The Wales Violence Prevention Unit would like to share the interim report on ‘Understand the impact of COVID-19 on Violence and ACEs Experienced by Children and Young People in Wales’, which has been delivered in partnership with the Adverse Childhood Experiences Support Hub.
The impact of COVID-19 has been experienced disproportionately within society, with the health, social and economic implications affecting children from more deprived families the most. The report highlights evidence to support concerns many of us have: that public health measures, such as lockdown and social distancing restrictions, which have been essential to contain the virus, have potentially placed children and young people at risk of increased exposure to adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and violence.
The report draws on data and analysis conducted through our ongoing monitoring of violence during COVID-19, as well as a review of literature to understand how the wider determinants of children and young people’s health have been impacted by COVID-19. I believe the findings in this report will not be a surprise to many of us but act more as reminder of the need for us to work together to intervene early and protect vulnerable children and young people in Wales.
The report demonstrates that although some children have adapted well to the lockdown, there are many children who have been trapped in home environments which have posed a risk, with exposure to adverse childhood experiences such as parental alcohol use, domestic abuse, physical, sexual and emotional abuse and neglect. Children and young people have been spending more time on the internet, which has provided them access to educational resources and a means to interact with friends and family. However, this has increased the access perpetrators of online sexual abuse and exploitation have to children, and as a result, there has been an increase in these areas. In addition, the pandemic and subsequent public health measures, has had a detrimental effect on the mental health and well-being of children, with higher levels of stress, anxiety and loneliness. For some, this has resulted in health harming behaviours and suicidal ideation, with these children and young people struggling to identify healthy coping mechanisms due to the restricted access to both formal and informal support and the removal of protective factors.
Exposure to ACEs and violence during the pandemic has the potential to have a lifelong impact on children and young people, and there is a need to invest in early intervention to mitigate the impact of the exposure to ACEs and violence on children and young people, and reduce costs of late intervention.
While this report has provided an insight into the potential experiences of children and young people during the COVID-19 lockdown, further work is needed to fully understand the effects of the pandemics on marginalised and disadvantaged groups. I am pleased to say that we are already in the process of conducting a health needs assessment to further build on the findings of this report to better understand the impact of the pandemic on children and young people’s experience of violence and ACEs.
Please do read the report and share amongst your networks.
Wales Violence Prevention Unit
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