Covid inquiry widens to include focus on children and inequality

Catherine Gaunt
Friday, May 13, 2022

The UK public inquiry into the Government’s handling of the Covid pandemic will now include the impact on the education, health and wellbeing of children and young people.

Baroness Hallett is chairing the inquiry into the Government's handling of the pandemic PHOTO UK Parliament
Baroness Hallett is chairing the inquiry into the Government's handling of the pandemic PHOTO UK Parliament

Ex-High Court judge Baroness Hallett is chairing the inquiry into the Government’s handling of the pandemic.

The inquiry’s public hearings are not due to start until 2023.

The final terms of reference were decided following a four-week public consultation on the draft terms, and will now include the effect on the health, wellbeing and education of children.

Yesterday, Baroness Hallett, wrote to the prime minister setting out her proposed changes to the Terms of Reference for the Covid-19 Inquiry.

She wrote, 'The consultation revealed areas where the Terms of Reference could be improved. I have listened to compelling arguments to focus on children and young people, the mental health and wellbeing of the UK population and collaboration between regional, devolved and national government, and the voluntary and community sector. I am therefore asking you to expand the Terms of Reference to include these issues.'

The inquiry held a four week consultation with bereaved families, representatives from different sectors and the public, and received more than 20,000 responses on what the inquiry should look at and how it should go about its work. The changes Baroness Hallett has recommended reflect the feelings and experiences shared during the consultation. 

The chair has asked the prime minister to expand the draft Terms of Reference to respect the recurring themes that emerged from the consultation. This includes expanding the Terms of Reference to include: 

1) Children and young people, including the impact on health, wellbeing and social care education and early years provision;

2) Impacts on mental health and wellbeing of the UK population 

3) Collaboration between central government, Devolved Administrations, local authorities and the voluntary and community sector.

The unequal impact of the pandemic was a theme that strongly came through in responses to the consultation. Baroness Hallett has also recommended that the Terms of Reference be reframed to put inequalities at its forefront so that investigation into the unequal impacts of the pandemic runs through the inquiry. 

Once the prime minister has approved the inquiry’s final Terms of Reference, it will be established with full powers under the 2005 Inquiries Act. The inquiry hopes that the Prime Minister will accept the recommended changes in full, quickly, so that the Inquiry can begin its formal work. 

When the draft terms were published in March, there was criticism that they failed to even mention the impact on children and young people.

As well as expanding the terms to include the impact on the health, wellbeing and education of children and young people, the inquiry will also look at the wider mental health impact across the population.

The inquiry will also focus on inequalities to look at the unequal impact of the pandemic on different sections of society.

Anne Longfield, the former Children's Commissioner and chair of the Commission Young Lives, said, This a very welcome decision. It would have been appalling to airbrush children out of the Covid inquiry after the enormous sacrifices they made and the huge impact the pandemic had.’

  • The covering letter and the Summary Report can be found on the Inquiry's website.  

The final proposed version of the Terms of Reference is on pages 26-28 of the Report.

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