Issue 2 • 2022
© 2022 The Royal Australasian College of Physicians

RACP launches flagship campaign to help children and young people catch up following pandemic setbacks

As we move through the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s clear that the impact is far reaching for children, young people and their families. In fact, the consequences of the pandemic on this generation of children and young people are still to be fully realised.
That’s why, this year, Australia’s leading paediatricians, specialist physicians and trainee doctors have come together to call for a COVID-19 recovery plan for children and young people across the country.
The ‘Kids COVID Catch Up’ campaign was launched by the RACP in February – with an exclusive in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, packages on Channel 10’s The Project and ABC TV, and interviews on radio stations right across the nation.
We also held a live virtual Child Health Summit, with RACP members and key stakeholders in attendance. Speakers included the National Children's Commissioner Anne Hollonds, Advanced Trainee in Paediatrics and proud Gamilaraay woman Dr Elkie Hull, Melbourne high-school student and UNICEF Young Ambassador Chris O’Connell, Director, Centre for Community Child Health, Professor Sharon Goldfeld, Professor Frank Oberklaid, co-Chair of the steering committee of the National Children’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy, and Dr Cassandra Goldie, CEO of the Australian Council of Social Service.
The summit was opened by paediatrician Dr Katie Allen, who at the time was a Member of Parliament, and closed by the then Shadow Assistant Minster for Health, Ged Kearney, who is now Assistant Minister for Health.
In launching the campaign, RACP President (then President-Elect) and Paediatrician Dr Jacqueline Small told media outlets, “Some of the long-term impacts on children’s learning and development are still yet to be realised. Because of the pandemic’s more serious impact for adults – we’ve seen the health and wellbeing of children take a backseat. It’s time to put children first.
“Whether it’s the loss of learning from missed face-to-face teaching, the emotional impact of reduced social connection with their peers, or the lack of access to sport, recreational, and cultural activities, the COVID-19 pandemic has overturned many parts of children’s lives.
“There is an urgent need for a national recovery plan to help the nation’s children catch up from the setbacks of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s important to get back to school – but it’s a whole other mission to identify the true emotional, physical and developmental impacts the COVID-19 pandemic has had. We need to address these early.”
In the lead-up to the Australian 2022 Federal Election, the campaign launched an easy ‘Email your MP’ tool for RACP members, parents and community members to email to their local Member of Parliament to ask for commitments to the campaign. Throughout the election campaign, we received a range of positive policy and funding commitments from all sides of politics.
We called for more support for school students with disability, and it was in response to these emails that the Hon. Mark Butler, who is now Health Minister, responded to Kids COVID Catch Up supporters saying, “Labor will also have the Education Department conduct a rapid review of the impact of COVID on students with disability, so they get the support they need.”
The College also called for mental health funding in the lead-up to the Australian 2022–23 Federal Budget, and the former Coalition Government put in place funding for youth mental health programs. On top of this, Labor committed $440 million to schools for better ventilation, building upgrades, and mental health support, as part of a new plan to help Australian kids bounce back after COVID. We’ll be holding the new government to these commitments and urging it to go further by fully funding and implementing the National Children’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy.
A 2021 study in Australia found that 60 per cent of caregivers surveyed reported their child’s overall health and wellbeing had been impacted by the restrictions, home isolation and disruption to routines. For families accessing behavioural therapy for their children, 71 per cent felt access had been disrupted.
Join the Kids COVID Catch Up campaign and find out more.