April 2022

IPSEA has written to Baroness Hallett, chair of the UK-wide public inquiry into Covid-19, to express our concern that the inquiry’s draft terms of reference do not currently include anything specific on the impact of the pandemic on children and young people. These concerns are widely shared, including by the chair of the House of Commons Education Committee who has written to Baroness Hallett in similar terms. 

We emphasised in our letter that children and young people with SEND have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic and measures put in place to address it. Children’s right to educational provision and wider support was temporarily suspended under emergency coronavirus legislation that gave the Secretary of State powers to temporarily disapply certain statutory requirements relating to education. 

Support for children and young people with SEND disappeared overnight across the country. Pre-existing inequalities were exacerbated. Special educational provision, therapies and mental health support were widely withdrawn. And the impact was greatest on children and young people with the highest level of needs. 

Detailed evidence on what took place and how children were (and continue to be) affected is available from a wide range of sources, including the Children’s Commissioner for England, Ofsted, the Education Policy Institute, the Disabled Children’s Partnership and others. 

IPSEA’s chief executive, Ali Fiddy, commented: 

The public inquiry into how the Covid-19 pandemic was handled in this country is a vital opportunity to consider who was responsible for making sure that children’s and young people’s needs were met and their rights upheld. It’s essential to get the terms of reference right, to make sure that the inquiry looks at the right things and asks the right questions. 

“While there are references to “restrictions on attendance at places of education” and to the impact of Covid-19 on people with protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010, we believe the terms of reference should explicitly include the impact the pandemic restrictions had on children’s education and wellbeing. We hope these concerns will be acted on when the terms of reference are finalised.”