During the COVID-19 pandemic, children and young people have not only missed out on a great deal of teaching time at school and have not been able to cover the material set out in the curriculum. They are also missing out on many other things in their everyday life: contacts with their peers, sport and exercise, playing and talking as part of a group, cultural events and travelling with the family. Prospects and plans for the future can begin to buckle, and the general atmosphere at home is sometimes fraught. All of these factors can trigger mental and physical stress.
This is why children and young people now need special attention. It is important to prevent long-term impacts and any consolidation of existing inequalities. All young people ought to be able to achieve their educational goals and develop their personalities.
Two billion euro COVID-19 package for children and young people
To meet these challenges and respond to the needs of children and young people, the Federal Government will launch an action programme that is to help them make good what they have missed during the pandemic. A sum of two billion euros has been earmarked for the programme for the period 2021/2022.
A sum of one billion euros is to be provided for each of the areas below:
- Catching up on lost schooling
- Promoting early childhood education, leisure, holiday and sporting activities and supporting children and young people in their everyday lives and at school.
Creating services that get where they are needed rapidly
The aim is to put in place services that swiftly reach children, young people and families, and use existing delivery structures. To this end, the Federal Government will provide the Länder with significant additional funding. At the same time, it will markedly expand its programmes in the field of early childhood education and out-of-school education and provide targeted support for children from low-income families.
The measures promoted by the Federal Government focus on the following areas:
Catching up with lost learning
Schoolchildren are to be offered additional coaching services to help them catch up with learning lost during the pandemic so that they can continue their educational career successfully. The spotlight will be on core subjects and key competences. The individual and mental strain on schoolchildren as a result of the pandemic will also be addressed. The measures are to be implemented using the structures already in place in the Länder.
The Länder are to use the funding provided by Federal Government to implement the following priority measures:
- Summer camps and learning workshops during the summer break and
- Remedial activities in core subjects parallel to teaching as of the start of the new academic year.
For these activities alone, the Federal Government is providing a sum of one billion euros.
Promoting early childhood education
The Federal Government is also to engage to a greater extent in early childhood education. Nationwide, 1,000 additional “Sprach-Kitas” (nurseries offering special language support services) are to benefit from support. Additional assistance will be provided by the Bundesstiftung Frühe Hilfen (Federal Foundation for Early Childhood Intervention). The Foundation encourages easy-access services, including courses for parents of families in difficult circumstances with children under the age of three.
Holiday activity programmes and extracurricular activities
It is not only schooling that has suffered during the pandemic. Young people’s opportunities for social learning through projects and excursions, sports and music have also been severely restricted. And they have suffered mental, emotional and physical stress.
The Federal Government intends to provide support for children and young people so that they can engage in leisure activities offered during the school holidays in particular, and make good some of what they have missed.
Children recreation bonus for disadvantaged families
A child recreation bonus of 100 euros per child is to be made available to disadvantaged low-income families and families on basic income support. It will be paid out in August 2021. This bonus can be used individually for holiday and recreational activities.
Expanding the Children and Youth Plan
A wider range of more affordable holiday activity programmes, encounters and physical and sports activities are to help children find their way back to a carefree existence in the post-pandemic period. Funding provided under the Children and Youth Plan for holiday activity programmes, cultural, sports, political and international youth work and youth organisations is to be stepped up significantly.
Facilitating family retreats
Families have had a lot to cope with during the pandemic. Families with lower incomes have been doubly hard hit by the crisis. And that is why these families in particular are to receive the opportunity to take an affordable one-week break in non-profit family holiday centres. These centres offer not only educational activities for children and young people, but also discussion and encounter activities for parents.
Stepping up holiday activity programmes in the Länder
The Länder will receive funding to enable them to offer reasonably priced holiday and weekend activity programmes and youth encounter activities. They will be delivered by non-state providers of children and youth services, as well as by public-sector providers, youth hostels and non-commercial tour operators.
Additional extracurricular services to make good lost learning
Extracurricular activities are to be expanded that give children and young people additional impetus and help develop rounded personalities. This includes the Culture makes us strong programme run by the Federal Ministry of Education. It aims to use extracurricular cultural education to foster the creativity, personal development and social skills of educationally disadvantaged children and young people.
The network of laboratories for schoolchildren in Germany is also to provide additional extracurricular learning opportunities in the fields of science and technology, foreign languages, and economics and political science.
Stepping up civil engagement for children, young people and families
People work voluntarily in numerous associations, initiatives and other voluntary structures to help children, young people and families. This multifaceted engagement is particularly important now to help overcome the consequences of the pandemic. These activities are to be specifically promoted by the Deutsche Stiftung für Engagement und Ehrenamt (German Foundation for Civil Engagement and Volunteering).
Individual learning support in basic income support and for low-income families
The individual benefits for learning support currently available under the education and participation package will continue to be available, and access is to be facilitated during the pandemic. No special application to cover the costs of learning support will have to be submitted to the agency responsible (for instance the Job Centre) before 31 December 2023.
Support for children and young people in everyday life and at school
To overcome the consequences of the crisis, the social skills of children and young people need to be strengthened. School children in particular must not be left alone with their concerns and the pressure to catch up on what they have missed at school as swiftly as possible. After a year of the pandemic they need special support as they return to school or continue distance learning.
An action programme for the future (“Aktion Zukunft”) is to increase the range of services for children and young people. Options include assigning student teachers as mentors to support learning as well as social learning. The Federal Government will also support more social work in schools. People performing voluntary service will in future be able to provide children and young people with targeted support and assistance in schools and child and youth welfare facilities.