The safeguarding implications of COVID-19
The safeguarding implications of COVID-19
Since lockdown eased a number of reports on the impact of COVID-19 on children and adults at risk have been published. Mark Foster of Child Protection Company has trawled the reports to give you a wider perspective on how it might affect you now and in the worst-case scenario that we go into another lockdown:
Local Government Association (LGA)
On 7th September the LGA, an association of councils in England and Wales, reported that the number of children referred to children's social care services for support fell by almost a fifth during lockdown.
The figures show that: children's social care teams received 41,190 fewer referrals between April and June 2020, around 18% lower compared with the same period in each of the last three years; and 1,640 children started to be looked after as a result of these referrals during the same period, a third lower compared with the same period over each of the last three years.
From the Centre for Mental Health Briefing published in June 2020
“The COVID-19 crisis has had a profound effect on the nation’s mental health. While most of us will emerge without lasting negative effects, some communities and individuals are at far greater risk of worsening mental health.
“This includes people living with mental health problems, whose access to services has been interrupted; people who live with both mental health problems and long-term physical conditions that put them at greater risk of the virus; older adults who are both susceptible to the virus themselves and much more likely than others to lose partners and peers; women and children exposed to trauma and violence at home during lockdown; and people from the ethnic groups where the prevalence of Covid-19 has been highest and outcomes have been the worst, notably people from Black British, Black African, Bangladeshi and Pakistani backgrounds.
“The people who have historically endured the biggest risks for poor mental health and the worst access to and experiences of support are among those now most exposed to the worst of the immediate shock of COVID-19.”
- Increased mood swings or children becoming more emotional
- Children and young people finding it difficult to sleep or having nightmares
- Children either becoming more attached to their parents, or becoming more introverted/isolated within the house
From the National Youth Agency: Young People’s Lives Turned ‘Inside Out’ Report
The fall-out from the crisis on school exam results has created a crisis of confidence for many young people, uncertain of their future. Its impact is far-reaching and has compounded existing inequalities made worse by COVID-19. The result is that young people, while at lower risk from infection by COVID-19, are put at much greater risk of other physical or mental health issues.
Published on 18th August the NYA report reveals young people’s health has suffered with:
- A decline in vulnerable young people’s mental health almost three times the national average in response to COVID-19.
- Over one million young people have been lost to youth services during COVID-19, many unknown to formal services and not accessing health services.
- An over reliance on online services for health advice and support.
From the Early Intervention Foundation: Covid-19 and early intervention: Understanding the impact, preparing for recovery
“The impact of Covid-19 on vulnerable children and families is likely to be profound.”
The EIF report is based on 32 semi-structured qualitative interviews with heads of early help services, lead practitioners, and head teachers, conducted by EIF together with the charity Action for Children between March and May 2020.
They were particularly concerned about the significantly reduced contact that universal services would have with children and families, and the impact that this may have on referrals into early help services. Most interviewees recognised a particularly significant challenge in identifying children who may become vulnerable as a result of Covid-19, or during the lockdown, but who were not currently known to any service. These ‘out of sight’ children were seen as potentially the most vulnerable.
‘We are less concerned about children in the children’s social care system, and more concerned about the children who aren’t – who aren’t in touch with any services.’ CHILDREN’S SERVICES MANAGER, EAST MIDLANDS
Professionals suspected that there would be many families who had not previously been identified as vulnerable and who would not have accessed support during this time, either because they had not tried to, or because support had not been available.
From the Children’s Society the Good Childhood Report 2020:
The Good Childhood Report 2020 is the Society’s ninth annual report on the well-being of children in the UK.
Findings from a survey, conducted between April and June 2020, of more than 2,000 young people aged 10 to 17 across the UK, and their parent or carer include:
- A continued decrease in average happiness with life among 10-15 year olds in the UK.
- 15-year olds in the UK were among the saddest and least satisfied with their lives in Europe.
From a Co-Space study
The Co-SPACE study, part of the Emerging Minds research network, published findings from a survey of 2,729 parents and carers in the UK who took part in both a baseline questionnaire and the first follow up questionnaire covering a one month period while the UK was in lockdown.
Looking at changes in children and young people’s emotional, behavioural and attention difficulties, the study found that emotional and attention difficulties were consistently elevated among children and young people from low income households through lockdown, compared to those from higher income households. Around two and a half times as many children experienced significant problems in low income households.
So, what does that all mean to you?
Quite simply it means that you need to always be professionally curious when in contact with children, young people and adults at risk, as your contact with these groups increases.
As a number of the reports indicate, some children have been adversely affected by the pandemic and not all will have been able to seek or get, help. You, quite literally, could be the first person with safeguarding training that they’ve seen in months.
So, make sure you’re at the top of your game. Re read your safeguarding policies and procedures, refresh your training and check that the contact details you have for the local agencies are current as many have changed to cater for staff working from home.
Above all, remember there’s no such thing as a wrong referral when it comes to safeguarding. Prepare yourself well and have the confidence to report any concerns.
If you’d like any help with setting up your training, give the Child Protection Company a call on 01327 552030 or email email@example.com. Their friendly customer support team is always happy to help.
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