Children continue to be let down

Time to stand up for the most vulnerable in our society

Sarah Waters

By Sarah Waters
Psychotherapist and Therapeutic Parenting Practitioner

The last school year will go down in history as one of the worst for children and young people’s rights, dignities and mental health. Many of the professionals that are trained and paid to recognise and protect them from harm have let them down. The distress of up to 1.7 million children and young people having to self-isolate when they should have enjoyed their last week at school was the final insult of a shameful year of neglect.  

A mere handful of child trauma specialists have had the compassion and bravery to stand up for the most vulnerable in our society. This is despite an ‘army’ of trauma informed practitioners being trained over the last 10 years to work in schools, councils, charities and even police forces. 

But it was left to groups of concerned parents to set up campaigning groups, such as UsForThem, to try and safeguard children. They very quickly realised last year that so-called trauma informed professionals weren’t going to do this, and they have proved them right.

The struggle to prioritise children’s emotional needs has been a long and arduous one. Prior to COVID-19, the importance of understanding trauma — and the training that accompanied this — was deemed of utmost importance and attracted the funding to match. However, the catalogue of guidelines (not laws) that have been implemented at great speed since March 2020, without any psychological risk assessments or challenge whatsoever, have had a devastating impact.

Essentially all trauma-informed knowledge and practice has been abandoned as adults, sometimes encouraged by their unions, demanded that they be kept ‘safe’ — despite what this might mean emotionally for the children and young people in their care. A disease that has a median Infection Fatality Rate of 0.05% for under 70-year-olds globally derailed trauma-informed practice. 

It does not seem to matter that babies, children and young people are having to bear the emotional brunt of a pandemic that mainly affects the over 80s. In fact, it even feels as if in some schools, they relished masking and segregating their pupils, acting as if the guidelines were in fact law and that they had no choice in the matter.

No one can deny that the mental health of the young has been hugely impacted over the last year, the question is how children’s emotional needs could have so easily been set to one side like this? Aren’t adults meant to protect children and not the other way around? Why aren’t trauma informed practitioners and organisations recognising this devastation and standing up for the children in their care?

It is astonishing and heartbreaking that children’s emotional needs have been so quickly disregarded after the long-fought journey to get these needs recognised. Authorities and organisations have unthinkingly implemented the government’s suggested COVID-19 guidelines and medical interventions for young people — without risk assessment, reflection, or critical analysis.  Why are trauma informed practitioners and organisations denying the experimental nature of these guidelines as well as their potentially long-term, harmful, physical and psychological effects? 

Many practitioners are seemingly supporting this transition to a hostile, fearful, abusive, and hence traumatic environment that inhibits the long awaited healthy emotional development that we have been waiting for. Is the impact of COVID-19 governmental guidance the ultimate Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) that is going to tragically reverse the upward trajectory of young people’s fortunes just as it had started? 

Read Sarah’s Full Briefing Article Here

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