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The world is not the same anymore

22 February 2022, Impact of Our Work

A child-focused recovery plan is needed to prevent a lost generation

 "Anxiety over the future."

"The world is not the same anymore."

"It has become less clear what our future will look like."

These are the voices of Australian children grappling with the effects of the first two years of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. For the first time, a nationwide survey has captured the perspectives of Australian children and young people to help understand the far-reaching impacts of COVID-19.

The findings are stark

Young Australians are suffering from significant setbacks in their relationships, physical health, education and mental health. The study, conducted by 89 Degrees East for Save the Children Australia with the support of the Paul Ramsay Foundation, reveals an immense scale of disruption, difficulty and scarring experienced by children and parents.

Over two-thirds of parents report their children being disengaged from education, a startling figure that indicates the potentially detrimental long-term impact on young people’s employment outcomes.

While these results are reflected across the country, they are most severe in Victoria and New South Wales where lockdown restrictions lingered the longest. The study found that 69% of children experienced learning and developmental impacts during COVID-19, a figure that rises to 84% for Victorians and 82% for those in New South Wales.

I'm not very confident as I feel I lost a lot of learning was hard to turn up for the online lessons and keep focused.

Anonymous, 13-18 years old

Geography was not the only risk factor. First Nations families, families with a disability and low-income families all report higher levels of concern for the impacts of the pandemic on their children than the national average.

My son has ASD (Autism spectrum disorder). He was way behind in school as it was. During lockdowns he did not have access to online learning

Anonymous parent

Across all demographics, only 17% of parents feel that governments have done enough to address the issues that children have experienced due to COVID. Among these issues, the children and parents surveyed repeatedly highlight children’s loss of connection with extended family and friends, physical health difficulties, mental health and emotional wellbeing challenges, and learning and development delays as particularly significant.

Stuck inside and can't see my friends and family. I get angry all the time.

Anonymous, 6-12 years old

Australian children have been left uncertain and anxious about the future
Photo: Matthew Abbott / Save the Children

It’s time to listen

When asked which initiatives would be most helpful for children’s recovery, respondents favoured programs to get kids active, wellbeing support for mental health,  travel vouchers to help families reconnect and individual learning support. These responses reflect the reality that no single policy initiative can solve the challenges faced by children and parents across the country.

To create a better future for young Australians, we must listen to their experiences and address the issues they face. Ahead of the 2022 Federal Election, Save the Children is advocating for a comprehensive recovery plan to help children regain what has been lost in their development, wellbeing and potential. A plan for our children’s recovery is also a plan for Australia’s social and economic recovery, with far-reaching benefits for families and all Australians. Yet the government has a recovery plan for Australia's airlines, but not one for its children.

The last two years have impacted us all and left many children anxious about the future. How we respond to this moment will determine that future.


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