How coronavirus hurts the most vulnerable children.... and what the government should do about it
Today I want to talk about how coronavirus affects children, and especially children with additional needs or disabilities or children who are vulnerable at home. It’s hard for children all over the world because schools are shut, and children can’t go outside or see anyone other than the people they live with. Lots of families find this difficult, but I am worried that it is even more difficult for some children who are already vulnerable, and these families do not seem to get any help from the government at all. The children that I am talking about already face lots of difficulties in their everyday lives. This might be because they have a disability that means they rely on other people for support, like I do with my 1:1 teacher at school, or maybe they have carers to help with their physical disabilities, and this support has disappeared for lots of families during coronavirus. Maybe they are living in poverty, and they rely on school lunches as their only food for the day. Or maybe they don’t have big enough homes, so lots of people are living together in a cramped space without any garden. For children like these, coronavirus is a much bigger problem and I worry about this a lot. I do not think the government are doing enough to help families like this during these difficult times. You need money to do a lot of the things that are suggested, or you have to have a proper home and things organised around you. Here are some examples:
It is very hard to buy food at the moment. It is even harder if you do not have much money, as you can’t afford to stock up. Also lots of families with disabled children can’t leave their houses, but they are not vulnerable enough for the government to be helping. How are families like this supposed to buy food?
It is very hard to keep your mental health good in these tricky times. But lots of the advice I have had is not possible for lots of children. Doing exercise is hard if you do not have space, chatting to friends online is not possible if you cannot afford devices, or if you live in a busy household. Disabled children worry lots about their carers getting sick - I know I worry about my mum a lot when she is at work. It is hard not to worry when you cannot get away from the things that are worrying you.
For a lot of children like me with special educational needs like ADHD, it is very difficult to have no structure. When school stopped, my structure was taken away. Online school is not the same as it is not very accessible to children like us. And it costs a lot of money if we have to have computers and things printed out. And hard if we do not have the same learning environment and support teachers around us. We are told things like “sit down for school in a quiet place with no distractions, set up your computer properly, make sure you take proper breaks and eat properly!” I do NOT think this is realistic for lots of vulnerable children.
Here are some ideas of what I think the government should be doing to help vulnerable children:
Giving free food or making food easier to get for disabled and vulnerable children.
Keeping parks open in areas where there are lots of children without gardens.
Giving learning materials to families who need it, not just expecting them all to have computers.
Having much much much more mental health support for children, and going to visit vulnerable families to speak to children directly.
The government press conferences are very boring because they do not feel relevant to children like me. I think there should be a bigger variety of people speaking to the country, and it should be more inclusive, so that disabled people and children like me feel like their voices are heard.
For me, this is a very hard time because I was off school for two years before this year, and I know how boring and lonely it is. But I am lucky that my home is happy and safe, and my mum works for the NHS and I have an EHCP so my amazing school is open for me and this gives me some structure and some distraction from my worries. I really hope the government does more to help children who have additional needs or who are vulnerable though, or the gap between people with advantages and people who are disadvantaged in this country will get even bigger, and this will hurt everyone in the future.