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Children's charities warn of pupils' mental health concerns

They say school staff in Wales fear pupils' mental well-being affected by lockdown

Children's charities are warning that teachers in Wales are concerned about pupils’ mental health ahead of their return to school next week

A survey's been carried out by Barnardos Cymru and Action for Children Cymru which has revealed that 85% of school staff fear their pupils’ mental health has been affected by lockdown.

The charities are calling for an urgent increase in family support services to prevent long-term mental health problems among children and young people.

Barnardo’s Cymru and Action for Children Cymru have welcomed the Welsh Government’s decision to invest in more school-based counselling to help pupils affected by lockdown. But they have called for an urgent increase in family support services, working in partnership with schools, to prevent long-term mental health problems among children and young people.

Sarah Crawley, Director of Barnardo’s Cymru, said: “The Covid-19 outbreak has exposed children and young people to an unprecedented level of trauma, loss and adversity.

“Schools will have a huge role to play in the rebuilding of communities as we exit lockdown. Investment in multi-agency working will be the key to success as schools will need support to cope with the increased demands on them.”

Brigitte Gater, national director for Action for Children Cymru, said:

“‘Our report’s findings reflect the experience of our frontline key workers during the coronavirus pandemic who report families, already under significant pressure, seeing wages dry up and battling to keep food on the table while trying to educate and motivate their children at home.

“The impact on families has been profound and now children face going back toschool in a greatly changed environment.

“It is vital that schools do not face the consequences of lockdown alone and have a comprehensive package of early intervention and support for children who have experienced challenging circumstances and in many cases, severe hardship.”

The charities have called for extra funding to set up family support hubs inpartnership with schools in deprived areas where the effects of the pandemic have been felt the most. They would offer early intervention for families ranging from emotional wellbeing and resilience to practical household management and signposting to services that can help those struggling financially.

The charities also want to see extra-curricular activities for pupils in deprived areas to help them catch up with their learning and development.

Barnardo’s Cymru and Action for Children Cymru have produced a report ‘Lessons from lockdown’ based on findings from their survey and interviews with frontline staff working in services supporting children, young people and families.

It warns that pupils affected by trauma could demonstrate a wide range of reactions, including behavioural changes, emotional distress, grief, attention difficulties, academic failure, nightmares and stress.

Sarah Crawley said:

“We know that some children will have been exposed to poverty, domestic violence, parental conflict or child abuse for the first time. We also know that, without early intervention, this trauma and adversity can lead to long term mental health problems.”

Brigitte Gater said:

“We want Welsh Government, local authorities and third sector providers to work together to mitigate the effects of a public health crisis that could taint the lives of our children for many years to come.’

 

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