Disadvantaged young people and those with special educational needs will be among the hardest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a report from the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and the ESRI.
With inequalities growing in the wake of the pandemic, new research suggests that school closures and a lack of interaction have directly affected the lives of children and young people.
Although rates of serious illness from Covid-19 have been low amongst young people, the direct and indirect effects of the virus are likely to impact their lives, possibly on a long-term basis.
Youth unemployment, changes to home environments, the digital divide, and uncertainty around State exams are just some of the knock-on effects of the virus cited in the research, carried out by the ESRI in partnership with the Department of Children and Youth Affairs. The report also found that formal education has been severely affected.
Parental job losses and the possibility of longer-term unemployment will also affect children and young people’s mental wellbeing by leading to greater stress within families, the report also found.
The phasing-out of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) and the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS) are likely to create challenges in maintaining living standards for families, according to the ESRI, "especially where the period of mortgage breaks and restrictions on rent increases and evictions has elapsed".
In the absence of an economic recovery, child poverty is expected to increase significantly.
The negative effects of the lockdown on wellbeing and mental health have been more apparent among those from disadvantaged backgrounds, as well as among younger adults.
According to the study, the impact is gendered. Women were more likely to report feelings of depression, anxiety, or sadness during the period of restrictions.
The suspension of many elective and routine medical services during the pandemic is also likely to lead to delays in accessing services, especially for those without private health insurance.
“This is of concern, given the greater prevalence of longstanding illness and conditions among children and young people from more socio-economically disadvantaged families," it states.
There is also likely to be significant challenges in many areas, in particular particularly in relation to therapeutic services such as speech and language therapy, which already had long waiting lists.
The report, ‘Implications of the Covid-19 Pandemic for Policy in Relation to Children and Young People' by Merike Darmody, Emer Smyth, and Helen Russell of the ESRI, is to be published today at 11am.
Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration Roderic O’Gorman said the report will be an important resource for his department as it works to address the impact of Covid-19 on young people.
“We know that children and young people have been among the hardest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic," he said. "This report will be a vital tool as we work to address that impact, making clear the need to tackle inequalities, support well-being and re-engagement with education, and help young people back into the labour market.”
Meanwhile, Leaving Cert students will receive their results online this year, the Department of Education has confirmed.
Students will receive their results directly through the calculated grades portal. Results will be issued at 9am on September 7, to both students and their schools.