COVID-19 resources on Safeguarding Children

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A new and better normal: children and young people’s experiences of the Covid 19 pandemic: summary report

Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People

This summary report reports the findings of a comprehensive assessment of the impact of the government response to the COVID-19 pandemic on the lives of children and young people across Northern Ireland. Data were collected through surveys and focus groups with a total of 4,385 young people's views considered during the research. 74 young people participated in 11 focus groups and provided four written submissions. There was a focus on including vulnerable groups including children in care, children with disabilities, and children at risk of domestic violence and/or abuse. The summary report focuses on an analysis of the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People (NICCY) assessment of Governments’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic to date against the 11 recommendations from the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. The report also summarises the recommendations detailed in the full report and concludes that the inequalities present in our society, the vulnerabilities associated with disabilities, physical or mental ill health, and fault lines that existed in socio-economic differences and family circumstances amongst others, have been greatly exacerbated during the pandemic. This has led to further widening of gaps in exposing the uneven impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic responses on children and young people.

Last updated on hub: 07 September 2021

A new and better normal: children and young people’s experiences of the Covid 19 pandemic: main report

Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People

This report provides a comprehensive assessment of the impact of the government response to the COVID-19 pandemic on the lives of children and young people across Northern Ireland. Data were collected through surveys and focus groups with a total of 4,385 young people's views considered during the research. 74 young people participated in 11 focus groups and provided four written submissions. There was a focus on including vulnerable groups including children in care, children with disabilities, and children at risk of domestic violence and/or abuse. Key themes covered in the analysis include: poverty, physical and mental health; education; play, leisure, and social engagement; family life and alternative care; safeguarding; access to information and participation and youth justice. The report also includes an analysis of the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People (NICCY) assessment of Governments’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic to date against the 11 recommendations from the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. The report makes several recommendations under each of the key themes and concludes that the inequalities present in our society, the vulnerabilities associated with disabilities, physical or mental ill health, and fault lines that existed in socio-economic differences and family circumstances amongst others, have been greatly exacerbated during the pandemic. This has led to further widening of gaps in exposing the uneven impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic responses on children and young people.

Last updated on hub: 07 September 2021

The impact of COVID-19 on child criminal exploitation

Research briefing focusing on the early impact of COVID-19 on child criminal exploitation. Informed by interviews with professionals, including law enforcement and local authorities. Initial findings indicate that restrictions introduced in response to COVID-19 have forced adaptations in the methods used by County Lines drug supply networks and have impacted upon the ways in which frontline professionals work to detect and effectively safeguard children and young people. Recommendations include: practitioners should endeavour to maintain face-to-face contact with young people where appropriate, enabling a safe environment for disclosures and for assessing risk; public and third sector organisations should continue to use media to raise awareness amongst the public; multi-agency stakeholders should continue to build on remote working and online meetings to develop the cohesion of local responses.

Last updated on hub: 03 September 2021

Protecting children at a distance: summary of findings from Stage 1: a multi-agency investigation of child safeguarding and protection responses consequent upon COVID-19 lockdown/social distancing measures

King's College London

This report sets out the findings from the first stage of a study designed in response to widespread concerns about the operation of child safeguarding and protection arrangements consequent upon the Covid-19 lockdown and social distancing measures. In light of the challenges to intra- and interagency communication and the impact on joint working of actions taken by individual agencies, the study focuses on safeguarding and protection practice, practitioner working and the multiagency response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Stage I comprised 67 semi-structured hour-long interviews undertaken between June and September 2020 with safeguarding leaders in London from Safeguarding Partnerships, and children’s social care, health, police, law, education and mental health services. The report finds that that the speed at which lockdown was imposed exposed some inadequacies in contingency plans and poor resilience, despite the fact that no agencies reported significant reductions in overall staff capacity. Participants expressed widespread concern that children were largely side-lined in the response to the pandemic. They pointed to the urgent need for the government to recognise the multi-faceted long-term harm to children that is the likely legacy of the pandemic, from reduced educational attainment and employment opportunities to increased mental ill-health and delayed disclosure of maltreatment. The pandemic has both exposed and exacerbated inequalities, particularly digital poverty and gendered inequalities. An overarching government policy response is required that addresses preventative services and early help, including midwifery and health visiting, and that confronts the long-term implications for mental health services. Clear-sighted assessment of the right balance between infection control and safeguarding must inform policy and guidance at all levels and in all areas, including NHS England and legal processes, as well as clear and consistent public messaging.

Last updated on hub: 10 August 2021

Protecting children at a distance: summary of findings from Stage 2: A multi-agency investigation of child safeguarding and protection responses consequent upon COVID-19 lockdown/social distancing measures

King's College London

This study sets out the findings from the second stage of a study designed in response to widespread concerns about the operation of child safeguarding and protection arrangements consequent upon the Covid-19 lockdown and social distancing measures. In light of the challenges to intra- and interagency communication and the impact on joint working of actions taken by individual agencies, the study focuses on the multiagency response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the implications for professional practice and service provision. Stage 2 comprised a national survey of safeguarding leaders and children’s social care, health, police, law, education and mental health services, to explore the evolving concerns and response to the COVID-19 pandemic following the full reopening of schools in September 2020 – 417 responses from data collected from 1st February – 8th March 2021 were 2 analysed. It appears that the pandemic has helped to embed Safeguarding Partnerships arrangements through increased activity and communication in response to the crisis. Broader joint/collaborative working between individual agencies seems to have held up well overall, with many respondents reporting that levels of collaboration had been maintained. One of the biggest impacts on professional practice has been the social distancing measures put in place to control the pandemic, which have significantly reduced the in-person contact between universal/early help/specialist safeguarding practitioners and children/families. The study highlights the different approaches to, and appetite for, face-to-face work, both between and within disciplines in the early stages of the pandemic but it is clear that there are many potential benefits to be gained from remote communication in the operation of statutory meetings, conferences and court hearings, particularly in terms of the efficient use of professionals’ time and in facilitating ‘attendance’ at meetings which might otherwise require significant time taken up in travelling. Coordinated cross-government attention and investment is needed to address the complexity of inter- and multi-agency information sharing, assessment and service delivery to safeguard children and young people.

