Children's rights
in the new normal:

Table of contents

When the UK first went into lockdown in spring 2020, years of public service innovation took place in a matter of months. At the same time, the way we think about our local community and our expectations of local services have fundamentally changed. Given the speed of change, it is crucial that children’s rights are not overlooked as we return to (some form of) normal.

Our New Normal series offers a child rights-based approach to some of the seismic shifts councils and their partners are grappling with as they navigate the pandemic and look to the future of public service delivery.


While there are undoubtedly huge benefits to digital service delivery and engagement, the speed at which many services have moved online has left little time for local authorities to fully assess the impact on children.

If digital councils are here to stay, work needs to happen now to understand how the shift online has impacted children’s rights and, if negatively, how to mitigate those impacts.

At the same time, there is a growing awareness of the gaping digital divide in the UK that prevents some of the most marginalised children and their families from accessing services, information and the opportunity to participate. These groups cannot be left behind as councils move forward.


The mental health of the UK’s children and young people was deteriorating before Covid-19, but the pandemic has taken a devastating toll on their mental wellbeing.

As mental health services reach tipping point, councils and their partners face enormous challenges to ensure local children get the urgent help they need.

Against this backdrop, it is key that councils and their partners frame good mental health as a basic human right; one all children and young people are entitled to.


Restrictions brought in to tackle Covid-19 meant fewer car journeys and a slowdown of industrial activity in our cities and communities; both of which resulted in an unprecedented, but temporary, drop in CO2 emissions.

As the UK adapts to the new normal, the challenge for councils and their partners will be to take this vision of what is possible and transform it into an enduring reality.

Perhaps the most powerful way they can do so is by recognising the climate crisis as a child rights crisis: one that threatens children’s very survival and infringes on every one of their rights.


Covid-19 has affected all children, but not all children have been affected equally. For the hundreds of thousands who were already at increased risk of abuse, neglect and exploitation, the pandemic has dealt a crushing blow.

With less money for early intervention, and more and more children moving into care, local authorities are being challenged to think creatively about how to continue delivering the incredibly important work they do.

While children’s services undoubtedly need increased, predictable and long-term funding, a new approach is also urgently needed. One that places children’s rights at the forefront of all local policies, services and decisions – so that even in the most challenging of times, a child’s best interests always come first.


Recommendations will be published in February 2022

Recommendations will be published in March 2022

Recommendations will be published in April 2022

Recommendations will be published in May 2022

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