Written answers

Tuesday, 7 December 2021

Photo of Peadar TóibínPeadar Tóibín (Meath West, Aontú)
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581. To ask the Minister for Health if his Department has conducted a study on the effect or impact of lockdowns and restrictions on children, particularly vulnerable children. [60274/21]

Photo of Stephen DonnellyStephen Donnelly (Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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From the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ireland’s response has been guided by seven ethical principles: solidarity, fairness, minimising harm, proportionality, reciprocity, privacy and a duty to provide care. In March 2020, the Department of Health published the Ethical Framework for Decision-making in a Pandemic, setting out these principles. This Framework can be found online: www.gov.ie/en/publication/dbf3fb-ethical-framework-for-decision-making-in-a-pandemic/.

Any measures introduced are aimed at limiting the spread and damage of COVID-19, and are necessary to protect our key priorities of supporting and maintaining health and social care services, keeping education and childcare services open and protecting the most vulnerable members of our communities.

Government decision-making on public health measures has been informed by public health, economic and social impact assessments which have been undertaken on an ongoing basis throughout the pandemic with inputs from across Government to understand and assess both the impacts of the pandemic and the impacts of the restrictions imposed to manage it.

A number of pieces of research have been undertaken and reports published throughout the pandemic in relation to the impact on children. These are detailed below.

A report produced by the National Clinical Programme for Paediatrics and Neonatology within the HSE, in collaboration with the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, outlines the impacts restrictions have had on the lives of children in Ireland. The National Clinical Review on the Impact of COVID-19 Restrictions on Children and Guidance on Reopening of Schools and the Normalisation of Paediatric Healthcare Services in Irelandexamines the effects of the lockdown on children, including those who are vulnerable, explores the possible ways in which the restrictions can be lifted and monitored, and sets out what additional measures and resources need to be put in place in order to make up for the losses and setbacks children have suffered as a result of COVID-19 restrictions. The report can be found online: hse-ie.libguides.com/ld.php?content_id=33142467.

The HSE has also examined the impact of the pandemic and the societal restrictions on the health and wellbeing of the population, on HSE staff and on health service capacity and delivery and has presented a plan for healthcare and population health recovery. This paper which includes consideration of child health and wellbeing can be found online: www.hse.ie/eng/about/who/qid/covid-19-qi-learning/qi-resources-to-support-learning-from-covid19/covid-19-pandemic-impact-paper-2021.pdf.

A programme of research was undertaken by the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth in response to the COVID-19 closures and phased reopening of the Early Learning and Care (ELC) and School-Age Childcare (SAC) sector. IPSOS MRBI were commissioned by that Department to undertake two polls of 500 households with children, to better understand parents’ ELC and SAC preferences and plans for their children before, during and beyond COVID-19. A survey was administered by Pobal on behalf of the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth to all 4,500 ELC and SAC providers to understand capacity, having regard for public health guidelines and an open online Call for Submissions was issued by the Department, receiving 1916 responses.

The Growing Up in Ireland (GUI) study is the national longitudinal study of children and young people funded by the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, and managed by the Department in association with the Central Statistics Office. The study is carried out on behalf of the Department by a GUI study team at the Economic and Social Research Institute. In December 2020, a special on-line COVID-19 specific survey was carried out with GUI participants. A Key Findings report from this survey was published in March of this year focusing on participants’ experiences of the pandemic. The report can be found online: www.esri.ie/news/pandemic-affects-children-and-young-adults-from-low-income-families-negatively-in-terms-of.

The Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, working with the Department of Health and the youth sector, collaborated with SpunOut.ie to undertake an online consultation with young people about their experiences of COVID-19, called ‘How’s Your Head: Young Voices during COVID-19’. A Youth Advisory Group worked with the Department to guide the development and analysis of the consultation, which sought to better understand how young people were experiencing COVID-19, asking them what had been working well for them and what were the challenges to maintaining their wellbeing. Responses were received from 2,173 young people aged 15-24 and the findings were published and are available online: www.gov.ie/en/publication/91f4b-hows-your-head-young-voices-during-covid-19-september-2020/.


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