Covid: Young people asked how pandemic has affected them

By Ben Price
BBC News

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Media caption,

While some young people have found it hard at times, others have learnt new skills

Young people have been asked to share their experiences of how they have coped during the coronavirus pandemic.

Children's Commissioner for Wales Sally Holland said her national survey was important because sometimes views of younger people can be "surprising".

She said the information provided would also help inform the Welsh Government ahead of some tough decisions it will need to make in the future.

A similar survey was carried out in the first lockdown last year.

A recent Prince's Trust Youth Index survey asked young people across the UK about their thoughts and feelings towards the pandemic.

More than 2,000 responded including 200 from Wales.

It found 63% of 16 to 25-year-olds said the pandemic had left them "always" or "often" feeling anxious - 64% said they were feeling like they were "missing out on being young".

BBC Wales spoke to a number of children and young people about their thoughts on a variety of issues including home schooling, loneliness and finding out what they are doing to stay positive.

'Hard to find motivation'

Image caption,
Angel has been learning sign language

Angel, 16, from Cardiff, is studying for her GCSEs.

"I've just been confused a lot of the time. All the information out there and it's really hard to process and get to a point where you're in a mindset where you know what's happening.

"There's such a high level of uncertainty you're constantly worried or actually doubting what's going to happen next.

"When you have goals for the future it's something to help you get through this but when you're in the circumstances we're in now, it's really hard to find the motivation and a purpose for what you're doing now."

To try and stay positive Angel has been trying to get out for walks during her school breaks or watch Netflix.

She said she has also tried to learn some sign-language during lockdown and attempted yoga.

Image caption,
Emrys and Clara have been learning home skills

Emrys, 11, from Bridgend, said he misses not having the structure of a school day and seeing his friends.

He added: "I'm a social person. I have friends, I chat with them, I play with them, and it's hard not being with my friends but I mean the family will have to do."

He and his six-year-old sister, Clara, have enjoyed going for walks with their parents and have been learning some new skills including washing dishes, cooking dinner and baking cakes.

Meanwhile, 11-year-old Sophie has found it difficult to not get bored during long periods of time in the house.

"I'd say I cope OK with it at some points, but then not okay with it at other points," she added.

Image caption,
Sophie said it can be hard sometimes to find things to do

'Heart-breaking'

Alicia is studying for her A-levels and has friends who have dropped out of their studies this year because of the stress and anxiety caused by the uncertainty about exams and their futures.

The 17-year-old also said it was "heart-breaking" not being able to see many of her close friends for almost a year.

She added: "My thoughts are, it's less of a luxury now, I need to be able to go out to see them and to work."

'Quite scary'

Before the pandemic, Sarah, 16, from Swansea enjoyed going to her local youth club and took part in a local drama group but it how now moved online, giving a different experience.

"It's quite sad because I used to enjoy being able to do those things whenever it was on, but I think I'm getting used to do everything online," she said.

As a person who does not cope very well with not knowing what will happen next, the pandemic has caused anxiety at times for Sarah.

"I am finding it quite scary but hopefully things will change and I'll be able to go back soon," she said.

"I think if you're really struggling with something, talking really helps so it would be nice to see people in person."

Image caption,
Children's commissioner Sally Holland conducted a survey of pupils in Wales during the first lockdown

Children's helpline MEIC Cymru said it had seen a 10% increase in the number of calls from young people, parents, and carers during the pandemic compared with previous years.

Stephanie Hoffman, Head of Social Action at Promo Cymru, the charity which runs the helpline, said: "We're seeing what I'd say are many more substantive contacts, so a lot more contact dealing with really serious issues to do with social well-being, mental health and relationships, as opposed to what we might have seen more of in the past.

"Now we're dealing with situations which can be quite complicated."

Of the survey, Ms Holland said: "We've heard a lot from adults showing concern for children at the moment, such as parents, carers and professionals working with children about the potential impact of the lockdown on children.

"Those voices are important to hear, but it's also important we hear directly from children and young people because sometimes they can be surprising."

We know that Covid-19 vaccinations have been on people's minds in Wales - with many wanting to know when they or their loved-ones will receive theirs.

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