Vulnerable children ‘suffer alone’ in UK lockdown with schools shut

A charity that supports disadvantaged state school pupils has reported a sevenfold increase in its child-protection referrals since the lockdown began.

Practitioners from the charity, School Home Support (SHS), have been working throughout the crisis to maintain regular contact with families of the children they normally support in school. Between 23 March and 6 May, they reported a 750% increase in the number of children who needed to be referred to social services, compared to the same period in 2019.

In April, by contrast, local authorities reported dramatic falls in the number of children being referred to social services over child protection, with some areas of England seeing a drop of more than 50% during the lockdown.

“Normally, our percentages roughly always mirror the national figures,” said SHS chief executive Jaine Stannard. “If we’re seeing referrals increase sevenfold when the national figures have gone down, that’s because a lot of referrals normally come from children being seen at school, clubs and other places where people are trained to pick up on safeguarding issues.”

She fears that vulnerable children in desperate need of protection from social services are being left to suffer alone, behind closed doors.

Stannard has been working to safeguard children for more than 30 years – and has never felt more worried about their wellbeing. She predicts that, when children do go back to school, the government is going to see “a tsunami of safeguarding referrals”.

“School is such a protective factor for children,” says Stannard. “If a child is missing education, schools have a process to make sure that child is safe.” During lockdown, that is not happening for every vulnerable child: “Those children are not being seen.”

The Guardian

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