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No10’s independent Covid inquiry WILL probe impact of lockdowns on mental health and young people
- Covid inquiry set to look at impact of restrictions on the nation’s mental health
- Scope has been expanded after consultation found focus was too narrow
- It will also look at impact on young people and collaboration between UK nations
No10’s long-awaited independent Covid inquiry will examine the impact of lockdowns on the nation’s mental health and children.
Officials revealed the scope of the probe would be broadened to include the wider impacts of pandemic restrictions in an update today.
There were fears the inquiry would fall into the same trap as a House of Commons report last year that concluded ministers should have locked down for longer.
Since then, data has accrued suggesting the benefits of lockdowns were overblown and the wider consequences were underestimated.
The inquiry, which already included 26 topics, is being led by Baroness Heather Hallett, who put out a public consultation on the inquiry’s draft topics last month.
After reviewing more than 20,000 responses, the main complaint among civic groups was that the terms of reference were too narrow.
The inquiry will now aim to examine the pandemic’s unequal impact on ethnic minority groups, children and mental health.
Children saw massive disruptions to their education during the pandemic despite being at a vanishingly small risk of the virus.
Psychiatrists have described the pandemic as the ‘biggest hit’ to mental wellbeing in generations, following a record 4.3million mental health referrals in 2021.
Baroness Heather Hallett will lead the inquiry and has urged people to provide feedback on the draft topics they are set to probe
WHAT WILL THE COVID INQUIRY EXAMINE?
2) Public health response
3) Health and care sector response
4) Economic response
5) Impact on children and young people
6) Impacts on mental health and wellbeing of the UK population
7) Collaboration between UK nations
In a letter sent to Boris Johnson today, Baroness Hallett asked to expand the terms of reference to include children and young people, including the impact on health, wellbeing and social care education.
It should also examine the ‘impacts on mental health’ and the wellbeing of the UK population, she said.
And collaboration between officials and charities across the UK’s four nations should also be within the inquiry’s scope, the letter states.
Baroness Hallett also called for a sharper focus on care services provided in people’s homes, support for victims of domestic abuse and first contact with the NHS, including 111 and 999 services.
Other topics already included in the scope are Government preparedness, testing, borders, infection control in hospitals and care homes, PPE, vaccines, furlough and sick pay.
Baroness Hallett, an ex-Court of Appeal judge who has been involved in other public probes, made the decision to expand the inquiry after meeting with over 150 bereaved families and organisations over a four-week consultation.
She said the process ‘demonstrated people’s passion to be part of the Inquiry and their desire to work with me to ensure valuable lessons are learned’.
People voiced concerns about the ‘unequal impact of the pandemic’, so the inequalities should be at the ‘forefront’ of the investigation, she added.
The inquiry, poised to begin in the next few months, will have the power to summon witnesses to give evidence under oath — even the Prime Minister.
It has been tasked with examining the UK’s response to the pandemic, with the goal of ensuring the country learns ‘the right lessons for the future’.
Those involved in the investigation will comb through millions of documents relating to the handling of the pandemic.
Campaigners last month called for ‘any rule-breaking by any rule-makers’, such as Partygate, to be investigated as part of the inquiry.
Bereaved Families for Justice (BFJ) said that ‘any rule-breaking by any rule-makers’ should be investigated. This should include any ministers who ‘broke their own restriction rules’.