School closures, social distancing and other lockdown measures could seriously affect the ability of services to support vulnerable children and families, according to a new report.
The joint report by the Early Intervention Foundation and Action for Children found that the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on vulnerable children and families is likely to be profound.
The report makes clear that there will be increased demand from families who don’t meet the criteria for support from statutory services, but who are wrestling with new and pressing needs created by the strains of the lockdown, or the effects of previous support having been withdrawn.
The report is based on interviews with a range of care professionals delivering local early help services between March and May.
Those interviewed recognised that it has become more difficult to ascertain which children have become more vulnerable.
The subtler signs of abuse, neglect or domestic violence, for example, are simply much harder to spot without home visits or other face-to-face contact.
‘This work is important to our understanding of the pressures public services face, and how the country can navigate this recovery phase,’ said EIF chief executive, Dr Jo Casebourne.
‘The lockdown has had a negative impact on children and families, especially those that were struggling before the coronavirus hit.
‘We know there will be lots of calls for additional funding, including – rightly – for children’s social care and other acute services. But early intervention has a crucial role to play in providing support to a wider group of families and children wrestling with a wide range of problems in the wake of the lockdown.’
Action for Children’s head of policy and research, Eleanor Briggs, added: ‘The coronavirus crisis has exploded into the lives of vulnerable families after a decade of decline in central government funding for early help services that are designed to give all children the best start in life.
‘Our findings echo widespread fears across the children’s sector that our already hollowed-out services won’t be able to cope with further demand created by the pandemic. The right thing to do for children and young people is for the government to invest in early help services now, ensuring families get help before they reach crisis point.’
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