Ombudsman says adults - not children - failing to comply with social distancing

“The current health crisis has caused a lot of stress and anxiety for the adults in our society, particularly the older members of our community who are most at risk," he said.
Ombudsman says adults - not children - failing to comply with social distancing

The Ombudsman for Children has praised young people for their response to the coronavirus pandemic and said that they are not only to blame for failing to maintain social distancing during the current crisis.

Dr Niall Muldoon issued a lengthy statement in relation to the Covid-19 outbreak in which he said he wanted to "commend the children in Ireland for the strength and resilience they have shown during this strange time".

“The current health crisis has caused a lot of stress and anxiety for the adults in our society, particularly the older members of our community who are most at risk," he said.

It has, however, also been a very difficult time for our children whose routines have been thrown out the window and who can often pick up on the anxiety being felt by parents and those around them.

Dr Muldoon said the current period of school closure "is very different and can be difficult for children to understand" and that there was uncertainty about what will happen in the coming weeks and over exams.

“Children and young people have taken a lot of the blame for failing to comply with guidelines on social distancing," he said.

"However, reports of adults overcrowding public amenities or failing to take guidelines seriously show that we cannot point the finger at one cohort.

We are all in this together.

“I have seen and heard about many teenagers going above and beyond to help neighbours and family members with no thought for praise, but rather because they understand the concept of community and their role in it. That is the behaviour we need to focus on and build into our new reality.

"I would encourage all of the adults to recognise the efforts being made by our youngest citizens and where possible to try to protect them from blame, strain and anxiety.

“We are asking our children to do exactly the opposite of what we would usually be encouraging them to do; we are not bringing them to training, we are not visiting grandparents, we are not allowing them to meet up with their friends, and oftentimes with no childcare we are allowing more screen time while parents work from home.

"Children of all ages, from the very young to teenagers are struggling to adapt to a new normal with no definite end date in sight.

They should be commended for the strength and the resilience they have shown.

Dr Muldoon also said there were "extremely vulnerable children whose circumstances are being made even worse by the crisis", referencing those who are homeless, in Direct Provision and Traveller and Roma children living in overcrowded and dangerous sites.

"Others who will also be finding this time extremely difficult and whose vulnerabilities will be exacerbating this experience are children with disabilities whose services may be affected and children with mental health issues who may become suicidal," he said.

"Finally, we must also be cognisant of the children who are living in domestic abuse situations and those whose parents or guardians are struggling with addiction.

“We cannot forget any of these children in this challenging time and I would urge every department working to come up with solutions to always ask what impact they will have on the lives of children?"

The Ombudsman for Children’s Office has provided coronavirus information and OCO activities for children at https://www.oco.ie/childrens-rights/coronavirus-information-for-children-and-young-people/

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