New report about children’s participation and influence during Covid-19
9 maalis 2023
Institutions working for and with children and youth in the Nordic region were not prepared to protect children’s rights when the Covid-19 pandemic hit. In many cases children’s voices were ignored and often children and youth were consulted only after decisions were made. These serious lessons are highlighted in a new report commissioned by the Nordic Welfare Centre.
The report Children’s and young people’s participation during the corona pandemic – Nordic Initiatives provides a record of the challenges and other hindrances encountered during the pandemic. The aim is to help decision-makers to identify and address these problems more effectively in the future.
What strategies were implemented?
A research team investigated the decision-making processes during the pandemic to see whether children and young people were consulted and involved when the authorities’ implemented strategies and measures.
The report explores the consequences on both education and leisure time in the Nordic countries, including Greenland and the Faroe Islands. Researchers have examined how well the national and regional authorities managed to ensure children’s and young people’s right to participate and to have a say in all matters concerning them during the pandemic. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (Article 12) obligates countries to listen to children and youth and enable them to have a say in issues that have a direct effect on their lives. The right to have a say is especially important during crises, to ensure that we always act in the best interest of the child.
It can be said that the consultation of children and consideration of their views has been limited during this pandemic and this has impacted children and youth negatively in the short term and placed many of them at risk in the longer term. In the future, in crisis handling measures, a child impact assessment should always be carried out.
Decrease in study motivation
From the observations compiled in the study, it is obvious that school has an important role, not only in educating children and young people, but also as a social community that is central to their wellbeing.
Across the Nordic countries, the study found concerns regarding the impact of long-lasting restrictions and distance education periods, particularly for high school and secondary school students’ study motivation. Disparities in children’s learning seem to have increased, and, in some cases, pupils have dropped out of education completely. At the same time, some pupils found positive elements in distance learning measures.
Many lost interest in hobbies
Restrictions on onsite education, educational institutions and leisure activities have had a major impact on children’s wellbeing, growth and development, as social relationships are established in educational institutions and in leisure time activities. Many children and youth have lost interest in their previous hobbies. There have been concerns about negative effects of the restrictions for their physical and mental health.
The report concludes that children and young people were not sufficiently involved in issues that had very serious consequences on their lives and which in many ways restricted their right to participate in society. This is a serious lesson to be learnt by all the Nordic countries.
Creating new spaces for children and youth
There were also measures taken to safeguard the rights of children and young people, and the researchers have found some promising practices put in place during the pandemic. Practices that could inspire decision-maker to be better prepared for future crises.
These practices can be summarised in five categories: maintaining normal practices and routines, creating structures for children and young people’s participation, having communication and information in place, allocating extra resources and last but not least creating new spaces (digital and other) for children’s and young people’s learning and leisure actitivies.
Two more reports will follow this year
The work of compiling the research has been carried out by Finnish Youth Research Society and the Danish Center for Social Science Research, Vive, and commissioned by the Nordic Welfare Centre, as part of a four-year project financed by The Nordic Council of Ministers. The project aims to increase knowledge and co-operation in the Nordic region concerning Children and Young people’s rights, and specifically their right to be heard concerning school and leisure time during the pandemic.
Another report will follow, by the same research team, on current research concerning the participation of children and young people during the Covid-19 pandemic. Both reports focus on school-aged children and young people up to 25 years of age.
As part of the project a report containing recommendations for decision makers will also be published this spring.
All of the reports will be presented in our webinar Nordic youth – voices on wellbeing on April 27:th.