‘Scarred for life’: Sage experts warn of impact of Covid policies on the young | UK news

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Children and young people are at risk of becoming a “lost generation” because of the UK government’s pandemic policies, members of Sage have warned.

Those aged seven to 24, sometimes called generation Z, have largely avoided the direct health impact of the coronavirus. But, say the government’s scientific advisers, they risk being “catastrophically” hit by the “collateral damage” wrought by the crisis.

The Guardian understands that some advisers on the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), which feeds directly into UK government decision-making, warned ministers “several” times about the risks to people in this age group but believe they were “brushed aside”.

Ten million schoolchildren across the UK had their schools closed from March to curb the spread of Covid-19 – the first such shutdown in modern British history – while cancelled exams and the summer fiasco over results caused uproar.

Last week, the former homelessness adviser, Dame Louise Casey, warned the UK face a “period of destitution” in which families “can’t put shoes on” children.

Meanwhile, youth unemployment is on course to more than triple to its highest level since the early 1980s and could hit 17% by the end of this year, according to a Resolution Foundation report.

In claims echoing revelations about Sage recommendations for a “circuit breaker” in England being ignored, one Sage adviser told the Guardian that the government was “too interested in firefighting to think even just three months ahead, despite the fact that we had empirical data showing the specific risks to this generation”.

Poverty chart

The warnings have been echoed by a host of eminent child specialists. They include: Cathy Creswell, professor of developmental clinical psychology at Oxford and lead of the Co-Space study into how families are coping during the pandemic; Dr Dasha Nicholls, who is part of the You-Cope study into young people’s health and wellbeing during the pandemic, research that is being led by University College London and Great Ormond Street hospital; and Craig Morgan, professor of social epidemiology and the head of the health service and population research department at the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London.

“We have failed to listen and respond to these children and their families,” said Creswell. “We risk having a whole generation unheard, forgotten and devalued.”

Nicholls said: “This generation is entering uncharted territory, where their opportunities have been devastated. People talk of the resilience of the young but this crisis has happened so quickly that young people have had no time to change and adapt. The impact on them could become entrenched, with potentially enduring consequences.”

Morgan said: “We cannot afford to fail a whole generation. We need urgent action to support young people. Policies that will have an immediate and far-reaching impact.”

This week, the Guardian launches a project tracking the experiences of members of generation Z across the country during the pandemic. It comes as Imperial College London and NHS Digital are due to release an update of their 2017 research on the mental health of children and young people, the first comprehensive study of this generation during the pandemic.


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The were already concerns among experts about generation Z before the pandemic. About 30% of children were already living in poverty, a figure that was predicted to increase.

During the pandemic, there has been a rise in the use of food banks, especially among households with children. Official data showed a dramatic deterioration in job prospects for young men in June to August 2020, with 16- to 24-year-olds accounting for almost 60% of the total fall in employment during the pandemic.

Prof Russell Viner, the president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, who is on Sage’s children’s task and finish working group, said: “This is a generation under threat. It will be catastrophically, disproportionately hit and harmed by the loss of economic and social opportunities as a direct result of the pandemic. We have taken money out of our children’s futures by racking up this huge national debt.

“We have to face up to the fact that we not only took away the protective net we throw around our children by closing schools and redeploying the children’s health workforce, but then we mortgaged off their futures for the current reality.”.

Viner’s comments were echoed by a second Sage member, Prof Chris Bonell from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Hafta Ichi
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: ‘Scarred for life’: Sage experts warn of impact of Covid policies on the young | UK news

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