Covid-19 has more severe impact on less well-off children, Scottish poll finds

Families with children have experienced greater financial pressure and mental health worries during the coronavirus pandemic than those without, according to analysis commissioned by the Scottish government.

The report, which captures parental anxieties during lockdown, was published on Thursday amid growing concerns that the latest “rule of six” guidance on socialising has a disproportionate impact on poorer children.

The results of the polling, conducted by Ipsos Mori between 27 April and 3 May, found that respondents with children in their household were more likely than those without to have difficulties paying their rent or mortgage – 10% compared with 5% – to have a lower income than usual, and to be worried about their own and others’ mental health.

The analysis comes as parents ask why the new socialising rules, which came into force on Monday, allow for grouse shooting and fox hunting while it is against the law for children from more than two families to play together indoors or outside.

This has resulted in an effective ban on home-organised birthday parties as well as excluding those who cannot afford paid-for group activities. Free play in parks has been limited in recent bad weather, and confusion has also emerged about whether the six person/two household limits apply to children in play parks. According to the Scottish government, children should be playing in household pairs, but many parents have pointed out that this is plainly unenforceable on swings.

The Scottish Green party health spokesperson, Alison Johnstone, raised the lack of fairness at the Scottish parliament’s Covid committee earlier this week: “Public health is the first priority, and we need the public to have confidence that the rules are fair. It is therefore galling to see shooting parties enjoying unrestricted days out at a time when children are told they cannot play with their friends.

“The fact is, current regulations mean children can only invite all their friends to celebrate their birthday if their parents can afford to pay someone else to organise it.”

After the first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, confirmed at her daily briefing on Wednesday that no impact assessment on children’s rights was undertaken for the latest guidelines “because of the speed with which we have to introduce these changes”, Bruce Adamson, Scotland’s children and young people’s commissioner, called for “clear and direct communication to children and families” so that the reasons for the restrictions were widely understood.

Adamson added: “A children’s rights impact assessment is essential in demonstrating the legitimacy of decision-making and should be a part of any significant policy changes.”

Meanwhile, parents in Edinburgh have raised concerns about less well-off families being excluded as the council confirmed that neither indoor nor outdoor after-school clubs would be restarting.

Daniel O’Hara, head coach of his daughter’s school football team, said: “We fully appreciate all the extra demands on schools currently, but it does seem lazy to lump football in with indoor school clubs like chess. Unless you attend private school or can afford a paid-for club, now you won’t get the opportunity to play after-school or weekend sport. We’ve all heard how the physical and mental wellbeing of kids has taken a hit during lockdown, and team play is really important for building that back up. Now the majority of kids are being denied that.”

Earlier this week, the charity One Parent Families Scotland lost out on vital funding from Glasgow city council, the area with the highest proportion of single-parent families in the country, despite evidence showing that the pandemic had intensified the existing challenges for single parents in particular.

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