for example, we asked the young adults about their changes in drinking, smoking and sleep. And then we see that, you know, there’s, for sleep in particular, it was equally divided between those people who were saying they’re getting less sleep than usual more sleep than usual or the same, as usual and, and similarly for smoking, even though only about a third of them smoked about a quarter of them we’re doing it more than usual and quarter doing it less than usual. So I think it’s important to consider those individual differences, I suppose, especially a policy response that suppose policy has to be nuanced to kind of consider that children and young people were affected differently and there were some perhaps benefits from the change brought about by COVID. You know, I said earlier that a lot of children/young people were doing less sports and exercise than usual, but quite a few about 20% did more. And you know, some also reported benefits to learning at home, as well as some difficulties. And in terms of optimism for the future yes, we see in the Growing Up in Ireland survey that the 12 year olds in particular were very optimistic about the future and about 9 in 10 were kind of looking forward to the next year at the time. And the 22 year olds, about three quarters of them were kind of optimistic about the future as well. But then, as Louise mentioned, then we kind of looking at, I suppose, considering the majority figure, but then there’s those kind of substantial minorities. So yes, I think that the individual differences is going to be an important consideration for policy responses, but also a challenge given as to how do you kind of respond best to every individual when the reactions and the experiences during the pandemic and I suppose the prospects for the future are quite different?

Catherine McDonald  25:40 

And how do we do that? Because obviously, policy is made for the collective and as you say, this is so nuanced, and I think it is very easy to get carried away and think, Oh, great, okay, well sort it this way. But what do we do? How do we make it as nuanced as it needs to be?

Aisling Murray  25:55 

I suppose I wouldn’t like to speak for policymakers. But I suppose what in terms of trying to gather evidence and rounded evidence for policy is for I suppose things like the Growing Up in Ireland study, because we have a lot of information about different groups of people. So we can contrast the experiences of children from low income backgrounds, higher income backgrounds, and also look at regional differences. So you know, the big Dublin city versus more rural areas. I think, probably a policy direction, but with flexibility to adapt at local levels, because you will probably get, you know, within counties or cities or communities like a slightly different response that may be required, again, like studies and feedbacks coming forward from the OCO work. And our studies here at Growing Up in Ireland can kind of help to pinpoint like, what are the issues? And who are those groups of children that are more affected by certain issues, like say, not having adequate internet connection or home learning resources compared to other children? So it has the potential to be a bit more targeted? But yeah, so I mean, a significant policy challenge to try and address the needs of everyone. But we have a lot of evidence now to help inform policymakers to make those decisions, and potentially with flexibility at local level.

Catherine McDonald  27:04 

And as you say, that evidence is so important. Louise, would you say the same?

Louise Moore  27:09 

I mean, I think one of the challenges we’ve got, particularly in England at the moment is that we don’t make policy for children as a whole, there isn’t, you know, kind of a single strategy for children in England currently, and we look at them generally, through particular policy lenses, rather than seeing the whole child. I think there’s been some really great movement that we, you know, kind of shouldn’t ignore in terms of just the fact that, you know, the term wellbeing is being used quite globally, and people are, you know, kind of recognising its importance. It’s all throughout, you know, the documentation on levelling up, I think more is definitely needed to tackle poverty. And there’s been, as we said, kind of particular issues like digital poverty have been really highlighted through the pandemic. I think one of the reservations that I have about kind of the current policy situation is there’s been a real focus on the school, and not all children are in school, and then you naturally leave out particular groups, but also, not all children will want their needs to be met within the school. So I think, you know, kind of looking beyond that, and how we can support children more generally, I think there’s been a real lens put on the family, because there’s been so much reliance on the family, you know, with children being at home more often. And for longer periods, that maybe you kind of have to look at different measures of support and sort of think beyond the walls of the school a bit. It’s definitely challenging, but I think, you know, kind of thinking about global sort of wellbeing and recovery from the pandemic, but then looking within that at the particular groups of your people that have been disproportionately affected. And also kind of recent policy changes are seen during the pandemic, there were some really positive things in terms of universal credit being uplifted, but that uplifts have been removed or free school meals globally provided. So you can’t underestimate also the impact of some of the things like furlough also that have been taken away. So I think, you know, kind of there’s got to be a real consideration of the fact that there, you know, there’s a need to look obviously at the wellbeing of children in general, but also to really focus on the pockets where support is needed.

