Category Archives: Public policy

On public policy

Covid-19 and children: what does the science tell us, and what does this mean as the lockdown is eased?

Key points
As this is a longish post – perhaps a 10-minute read – here are the main takeaways:

  • Children are much less likely to become seriously ill from Covid-19 than adults, and appear less likely to become infected.
  • Unlike with influenza, it appears that children are not more likely than adults to spread the disease, and may be significantly less likely.
  • There are good grounds for thinking that outdoor environments present a low risk of infection compared to indoor ones, especially where the time spent in close proximity to other people is short.
  • Pandemic control measures are likely to lead to significant collateral damage to children, with the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children worst affected.
  • Government, local authorities and other public agencies should take a balanced approach to supporting children through the pandemic. They should:
    • Encourage schools and child care centres to take learning activities outdoors, prioritising play and breaks, and maximize outdoor play time, as they reopen.
    • Open all remaining closed parks, review the closure of playgrounds, and take a supportive approach to the oversight of children’s play and socialising in public space.
    • Address the circumstances of disadvantaged children as a matter of urgency.
    • Prioritise children’s active travel to school, to help reduce peak hours congestion.
    • Closely monitor emerging evidence, especially from countries that have relevant experience of relaxing measures.
    • Encourage the public to engage with and understand the evidence base, and keep them informed as it grows.

Introduction
The government’s plans for relaxing the lockdown, including greater freedom to spend time outside, and the possible re-opening of schools, have unsurprisingly generated huge debate. At the same time, evidence is growing on how Covid-19 affects children, and of children’s role in the spread of the disease. This post shares my take on that evidence base and its implications.

'Park closed' sign outside park in Waltham Forest

The post starts with a summary of the clinical and epidemiological evidence base. It then looks at the collateral damage to children of the pandemic control measures. It closes with implications for policy and practice, with a particular focus on children’s play and mobility.

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UK Government action on children’s play during the coronavirus crisis

[Update 24 March 2020] Government officials have responded to the open letter on children’s play and the coronavirus outbreak that was pulled together last Friday by Adrian Voce, supported by many leading play organisations, academics and advocates (including me) and reblogged here. Clearly the situation has moved on, with the introduction of more stringent measures, including the closure of playgrounds and restrictions on public gatherings. Adrian’s Policy for Play website gives an update. The original post is below.

Policy for Play

This open letter to the UK government – from play practitioners, researchers, advocates, and industry bodies – urges the Chief Medical Officer and Public Health England to consult with the field on producing clear advice that keeps children and communities safe while still allowing them the opportunities for playing outside that could now be more important than ever.

As researchers, children’s play charities, and advocates for children, we fully support the current policy of social distancing to combat the growing coronavirus pandemic. With yesterday’s announcement of school closures, this now includes millions of families facing an indefinite period of home-schooling, with limited or no childcare. There is understandable uncertainty and anxiety about how they will cope. One major issue is, how will children play?

Space and opportunity to play is essential for children’s mental and emotional wellbeing, social connectedness and resilience. Of course, children can continue to play inside; we…

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Is child-friendly planning a luxury that only rich cities can afford?

Is child-friendly urban planning and design a ‘rich city’ pursuit? Or can it gain traction in the global South, where most of the world’s urban children will soon be living? I spent a week in Recife, Brazil exploring this question.

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Putting children at the heart of urban planning: a call for action


Authors: Tim Gill, Adrian Voce, Darell Hammond and Mariana Brussoni

Cities around the world are failing children. 30 years after the launch of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child – which aimed to make children’s needs and views central in policy making – most cities are hostile if not life-threatening places for their youngest inhabitants.

The global death toll of children on the roads is surely the most shocking illustration of the failure of urban planning. Road traffic is the leading global cause of death among people aged 15–29, and the second highest single cause of death for children aged 5–14.

Dangerous hilly road with cars and pedestrians, Ciudad Bolivar, Bogota

Ciudad Bolivar, Bogota

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Why one city is undergoing a child-friendly revolution

Why would a mayor decide that talking about children is the best way to fix a fast-growing, underfunded, polluted city whose people have a deep distrust for politicians? I spent a week in Tirana last month trying to answer this question.

The Tirana context
First, some context. Tirana, the capital of Albania, is a city of around 1/2 million people (double that figure if you include the wider region). Physically, the city has both Eastern Bloc and Southern European qualities. The city centre is spacious and ordered, taking in wide boulevards, grand squares and buildings, and pleasant parks and green spaces.

Skanderbeg Square, Tirana city centre

Skanderbeg Square, Tirana city centre

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How to build cities fit for children

After decades on the margins, child-friendly urban planning and design is emerging into the mainstream. What does this mean for children, for cities, and crucially for the decision-makers and professionals who will shape the futures of both?

My new report Building Cities Fit for Children gives perhaps the first overview of the decisions and programs of those cities that are at the forefront of the movement to reshape their neighbourhoods with children and families in mind. Based on my Churchill Fellowship travels in Europe and Canada, the report takes as its starting point not what I think cities should be doing, nor what agencies like UNICEF are promoting, but what leading cities have actually done. Continue reading

An interview with… Tim Gill

A few months ago I was asked to do an email interview by Maya, a senior high school student from California, as part of her project. (She has asked me not to use her last name.)

The questions were smart, she knew her stuff, and she had read some of my writings. (Top tip to other students who ask for help with their projects: always do this.) So I agreed.

When I was finished I thought: Maya’s questions were so astute that maybe I should share the interview more widely. So I asked her. And she agreed.

Here is the interview, published just in time for the Child in the City conference in Vienna (where my keynote speech will give a sneak preview of the key findings of my study tour on child-friendly urban planning). As always, feedback and comments are welcome!

What would you say are the biggest health problems/hazards facing children living in large cities? Are there particular issues for children living in low income areas?

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