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Make children priority after pandemic, Anne Longfield says

Vulnerable children must be at the heart of government plans to “build back better” after the pandemic, England’s children’s commissioner says.

Anne Longfield called on Boris Johnson to put them at the “centre stage” of plans to “level up” the nation.

In a final speech after six years in the role, she said it was a “terrible thing” that “most of their lives would have got worse” during the pandemic.

Ministers said protecting vulnerable children was central to its response.

A spokesperson added: “That’s why we have enabled the most vulnerable children to continue attending school in person, while providing laptops, devices and data packages to those learning at home and ensuring the most disadvantaged children are fed and warm.”

It comes after warnings that children may be “losing all hope for their future” and as surveys suggest young people’s mental health is worsening, partly due to the fallout from Covid-19.

Ms Longfield said the prime minister’s commitment to putting schools at the heart of reopening of society when lockdown eases was “really welcome”.

“There have been points during the year where I was dismayed when schools stayed shut and shops and pubs opened but the prime minister’s come behind what we were pushing for which was for the schools to be the last last to close and the first to open,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

She estimated around £10bn will be needed for children’s mental health support and help for pupils in school to catch-up.

Ms Longfield said she believed Boris Johnson wants to “build back better” for children but did not think he has the “structures in government around him” to be able to do that.

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