Covid Inquiry Terms of Reference to be expanded following efforts of campaign groups

The scope of reference for the Covid Inquiry is set to be widened to include the impact on children, young people and early years following powerful calls from campaign groups including UsforThem.

UsforThem instructed law firm JMW Solicitors to produce its consultation response amid concerns that the Inquiry sought to ‘airbrush’ children’s pandemic experiences. The original draft Terms of Reference made just a single mention of children, prompting concern that the full extent of the impact of the pandemic upon children and young people would be forgotten.

The Chair of the Inquiry, Baroness Hallett DBE, has now written to the Prime Minister to request that the terms of reference be widened to include additional, explicit reference to children and young people.

UsforThem wrote directly to Baroness Hallett with backing from two former Children’s Commissioners, Anne Longfield CBE and Sir Al Aynsley-Green. It also secured huge cross-party support, with signatories including Robert Halfon MP, Conservative Chair of the Education Select Committee, Marcus Fysh MP, Conservative Chair of Education APPG, along with peers, respected child psychologists and international children’s charities such as Save the Children.

The Consultation Summary Report reads, “The draft Terms of Reference included provision for the Inquiry to examine the impact of the pandemic in relation to ‘restrictions on attendance at places of education’. While this would have allowed the investigation of issues flowing from those restrictions — such as the provision of free school meals, the impact of inequalities in access to broadband and laptops, or the impact on exam cohorts — it is also clear that the Inquiry ought to be able to investigate a much broader range of impacts beyond education.”

Oliver Wright, Partner at JMW Solicitors, said: “We now have a generation of children and young people who are permanently prejudiced - it’s vital that the Inquiry is able to complete a thorough assessment of the decisions that were taken and the outcome of those decisions. It is positive to hear that the response from UsforThem and their supporters has been acknowledged and the Terms of Reference widened accordingly.”

Anne Longfield CBE, said: "Many children are still living with the after effects of bereavement, loss of learning and isolation. The experiences of children must not be airbrushed out of history and forgotten about. The Covid inquiry is an opportunity to make sure that if a similar pandemic or emergency happens again, alleviating the impact on children is a priority not an afterthought."

Arabella Skinner, Director at UsforThem, said: “I am glad to see that the Inquiry have listened to the concerns we raised about the draft Terms. Children and young people need to be at the heart of this Inquiry so that their needs are urgently addressed and the injustice they have experienced never happens again.”

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