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23 February 2021

UNICEF Australia and ARACY, the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth, have partnered to launch Kids at the Crossroads, a report that examines the impact of COVID-19 on our children and makes recommendations for the best policy and actions to mitigate the pandemic’s effects.

As the one-year mark of national lockdown approaches, the report highlights both a deepening of existing inequalities and a widening of disadvantage that now affects families who have never before experienced joblessness, insecure housing, or inadequate incomes. Children and young people across the country are being affected in critical areas including mental health, education, and employment, with long term implications for their future.

Kids at the Crossroads is an initiative of the ARACY/UNICEF Australia Knowledge Acceleration Hub, which brings together the latest data and information from Australia and globally on COVID-19 as it relates to children and families.

CEO of UNICEF Australia Tony Stuart said, “While children are not the face of this pandemic, this crisis is having a profound impact on their wellbeing. As the Federal Budget approaches in May, we must harness this opportunity to put them at the heart of policy making to protect their futures and ensure no child falls behind.”

While Australia was one of the few countries globally to include cash transfers to families in their pandemic response, evidence from UNICEF’s Report Card 16 demonstrates that prior to COVID-19 Australia fared poorly in terms of child wellbeing compared to other rich countries. One in six children were reported to be living in poverty and Australia ranked only 30th out of 38 countries for educational equality, with inequalities on the rise including a gap in reading ability.

CEO of ARACY, Penny Dakin, said, “How we respond now and in the months ahead will determine whether the COVID-19 pandemic puts our children and young people even further behind, or whether we grasp this opportunity to put in place the systems and policies that will allow our children to thrive. This report makes clear and actionable policy recommendations that will help our children and young people reach their full potential.”

The report makes recommendations for how policy makers can mitigate the effects of COVID-19 which fall into four key themes:

  • Supporting economic recovery and strengthening systems
  • Protecting against deepening and widening inequalities
  • Promoting resilience and mental wellbeing
  • Fostering citizenship and fighting disempowerment and disengagement

“Now is the time to reflect on and rebalance the decisions that affect and the expenditures that go to families and children. The recommendations of this report will not only act to protect children and young people from the pandemic’s impact, but also address the underlying challenges Australia faced pre-pandemic. Our leaders have a choice to make for our children – let’s make it the right choice,” said Mr Stuart.