Concerns over rising tides of children contacting NSPCC

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A RISING tide of contacts to the NSPCC helpline over the last three months has reinforced how children have been the hidden victims of the coronavirus crisis.

The charity reveals how in April, May and June they heard from more than 22,000 adults across the UK with concerns for the wellbeing of a child.

This is an increase of almost a third (32%) on the monthly average for the three months prior to the lockdown with May seeing 8,287 contacts, the highest number ever made to the adult helpline in a single month on record.

The helpline made 1,329 referrals to agencies in the East of England such as local authorities or police in April, May and June. Of these, 522 took place in June.

The data release comes a week after the Education Secretary set-out plans to get young people back to school fulltime, and the NSPCC is today urging the Government to ensure the recovery plan addresses the full range of children’s needs.

The NSPCC’s helpline is a national service for adults to use if they have concerns about the wellbeing of a child.

During the lockdown, the charity has received support from the Government to expand and raise awareness of the helpline, and signed a partnership with Deliveroo to train their delivery drivers to spot the signs of child abuse.

The main issues confronting NSPCC child safety experts across this period were parental behaviour, physical and emotional abuse and neglect.

Around 40% of the contacts received were referred on to local authorities or the police for further action, which is also a slight increase on pre-lockdown levels.

One adult who spoke to the NSPCC helpline during the lockdown said:

“I’ve become increasingly disturbed by the noises coming from one of one my neighbours – it’s been getting worse since the lockdown. I can hear the mother shouting and swearing at her two little ones, it sounds vengeful and aggressive. Sometimes the mother locks her kids out in the front garden as punishment – last time this happened the youngest was crying hysterically for half an hour, it was awful. Is there anything you can do?”

These figures from the charity back up the findings of a research report it recently released – ‘Social Isolation and the risk of child maltreatment in the lockdown and beyond’ – which underlines how increasing parental and family stress, reductions in protective services and the intensification of pressures on children’s emotional wellbeing caused by lockdown can increase the risk of abuse and neglect.

These traumatic experiences can have a devastating impact on children’s health and wellbeing and can stop children from learning, with the long-term effects following them into adulthood.

However, the NSPCC said that their expertise in delivering children’s services showed that with the right support young people can recover and be helped to move on with their lives.

Last week the charity signed up to a joint statement by almost 150 charities and organisations calling on the Prime Minister and the Chancellor to put children on a par with health and the economy when it comes to recovery.
Now the charity is calling on the Government to urgently commit to a children’s recovery plan which sets out how they will:

Deliver the long-term investment in children’s social care that is needed to provide high quality preventative and therapeutic services for children in every part of the country;

Invest in rebuilding support for families with babies and young children who have missed out on the normal support from health visitors during the lockdown;

Support multi-agency partnerships of the local authority, NHS and police to work with schools to review support for children known to the designated safeguarding lead, and identify those who continue to miss class with a plan to understand and address any barriers to a child’s school attendance;

Ensure schools are ready to help all children who need it – particularly those who may have suffered abuse, neglect or other traumatic experiences during the lockdown. Schools must be equipped to recognise and respond sensitively to children who have experienced physical or mental harm, trauma or adverse experiences when they return to the classroom. This includes putting in place support for teachers to enable them to support children confidently, including training on child development science and how trauma can manifest in behavioural problems or poor emotional regulation.

Support the NHS, including through the provision of additional investment, to develop a coordinated plan to respond to what is likely to be an increase in referrals into Children and Mental Health Services (CAMHS) arising from the coronavirus crisis.

Peter Wanless, CEO of the NSPCC, said:

“The increase in contacts to our helpline during the lockdown highlights how the home has become an increasingly unhealthy and even dangerous place for some children.

“We must all play our part in supporting children to recover from the mental and physical harm many will have suffered these past few months. Government’s role is crucial, and it must put in place a detailed recovery plan which will support children and young people and make sure they can receive the expert help they need if they have had difficult or damaging experiences.

“Putting children at the heart of recovery planning and taking this action quickly will mean the crisis of the last three months does not scar the childhood of a whole generation.”

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