This report forms part of OSR’s ongoing cross cutting review of data and statistics related to children and young people.
We looked at a selection of the key published data available on children and young people during the COVID-19 pandemic, in order to explore the representation of children and young people in official statistics since March 2020. We sought to understand how visible children and young people have been in key statistics, if they have been given a voice, and if the experiences of the most vulnerable have been collected and analysed separately.
We found that a number of the key statistical outputs released during COVID-19 have made children and young people visible, including data on testing, infections and mental health. There are also good examples of separate analysis being conducted for children and young people in specific educational settings. However, in some cases, small sample sizes inhibit the ability for data to be broken down into detailed age categories or by demographic characteristics.
In some of the new statistical outputs produced during the pandemic, efforts have been made to separately identify the most vulnerable children in the data. Producers have also been transparent about the limitations in recording vulnerable groups where these exist.
In some instances, however, we found that vulnerable children can be excluded from official statistics, for example, if surveys are sampled on a household basis (hence excluding those in care) and where survey enrolment has to be completed online (potentially excluding those without consistent access to the internet).
A notable gap in the official statistics produced during COVID-19 is the lack of data on social outcomes that give a voice to children themselves. We found that much of the data that did give children a voice came from non-official sources, outside of official statistics. Organisations outside of government including charities and think tanks have often come up with creative ways to encourage young respondents to express their thoughts and feelings. They have also considered alternative methods of responding for children without access to electronic devices or the internet.
We will continue to work with users and producers to explore the levers and barriers to driving improvements in official statistics on children and young people that meet the needs of users. We aim to publish further findings later in 2021.