There have been growing demands for March 23 to be marked for those who have died during the pandemic, as well as all those who have suffered through the effects of restrictions. Children’s charity Variety says it must be a day to remember community spirit while acknowledging its adverse impact on the nation’s children. It said while all children have been affected, for the one million children who are disabled and four million living in poverty “the blow has been particularly severe.”
The children it supports have faced numerous challenges from a reduction in their usual support services and therapies to changes in routine, being isolated at home, and homeschooling.
The pandemic has also hit family finances as job losses or reduced hours take their toll, particularly for those with a disabled child who outgoings are on average £600 a month higher than other families.
The campaign is backed by Mr Knowles, Olympic stars Jane Torvill and Christopher Dean, Eamonn Holmes, Heather Small and Lorraine Kelly.
The aim is to encourage the nation to keep passing on the acts of kindness that flourished during the past year and help Variety’s work with disabled and disadvantaged children by sharing photos and videos and raising much needed donations.
Father of four Mr Knowles, 55, said: “The whole country should give itself a collective pat on the back for finding a way to look after and support each other” but as we emerge from lockdown “we have to think of the cost to our children’s futures.”
He added: “Lockdown measures were necessary but when we come out of them it is a balancing act.
“We have to balance the health of the nation with the ongoing hole we are digging for the future of our children with the economic collapse.
“For every week we are longer in lockdown, we are loading up the economic debt for the children in their future.
“We don’t know the effect of locking up children for a year. It is not natural.
“People have done their best, parents, teachers and schools, and we will find out in the longer term what harm this has done to our children.”
While the situation was unpredictable he added: “We need to stop projecting worst case scenarios looking forward and deal with where we are at the moment.”
“The 23rd is a moment to pause, think of those who have lost family members, be grateful for the community spirit and resilience shown so far and make sure the new world we emerge into is more inclusive and leaves fewer behind.”
“My father gave me some advice a long time ago when I was having a very difficult time. I just didn’t know how to move forward.
“He said just put one foot in front of the other and in a few month’s time you will walk out of it.”
This week Jacob Rees-Mogg confirmed that the Government would support a minute’s silence in the House of Commons on the day, following calls from Variety Ambassador and former Cabinet Minister Esther McVey MP.
McVey added: “It’s absolutely essential that we mark this first anniversary with a national day of reflection.
“To remember those who have lost so much, have done so much and also to look forward to a brighter future with our freedoms restored.”
Ms McVey is calling on the public to upload videos and photos of themselves “making a heart shape with your hands” at www.23march.co.uk in support of the campaign and to “signify your commitment to keep the community spirit going.”