No-one is responsible for children at the heart of government

Covid Inquiry must recommend the UK Government immediately appoint a Cabinet minister with responsibility for children

Children were largely invisible by ministers and their rights often ignored during the Covid-19 response with no sign of change among senior government ranks, leading children’s rights organisations claimed today.

As Module II of the Covid-19 Inquiry comes to a close this week Dan Paskins, Director of UK Impact at Save the Children, on behalf of the children’s rights organisations, Save the Children, the Children’s Rights Alliance for England and Just for Kids Law, has warned the UK Government it must act immediately to ensure someone is appointed to Cabinet who is responsible for children. 

They are demanding the Covid-19 Inquiry's chair Baroness Heather Hallett make an immediate recommendation regarding children and not wait until the planned module specifically focussed on children and education, which isn’t expected until 2025.

“This Inquiry has grilled those at the very top in the Covid-19 response these past few weeks and yet as it comes to a close we still have no reassurance that lessons have been learnt and children will be a political priority for the UK Government, “ Mr Paskins said.

“We’ve heard evidence from Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Matt Hancock and Rishi Sunak and none of these core decision makers could sufficiently explain exactly how children were adequately considered by them and their rights protected. We conclude from their evasive answers that they weren’t given much thought at all.

“We heard in evidence that children became ‘invisible’ during the crisis.  We heard ministers failing to recall their positions on important policy decisions such as free school meals. We heard Ministers change the goalposts on their role. All of this is indicative of the lack of clear responsibility for children’s rights in government.

“Much of what needs to change is glaringly obvious and UK Government must act now by appointing a dedicated member of the Cabinet for children and young people, as well as ensuring that Children Rights Impact Assessments are mandatory and conducted for any legislative decision in future like school closures.  We would urge the chair Baroness Heather Hallett to make this recommendation to government now . This would ensure that robust infrastructure is in place within Government policy-making to ensure we never again violate the rights children that the UK has promised to uphold.

“We owe it to the Covid generation to stand up for their rights and tell the UK Government they cannot wait until the end of the Inquiry, they must make vital changes for children right now.”