Catherine McDonald  29:08 

Yes, and we’ve talked a lot in this series so far about the positives that we must try and draw from the pandemic, and maybe laws specifically focused on children, which, as you say, so far have been lacking could be one of the things that came out of it?

Louise Moore  29:23 

Yeah. And I mean, you just in the Queen’s speech, there were at least four bills that had really important provisions for children. So as I say, there’s, you know, there’s real positive movement and I think, you know, hopefully there’s momentum to go with that right now as well and to make sure that we. The pandemic has highlighted so many issues to us. And it’s also highlighted, I guess, how, you know, kind of important it is for us to consider what children one as well so I think, you know, in terms of making these changes, but also making them with children and making sure that they’re things that you know, kind of children are involved in.

Catherine McDonald  29:57 

And Aoife what would you say to that?

Aoife McNamara  29:59 

Yeah, Absolutely I completely agree with what Louise has said there. For us in the ombudsman for children this is really about taking a child rights approach to find solutions that are right for children. And one of the cornerstones of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child is article 12 about having their voice listened to and having due weight and consideration placed on their voice and opinions. And for us, we can see that children are innovative, they are creative, they are resilient, and they need to be listened to on what they need. So for us, really, we need to include their views on education, on mental health services, on housing provision, on reform of all of these services, because children are telling us that they’re not fit for purpose for them. And we need to uphold that article 12 right, and take this rights based approach to find workable solutions for all children.

Catherine McDonald  30:49 

So Aisling what would you say to children right now?

Aisling Murray  30:52 

I think, Catherine, it’s been a challenging time for everyone. But that children and young adults have shown great resilience and also great interest in what’s happening in their local communities and the world at large. So really wants to thank those young people and their parents for contributing to the collective effort for researchers like ourselves at Growing Up in Ireland, that they talk to us about their experiences, they’re willing to be very candid about what’s gone well, and what’s gone wrong for them. And my wish for them will be to keep that up not just when they’re talking to us, but also when they’re talking to the people around them that they talk about what’s going on for them, and what would work for them, because that’s a very healthy approach. And it also makes it easier for people in research and policy then to respond to their needs if we can talk to them directly about what’s going on for them.

Catherine McDonald  31:41 

Louise, what would your message be?

Louise Moore  31:43 

I think it’s really important for us and we really, really, you know are so grateful to children, for working with us during the pandemic for taking part in the research that we’ve been doing, and being so open in providing their experiences, as well as doing the surveys that I’ve talked about today. We did some consultation work with children as well. And we’re absolutely you know taken aback by their ability to see the benefits of the pandemic. And I think, you know, that’s something that is very valuable. They’re what’s important to us, you know, what young people need in order to make their lives better is really key to our work. And also, I think, to be really proud, actually, of how they’ve reacted to the pandemic and the resilience that they have shown.

Catherine McDonald  32:26 

And Aoife what would you say?

Aoife McNamara  32:27 

We are listening. We are ready to hear what you have to say we want to hear from you, we urge children to continue to make complaints to us. We ask schools to continue to begin workshops. We are now open again and accepting children into our office. And we just really appreciate the bravery and the honesty of children and particularly vulnerable positions who have spoken to us. We know that it’s difficult to speak up and to put your head above the parapet. And that’s one amazing thing that children have put that much trust in us in the office and we want to extend that trust back out. We are here. We’re open and continue to come to us because we want to hear from you.

Catherine McDonald  33:07 

My thanks to Dr. Aisling Murray, Aoife McNamara and Dr. Louise Moore. You can find out more about the work of the Interdisciplinary Child Wellbeing Network via their website and Twitter @ICWBN. The work of the network is funded by the UK Research and Innovation Economic and Social Research Council and the Irish Research Council under the ESRC -IRC UK Ireland networking grants. This was a Research Podcast production. Thank you for listening, and remember to subscribe wherever you receive your podcasts.


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