Growing pandemic impacts revealed in new survey of Victoria’s children and young people released today

Friday 23 July 2021 – for immediate release

Two snapshots of children and young people taken over November–February and in June this year show a growing and cumulative impact from the pandemic since the results of a major consultation released last year by the Commission for Children and Young People.

The expanded June snapshot covering Victoria’s fourth lockdown captures the views of 312 children and young people about mental health and wellbeing, education, safety and security at home and the future.

‘A marked and disturbing result of the June findings is the dramatic increase in children and young people who report feeling ‘bad or terrible’, with around 50 per cent in this category compared to 38 per cent in the previous snapshot,’ said Liana Buchanan, Victoria’s Commissioner for Children and Young People, today.

The survey found children 10–12 and aged around 17 were more likely to fall into this category, together with children and young people with a long-term health problem or disability or who identify as gender diverse.

Around 17 per cent reported periods of mental ill health, with 23 per cent reporting having a mental illness, and with many children and young people describing how their mental ill-health was exacerbated during the fourth lockdown.

‘I feel like I’m on fire while people with hoses are standing and just watching. That’s the best way to describe how I feel since COVID started,’ said one young person responding to the Commission’s online survey.

‘These findings point not only to the cumulative impact of the pandemic and associated lockdowns, but also to the need for supports to keep pace with growing demand – especially for those facing additional challenges,’ Commissioner Buchanan said.

‘We need to do much more to consider the impact on children when making critical decisions, so those impacts can be mitigated and the need for additional supports anticipated,’ she said.

Education remained a key concern for many children and young people due to the difficulties of remote learning and the separation from friends, but also due to the lack of support, and the many transitions between learning on-site and learning from home.

Both snapshots reflect the vital role of school in the lives and development of children, with the survey responses conveying a deep sense of loss, a strong desire to re-connect with school, and a broad preference to keep schools open wherever possible.

‘I feel like someone can lock me down from my school and friends in a second,’ reported a 12-year-old responding to the survey.

Children and young people told the Commission that they want the government to ensure schools provide more support for students, including support with re-adjusting to on-site learning, as well as better mental health support. They also want recognition of how the pandemic has affected their grades and future prospects.

The findings showed that children and young people often bear the brunt of pandemic-related pressures on their parents, including single parents, who are often combining precarious work, economic hardship, and remote learning responsibilities.

‘As our earlier snapshots warned, there is a growing body of evidence about the risks that have escalated during COVID, especially where children and young people are disconnected from places of safety and support and are less visible,’ Commissioner Buchanan said.

‘The pandemic presents compounding impacts and uncertainties for children and young people. Periods of low cases can hold out the promise of recovery, which is taken away at short notice with the emergence of new outbreaks,’ said the Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People, Justin Mohamed, today.

‘Together, the impacts and the uncertainties are amplifying the trauma for children and young people through this pandemic, and this is heightened for Aboriginal children and young people, notably with regard to feelings of a lack of support,’ he said.

‘What’s clear is that children and young people want better support that acknowledges the impacts on them, particularly their mental health. They want connection with their peers, including through school, and they have been emphatic in demanding a say in the decisions that affect them now and into the future,’ Commissioner Buchanan said.

She highlighted the importance of ensuring children and young people’s voices are heard in the pandemic, and the Commission’s role in facilitating that. She said the Commission would continue its engagement of children and young people through an online survey and other means to inform advocacy and improve responses.

Commissioners Buchanan and Mohamed are available for media comment.

Download the June 2021 snapshot (PDF 883 KB)
Download the November 2020–February 2021 snapshot (PDF 997 KB)
Read about the findings of previous consultations
Go to our continuing online survey of children and young people

Media contact:

Darren Lewin-Hill
0437 046 360
Senior Communications and Media Adviser
Commission for Children and Young People