Wales’ firebreak and the Well-being of Future Generations Act
Welsh Government has taken a difficult decision to impose a two-week firebreak lockdown. I recognise the need to take immediate and decisive action to stop the spread of COVID-19.
This move has been made based on scientific advice, to protect the health of our most vulnerable and limit the harm done by this disease.
While I support the move and implore everyone in Wales to follow the advice and guidelines set out by Welsh Government so we can give our health service a better chance to be able to cope with the winter ahead, we must work to understand the impact of this firebreak, and any future lockdowns, on children and young people.
Wales’ Well-being of Future Generations Act requires Welsh Government and public bodies to take decisions in a way which meets today’s needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own.
In my role as guardian of future generations, I am discussing with Welsh Government their consideration of their duties under the Act.
I have asked to see the evidence that Welsh Government is using to ensure that they are acting in accordance with the Act and the sustainable development principle in their short and long-term responses to the pandemic.
While a week out of the classroom could be considered a minor disruption, the impact, especially on vulnerable young people, will only increase and worsen the more often it happens.
I welcome the decision to keep primary schools open and to allow years seven and eight to return to school after half-term.
I am pleased to hear that years 9 and above will be undertaking self-directed learning with support from teachers, however, schools provide more than education.
It is crucial that the long-term effects on young people’s mental and physical health and well-being are at the forefront of decisions.
Preventing a COVID-19 generation should be a priority.
I have advised Welsh Government that schools need to be considered as critical national infrastructure in the future to avoid further closures being a long-term response.