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Health and Social Care

We must make sure there’s not a COVID-19 forgotten generation

Over the last 12 months, the Coronavirus pandemic has touched every element of our lives, impacting everyone from young to old, it has left no stone unturned in the disruption and devastation that it has placed on our daily lives writes Jeremy Kent. 

There have been many events that have been cancelled, postponed, or taken place in a way to limit exposure to the virus, but in turn means the enjoyment of such events has been stifled. Whilst this has been hard on many, as adults, we mostly, have the emotional intelligence to be able to cope with such disruption. 

A sad reality however is that for our young people, although least likely to suffer illness from the virus, have become the generation that has been hit hardest, and in many ways, may never fully recover from the impact that this pandemic has caused to them. 

The resilience that young people have shown over the last 12 months has been almost palpable. In truly short order, children were sent from schools to home education, torn away from friends and confined to the 4 walls of their houses, with many parents unable to fully explain to the youngest children, exactly why or for how long. 

Exams scrapped, proms missed, graduations delayed or cancelled, these are some of the many “rights of passage” that our young people have come to expect and look forward to for years, the thought that these experiences have gone from their reach has and will continue to place huge pressures on young people’s mental health when reflecting on this time in years to come. 

We urgently need to ensure that we put the resources in place to prepare for the upcoming wave of mental health issues that are heading our way. Failure to do this will only further the belief of our young people that they are the forgotten generation. As well as bracing for the increase in children’s poor mental health, we need to ensure that young people are taught that education is a lifelong endeavour and that although many are not as far ahead as they would have been, to push the narrative that they have “fallen behind” or that their education is “lost” is a dangerous path to take as they will forever feel disadvantaged and will carry this with them throughout their lives and never truly feel equitable to their peers. They will already be the group that “didn’t sit exams” and employers would do well to not dwell on this, for what are exams anyway, a test of learning based on a government set standard. 

The focus should be on equipping our young people to be able to head out into the real world and be able to thrive. I have spent much of my adult life volunteering to do just that, teaching young people the elements of character that cannot be read in a textbook. That of confidence, resilience, leadership, and teamwork. It is these skills that we should endeavour to focus on as much as what is prescribed by some measure of exams. 

There is much work to be done when schools return and politicians, teachers and other professionals need to be working together now to ensure that the harm that has been caused by the Coronavirus pandemic to our young people in the short term and not an everlasting scar that they carry for the rest of their lives.

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