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“Challenging, different and unprecedented times – but we go on”

10 September 2020

Two members of the Changing our World advisory group, Katie and Olive, summarise the group's discussions of and feelings about the pandemic, lockdown and the ongoing effects for children, young people and the wider world.

We are currently living through a period that could be described as different, challenging and unprecedented. In spite of this, however, Changing our World has continued its work.

And what is Changing our World?

We are an advisory group for Children in Scotland made up of children of many ages from across the country.

The ongoing lockdown has meant that meetings at the Edinburgh headquarters can no longer go ahead, but every Friday for the first few months (and now that we are back at school, monthly) the advisory group has continued on, clearing the hurdle posed by the current situation by having online meetings through Zoom. It’s a refreshing sliver of normality to have these meetings.

The discussions we have range from covering the ‘Hot Topics’ the group has come up with, to conversations surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic and how it is impacting young people in Scotland.

One of our weekly discussions saw us converse about our thoughts on the pandemic; how it is affecting us and our morale; along with how we think it could have an impact on the future.

The response to COVID-19 in Scotland has been led by the Scottish Government, and its handling of the situation was also brought up in our discussions. The group seemed to be in agreement that the Scottish Government has responded quite well, but the divide in government action across the UK led to unnecessary confusion.

Concerns were also raised that politicians in the UK have shaped the pandemic into a political game to fit the agendas of politicians instead of the people. Changing our World would ask for clarity from decision-makers across the country – the mixed signals over subjects like social distancing and what classes as essential travel that were received are paradoxical and worrying. Clear messages are needed
as well as stricter enforcement of the rules that have been made for our own safety.

"A lot of people think they can bend the rules and that’s really irritating that they think they are above government guidelines"

This observation from one of our members sums up the need for this

While discussing COVID-19, emotional fallout was also considered. For children, the pandemic is a scary and confusing occurrence. Going from seeing friends at school every day to not being allowed to meet them on the daily was hard. Not being able to visit
family members, like grandparents, added to this.

"It’s ruined people’s mental health," was another point raised. Large numbers of young people already struggle with their mental
health – the isolation and uncertainty offered up by the pandemic has only put young people’s wellbeing more at risk.

"The economy is at a standstill," was a concern that was also
mentioned, along with the stress and frustration of the media portraying mixed messages and some inaccurate information.

Education, too, was a large concern – the cancelled exams
and uncertain fate of the school year, Changing our World discovered, was a source of copious amounts of upset for both students and teachers.

The children and young people of Changing our World also focused on the positive outcomes from the pandemic. The fact that the environment has been given a chance to heal due to less pollution was an aspect we were happy to see. Opportunities have also
arisen in the lockdown for people to get more creative and try new things that they haven’t had the chance to try before like knitting or painting or learning another language. Yet one of the most important things highlighted was that we are only as strong as we are united, and the sense of community spirit is more alive than ever before.

Once we reach the light at the end of the tunnel, we hope to retain that elevated spirit. We all need to help each other during these different times. Now more than ever we are relying on each other, and now more than ever we are stepping up to do what is right. By
adhering to the lockdown rules, we are doing our part and saving lives.

We need to listen to the advice given to us by those in positions of power and we need to respect those who are aiding in the efforts to keep the country running as smoothly as possible. Changing our
World recognises this and knows that action is needed – we need to put being nice into practice and ‘we just need to be sensible’.

– Katie

My school (Queensferry Primary) had quite a positive response to the uncertainty and stress of COVID-19.

In the week running up to the announcement of schools
closing, the school introduced measures such as washing your hands when you came in, and suspended assemblies long before the announcement.

For the older years, things such as watching Newsround and having a daily conversation on current events helped keep us calm and up to date with the news that we needed to know.

 – Olive

Changing our World

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United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child

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