Coronavirus: 'Children under 12 should be exempt from the rule of six', report says

September 28, 2020

Children under 12 should be exempt from the "rule of six" limit on social gatherings, a report by the Children's Commissioner has said.

The report claims children have been overlooked by policies aimed at curbing the spread of coronavirus and urges the government to put their interests first in the event of a second national lockdown.

In addition to exempting young children from the "rule of six", the report recommends excluding them from restrictions on individuals mixing with different households so they can continue to play together.

The "rule of six" COVID-19 restriction applies to gatherings both indoors and outdoors in England and Scotland, and indoors in Wales.

However, in Wales and Scotland, the measure does not apply to children under the age of 12.

Additionally, in many areas with local lockdowns there is a ban on households mixing.

Children's Commissioner Anne Longfield said many of the decisions taken during the first lockdown, such as reopening pubs and restaurants before schools "have not put children first".

She said: "Children have fewer health risks from COVID-19 and yet they have suffered disproportionately from the nation's efforts to contain the virus.

"Unless the government acts now, COVID-19 is in danger of becoming an inter-generational crisis, with the impact of the economic fall-out on parents determining the future prospects of their children."

The move to include children under 12 in the "rule of six" was met by criticism from MPs, although Downing Street suggested it would not be reviewing the rules.

Former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith has called for children not to be counted in England.

"We know how this virus is being spread, and it's by young people going out and partying in large groups, so target them instead," he said.

Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 committee of backbench Tory MPs, said: "If this rule had been debated by parliament it would have been an opportunity to highlight some of the obvious errors, such as the failure to exclude children."

The report by the Children's Commissioner's Office showed the first six months of lockdown "compounded existing inequalities" for the 2.2 million vulnerable children living in risky home situations in England.

This includes nearly 800,000 children living with domestic abuse and 1.6 million living with parents with severe mental health conditions - and the report warned these numbers are likely to have swelled over lockdown.

Some 41% of schoolchildren also reported feeling more stressed about exams when schools closed at the start of March, according to a survey by the office.

Ms Longfield added: "After all the sacrifices children have made over the last few months, we should repay them with a comprehensive recovery package, 'a Nightingale moment', that puts their interests first."

She argued the government's efforts to "build back better" must focus on investing in children, including continuing the £20 uplift in Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit for families beyond the current end date in April, and adding £10 per week for child payment.

The report also called for greater investment in local early help services, the Troubled Families programme and health visitors, and for schools to be able to use the £1bn catch-up fund for vulnerable and disadvantaged children rather than on supplies like PPE.

It urged local authorities to ensure disabled children's services can continue to operate and on the government to provide additional funding for this if necessary.

Recommendations also included pushing summer exams back as far as possible while still ensuring children receive results in time to progress to college or university.

When the rules were announced on 9 September, Mr Johnson's official spokesman said: "We looked at all of the evidence in advance of the decision that was reached on Wednesday and it was decided to proceed with a rule of six that applies to all ages.

"What we have done is ensure that the rules have been simplified and strengthened so they are easier to understand.

"Social distancing measures can only be effective if the public understand them and abide by them."

Rate this item
(0 votes)

HOW TO LISTEN

105.3FM

Online

Mobile Apps

Smart Speaker

Latest Tweets

TIDEWATCH with @WaterSafeWith @seaside1053 RT https://t.co/snVUyn0DlL
RT @East_Riding: We know this year has been frightful and you might have concerns about your children going out to Trick or Treat so why no…
Great TIP - @East_Riding https://t.co/N8g2dlPnjg
Follow Seaside FM 105.3 #HandsFaceSpace on Twitter