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COVID-19 inquiry to focus on pandemic's impact on mental health, children and young people

Image:Bereaved families walk past London's COVID Memorial Wall in March this year
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The COVID-19 inquiry will now examine the impact of the pandemic on mental health, and on children and young people, it has been confirmed.

The terms of reference, which set out the scope of the inquiry, fall within the already established main topics of the inquiry - to examine the response to the pandemic and its impact in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and produce a factual narrative account of what happened.

It also plans to identify the lessons that can be learned so it can be used to help prepare for future pandemics.

Chairwoman Baroness Heather Hallett also recommended that the terms of reference be reframed "to put inequalities at its forefront so that investigation into the unequal impacts of the pandemic runs through the whole inquiry".

She said in a written update to the Prime Minister on Thursday: "The unequal impact of the pandemic was a theme that came through strongly in responses to the consultation.

"I am therefore recommending that the terms of reference be reframed to put possible inequalities at its forefront so that investigation into any unequal impacts of the pandemic runs through the whole inquiry.

"This important recommendation will ensure the inquiry is inclusive in its approach."

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Baroness Hallett said in her letter to Boris Johnson the consultation revealed areas where the original draft terms of reference could be improved.

She said: "I have listened to compelling arguments to focus on children and young people, the mental health and wellbeing of the UK population and collaboration between regional, devolved and national government, and the voluntary and community sector.

"I am therefore asking you to expand the terms of reference to include these issues."

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It follows a four-week consultation period in which more than 20,000 people responded, while Baroness Hallett and her team also met bereaved families and representatives from interested groups.

It now falls to the PM to agree to the terms of reference, although this is widely anticipated to be effectively just a rubber-stamping exercise.

The COVID-19 inquiry is due to begin with public hearings in 2023.