Children’s Experiences of the Pandemic Across Europe: Inequalities and the Potential of Participation

Cath Larkins, Lucía del Moral-Espín

The COVID-19 pandemic has increased inequalities experienced by many children across Europe. In 2020, the authors conducted a snapshot survey across the UK and elsewhere in Europe to provide early evidence of the contexts children were experiencing, responses to COVID-19 and the possibilities for children’s participation. Their research revealed that rather than recognising the hardships experienced and celebrating the contributions being made by children and young people, some have experienced an increased lack of income, food, medication and access to formal education; some families did not have access to adequate sanitation or electricity; some have been subjected to discriminatory comments; children as a group, and marginalised communities, such as Roma and refugees, have been seen as a problem. Structured dialogue to enable policy makers and children and marginalised communities to collaborate to shape solutions, was rarely supported. The underlying causes of deepening inequalities were not addressed.

This chapter examines practical insight from this research alongside subsequent publications to provide an intersectional analysis of the contexts that children were experiencing, the pre-existing causes of some of the challenges and examples of children providing evidence about their experiences and insights into how policy and services could better respond to the pandemic.

We suggest that a potent combination of young and old minds is needed to generate any social settlement that will stand the test of time to secure us through any future challenges. This would require a reversal of dominant thinking and action, not only about childhood, but also about governance. Digital solutions have shown some promise, but these risks being purely decorative or exacerbating exclusions. We recommend strategies to ensure that the evidence and inspiration from children actually result in improvements in policy, practice and lives.

Children's Experiences, Participation and Rights During COVID-19