Women and children were among the worst affected by the Covid pandemic – and many youngsters saw their childhood “blighted”, an inquiry has heard.
On day two of the Scottish Covid-19 Inquiry on Wednesday, organisations including Long Covid Kids Scotland and Scottish Women’s Rights Organisations – an umbrella term for a number of bodies – gave opening statements to chairman Lord Brailsford.
Andrew Webster KC, representing Long Covid Kids Scotland, told the panel of the hardships faced by children with long Covid.
He said: “The children of Scotland should be able to thrive and look forward to a positive future.
“Long Covid, the long-term illness caused by Covid-19, has blighted that prospect for too many.
“For too many, long Covid presents a seemingly insurmountable obstacle to an engaged, fulfilling and productive life.
“The inquiry is embarked upon its listening project, let’s be heard.
“In an adult world, the voice of children is too often ignored, disregarded or belittled.”
He then asked the room whether the voice of children was heard, or if they “were simply told how it was going to be”.
He added: “For reasons I find unfathomable, we have been precluded by the inquiry from allowing the voice of a child to be heard in these opening statements.”
Mr Webster then read a statement from an anonymous child suffering from long Covid symptoms.
Quoting the child, he said: “Coronavirus doesn’t only affect children like you, many of our parents got it too, so we had to stay at home and try to look after each other, but many of us got worse and needed extra help from doctors.
“Our parents were often scared. It seems like a long time ago that we felt well, and could do some of the fun things we like to do.
“We’re still at home and we’re still unwell. Many of us are still in bed a lot of the time. It can be boring, annoying, frustrating and tiring and we miss our friends. We miss feeling well.”
He concluded by asking if the long-term effects of long Covid in children are considered by the Scottish Government.
Deirdre Domingo, of Scottish Women’s Rights Organisations, told the inquiry that the idea that the pandemic affected everyone equally should be “firmly dispelled”.
She said women, particularly from black and minority ethnicities, were far more affected when compared to the wider population.
Ms Domingo said a key area of concern was the rise in domestic violence and sexual abuse.
She said stay at home measures may have “overlooked that for many people, home was not the safest place to be”.
She added: “One of the consequences of the imposition of lockdown and isolation rules was a rise in domestic abuse and violence.
“As explained by Scottish Women’s Aid in their written submissions to the Equalities and Human Rights Committee of Scottish Parliament, anxiety about coronavirus, frustrations related to quarantine, economic uncertainty due to a loss of jobs, harmful consumption of alcohol or other stresses, do not cause domestic abuse.
“Domestic abuse is a pattern of behaviour that instils fear and is used by abusers to maintain control.
“Measures taken to address the pandemic including lockdowns, early release of prisoners, closure of schools, working from home, reduction in the work of courts, and closure of some services and transition of others to remote provision provide additional tools for abusers to exercise that control and they remove the opportunities for women to seek help.”
Claire Mitchell KC, representing Scottish Covid Bereaved, told the inquiry that the hearing presents an opportunity for “real change and accountability”.
As the inquiry entered into the afternoon, the panel heard statements from Eilish Lindsay of Scottish Hazards and James Keegan KC, representing the Scottish Trade Union Congress (STUC).
Mr Keegan told of the “very significant” impact Covid had on the wellbeing and finances of workers.
He cited “the malign impact of austerity and Scotland’s ability to effectively implement planning and readiness for a pandemic during the decade that preceded the Covid”.
He added: “Evidence will demonstrate the underfunding in health and social care caused by austerity had a significant adverse effect on planning and readiness for the Covid emergency.
“Preparation requires not only planning, but also the capacity of public services in health and social care.
“Public services are greatly diminished and weakened by years of budget cuts that impacted on the ability of our national and local governments to respond quickly and effectively to the sudden and devastating shock of a national emergency.”
Ms Lindsay, representing Scottish Hazards, spoke of businesses who would “bend the rules” during the pandemic.
She said Scottish Hazards does not believe that all employers in the health and social care sector “were taking the law and statutory guidance seriously”.
The inquiry continues.