‘Shocking’ rise in child abuse during lockdown

The Children’s Society has described the 27% increase in reported incidents of children dying or being seriously harmed following suspected child abuse or neglect as ‘shocking.’

It has been revealed that the Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel received 285 serious incident notifications from April to September 2020, following England’s first national lockdown to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

This represents an increase of more than a quarter (27%) from the same period in 2019.

It comes after England’s Chief Inspector of Schools, Amanda Spielman, warned of the “invisibility of vulnerable children” during the pandemic last year.

Previously, serious incident notifications had been falling, with 274 incidents reported in 2018-19, which then fell to 225 incidents in 2019-20 before increasing again in 2020-21 after lockdown was imposed.

The data does also include children who were in care and died, regardless of whether abuse or neglect was suspected.

Local authorities across England are required to report all incidents of death or serious harm involving children in their areas to the Department for Education as part of the serious incident notification system.

According to the data published by the Department, child deaths increased from 89 in the same period in 2019 to 119 last year and the number of children being seriously harmed rose from 132 to 153.

Perhaps most shockingly, the number of serious incidents involving children under the age of one rose by almost a third (30%).

The data shows that harm suffered by those aged 16 or over also rose by 30%.

More than half (54%) of the 285 incidents related to boys and almost two thirds related to white children. Two thirds of cases also occurred while children were living at home.

Iryna Pona, Policy Manager at the Children’s Society said that the rise in serious incidents occurred when the Covid-19 pandemic was having a “huge impact on the wellbeing of children and families and disrupted help available to those who needed it most.”

She added: “During the first lockdown many vulnerable children were stuck at home in difficult, sometimes dangerous situations, often isolated from friends and support networks.

“Sadly, children also continued to be targeted and groomed by people outside their families for sexual and criminal exploitation like county lines drug dealing operations, which can lead to serious violence or death.

“At the same time, they were often hidden from view of professionals like social workers and teachers who are best placed to spot the signs if they may be in danger.”

The first national lockdown in England began in mid-March 2020 and ended in July. A second short national lockdown took place from early November until early December and a third lockdown is currently ongoing and is expected to last until at least mid-February.

Ms Pona said that during this third lockdown it was “vital” that social care and schools work together closely to ensure all vulnerable children, including those in care, have regular contact with a trusted professional.

A government spokesperson commented: “Every single incident of this nature is a tragedy and we are working to understand the impact the pandemic may be having.

“Throughout the past months, we have prioritised the most vulnerable children and their families and put in place support to protect babies.

“We’ve maintained vital frontline services because we know it has been a challenge for many, especially for new parents, and we’ve invested thousands of pounds in charities working with vulnerable children and their families.

“Today we have launched a wholescale review of children’s social care to reform the system and think afresh about how we support the most vulnerable. This data will provide important information to the care review to help address major challenges.”

First Response Training (FRT) is a leading national training provider delivering courses in subjects such as health and safety, first aid, fire safety, manual handling, food hygiene, mental health, health and social care, safeguarding and more.

They work with a large number of early years and childcare providers, as well as schools, colleges, and children’s services. Their courses include Safeguarding Children.

A trainer from FRT says: “There are many hidden victims of the pandemic, and it is saddening that measures introduced to keep the nation safe and healthy may have contributed to children being placed at greater risk of harm.

“It’s so important that this issue is being discussed and that action is being taken to ensure that these children do not continue to fall through the cracks.

“It’s vital that anyone who works with children and young people completes Safeguarding training so that they are aware of the signs of abuse and neglect and know the correct action to take if they suspect a child is at risk.”

For more information on the training that FRT can provide, please call them today on freephone 0800 310 2300 or send an e-mail to info@firstresponsetraining.com.