Young people’s COVID-19 concerns heard

Liverpool is bidding to become one of the first UK cities to be a Child Friendly City, in partnership with Unicef UK.

The council recently held a virtual Q&A session which gave young people the chance to hear first-hand about the local response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and discuss their thoughts with key decision makers, including Director of Public Health Matt Ashton and Cabinet member for education, Cllr Barbara Murray.

The event included contributions from young people involved in youth services, Liverpool Safeguarding Children Partnership, Young Person’s Advisory Service (YPAS), Barnardo’s Young Carers, Liverpool Schools Parliament, Comics Youth and the Child Friendly Youth Group

A clear message from all the panel at the start of the session was how amazing and adaptable our children young people have been throughout this challenging time.

Matt Ashton provided an update about how young people were affected by Covid-19 and the importance of the social distancing measures that have been put in place and which are likely to remain in place for the foreseeable future. The discussion was honest about the challenges the city faces and the impact upon young people particularly those about to move to new schools, colleges and universities.

Concerns raised by young people included:

· The impact of school closures on education and exams
· Moving to new schools
· Support for mental health and bereavement
· The impact of the lockdown to the local economy

Cllr Barbara Murray, Cabinet Member for Education, Employment and Skills said: “I would like to take this opportunity to thank all parents for working with schools to ensure that education continues to take place at home. Parents please don’t worry about your ability to do this or that your young people are missing out on their education at school, staying safe is rightly everyone’s priority at this time.

“I would like to take this opportunity to praise our young people for their resilience and to re-assure them. Young people please don’t worry about exams or work you are missing, any educational gaps will be identified and quickly made up for on the return to school.

“Please all use any spare time at home to read and enjoy books, alone and together. Reading is the single most important skill required to get the best educational results so it is never a waste of time. This is Liverpool Year of Reading so please check out the Facebook page Liverpool Reads for free resources/books/storytelling and follow on Twitter #LiverpoolReads. Please all stay safe and well.”

Steve Reddy, Director of Children’s Services, added: “Some of the highlights and learning for me included how much young people want to offer their help and volunteer at this time – it is not just adults. And a young person identified that since schools had closed there was a lack of provision for free sanitary products which we are now able to rectify through our network of Children’s Centres. We plan to hold future sessions where young people can contribute to the recovery planning for the city and tell us what is most important to them.”

Reflecting on the session, Elle, a member of the Child Friendly City Youth Group, said: “I wanted to be involved in the call as it’s important to know the council’s response to Covid-19, what support is available and to share how this situation is affecting many people. It’s important that our current thoughts and concerns help shape future conversations and actions concerning young people during Liverpool’s response regarding Covid-19.”