A LOCAL authority which undertook a pioneering inquiry into the impact of Covid-19 on children and young people has approved a series of measures to alleviate the pandemic’s consequences and increase opportunities and activities for youngsters.

Darlington Borough Council’s cabinet said it would press on with actions ranging from laying on extra support for children struggling with mental health issues to running a regular mobile skate park in the town centre.

A meeting of the Conservative-run authority’s leading members heard numerous experts and 45 pupils from 22 primary and secondary schools had given evidence about food poverty, mental health, education, activities for young people to the inquiry led by Labour councillor Cyndi Hughes.

Leading members described the inquiry’s report as “very well prepared and well balanced” and Councillor Heather Scott, the authority’s leader, said all the inquiry’s recommendations would be taken forward.

She said: “I think this shows that when we do work together as a council we can achieve good things and I would hope that we can continue in that spirit.”

The inquiry’s recommendations included working to cut waiting times for mental health services, highlighting activities that promote wellbeing and action to increase career placement opportunities. Other recommendations included improving communications to young people, enabling them to have a greater influence on council decisions that impact on their lives or future opportunities.

Cllr Hughes told the meeting many young people had felt blamed for spreading the virus, so inquiry had also recommended promoting a commitment to achieving better understanding and tolerance between all age groups in the borough.

Children and young people cabinet member Councillor Jon Clarke said while the authority and Tees Valley Combined Authority had already taken some actions, it had come across “loud and clear” from the inquiry that a lot of work was needed to improve activities for children in the town.

He said changes were imminent with the Dolphin Centre bowling alley opening this month, ahead of a young traders event in the covered market targeting those aged 18 to 30 and the Pease Pudding food festival.

He added regular DJs had been booked for Skinnergate throughout the summer and that he was keen to support a mobile skate park attraction which would regularly visit the town centre.

Cllr Clarke said: “It’s a project that I’m very keen to get off the ground because I think it will really engage with the young people in our town.”

He said the council needed to improve extra-curricular activities for young people and better communicate what was on offer.

The meeting heard a host of schemes were already under way to improve career prospects, but the council would work to improve work placement opportunities.

Cllr Clarke said as mental health would be extremely tough for children following the pandemic, specialist teams would be embedded in Darlington schools from September, supporting children with mild to moderate mental health issues and helping schools to develop approaches to mental health.

He said: “The main thing is the voice of the child and how they are listen to and how we understand what their feelings are.”