Hundreds of thousands of children in England are living with a ‘cocktail’ of secondary risks during the coronavirus lockdown, the Children’s Commissioner for England has warned.
The warning comes as Anne Longfield published a new matrix which details how many vulnerable children there are in each local authority area and highlight groups at heightened risk during the coronavirus emergency – such as those in overcrowded or inadequate accommodation, with fragile parents, young carers, or without internet access.
This analysis is being used to inform the government’s work to create a dashboard by which it can monitor the safety and care of vulnerable children and young people through the coronavirus crisis.
‘The coronavirus emergency has put hundreds of thousands of vulnerable children in England at heightened risk,’ said Ms Longfield.
‘While the government’s decision to keep schools open for the most vulnerable children is welcome, sadly most of them are just not showing up. They are most likely at home, often exposed to a cocktail of secondary risks – a lack of food in the house, sofa-surfing or cramped living conditions, neglect, or experiencing acute difficulties due to parental domestic violence, substance abuse and mental health problems.
‘Many will be caring for parents or siblings themselves in these incredibly difficult circumstances,’ added the Children’s Commissioner.
Her warnings comes after the president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) said there could be ‘huge spikes in demand’ as the coronavirus pandemic continues.
The education secretary has also written to school leaders and local authorities setting out the importance of encouraging vulnerable children into school, which is a very welcome step.
However, the great majority of children with a social worker are not attending school, and other community hubs – such as doctor’s surgeries, youth centres, children’s centres and libraries – are closed.
‘Our figures on local need lay bare the extent and nature of child vulnerability in each area, and the extraordinary pressures on some councils to try and protect them all,’ added Ms Longfield.
‘I believe that with the right will, government – local and national – could ensure that all vulnerable children are seen and contact is maintained, harnessing if necessary the efforts of suitable volunteers, those from services which are currently closed or who are recently retired from child-facing work.’
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