Last updated on hub: 10 August 2021

Protecting children at a distance: a multi-agency investigation of child safeguarding and protection responses consequent upon COVID-19 lockdown/social distancing measures

King's College London

This report presents key findings from a study designed in response to widespread concerns about the operation of child safeguarding and protection arrangements consequent upon the COVID-19 lockdown and social distancing measures. In light of the challenges to intra- and interagency communication and the impact on joint working of actions taken by individual agencies, the study focused on safeguarding and protection practice, practitioner working and the multiagency response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The report focuses on the findings from a survey, comprising 417 responses from senior safeguarding leaders. These data are enriched by the more than 1,000 comments made in response to open questions. Given the extensive disruption to fundamental pathways for the disclosure and identification of safeguarding and child protection concerns effected by the social distancing and lockdown measures, it is unsurprising that our survey respondents considered that the voice of the child has been less readily heard during the pandemic notwithstanding a plethora of initiatives. While there is much ambivalence among professionals in relation to remote communication, there is a clear desire for meetings and statutory processes to be conducted where possible and appropriate in a way which allows both in-person and remote attendance (‘hybrid’ arrangements). There is also clear scope for greater use of online or hybrid delivery of safeguarding training. Coordinated cross-government attention and investment is needed to address the complexity of inter- and multi-agency information sharing, assessment and service delivery to safeguard children and young people. As focus is directed to the importance of tackling the education deficits affecting the children of lockdown, we must not lose sight of the need to reconsider the central role of schools in safeguarding and child protection; the implications of the pandemic for the mental health of children and families; and the wellbeing of professionals. The report makes 28 recommendations.

Last updated on hub: 10 August 2021

The youth justice system’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic: literature review

Alliance for Youth Justice

This literature review has been produced to map and draw together the available literature to capture and analyse the significant impacts of COVID-19 on the youth justice system. The review aims to document this exceptional period for youth justice, exploring the policy and practice responses, and the available evidence about the impacts on children. The review finds that the devastating impact of the pandemic on children and families, and the heightened levels of safeguarding concerns, are major concerns for children involved with the youth justice system as well as those in the general population facing new and increased challenges. The literature identifies a consistent theme about the lack of information, understanding and focus on children during the pandemic. Throughout the various stages of the youth justice system, digital models of communication and service provision have been adapted – a clear ‘digital divide’ has emerged between those who have access to digital technologies and those who do not. From decisions to arrest, divert or prosecute children in the community, to remand and sentencing, there was a clear need identified to work to reduce the number of children passing through a system that is struggling to cope. The full impacts of delays on the courts and broader criminal justice system in the longer-term are yet to be fully understood but should be seen in the context of a system already under severe strain. Custody numbers fell overall, but the proportion of children on remand has increased. The majority of children in penal establishments have been subjected to awful conditions for months on end, deprived of education, visits and contact, and amounting to solitary confinement. The harms experienced by children in custody, and the impacts on their longer-term health and wellbeing must be fully assessed and supported effectively.

Last updated on hub: 27 July 2021

A summary of the Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel: annual report 2020

National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children

A summary of key messages from the Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel’s annual report looking at rapid reviews, local child safeguarding practice reviews and serious case reviews in England during 2020. This is the Panel’s second annual report highlighting the key messages from a range of sources including: serious incident notifications; rapid reviews for each notification; local child safeguarding practice reviews; and serious case reviews. The Panel received 482 serious incident notifications between 1 January and 31 December 2020, relating to 514 children. 206 fatal incidents were reported to the Panel, of which 17% were caused by maltreatment within the family; 10% were related to, but not directly caused by maltreatment; and 8% were extra-familial assaults or homicide. The report also looks at the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on child safeguarding in 2020. Serious incident notifications to the Panel in the period April to September 2020 were 27% higher than the same period in 2019.

Last updated on hub: 28 June 2021

Covid-19, vulnerability and the safeguarding of criminally exploited children

University of Nottingham

This is the third briefing from research investigating the impacts of Covid-19 on child criminal exploitation and county lines. The focus of this briefing is on identifying trends that professionals have witnessed more recently, and as a result of longer-term lockdown measures. Thirteen interviews were undertaken with practitioners working in care and safeguarding roles in both statutory and non-statutory organisations, and a security manager of a leading car rental company. These were supplemented by 29 interviews with practitioners from law enforcement, local authorities and NGO’s which were conducted during the first two quarters of the project. Participants were asked to reflect on their personal experiences of working during the pandemic, its effect on their ability to safeguard young people criminally exploited through county lines, and wider impacts they observed related to the county lines model. As the UK transitions out of lockdown and Covid-19 restrictions are lifted, this study highlights ongoing concerns, which include: reduced identification of exploitation – diminished face-to-face contact between youth workers and children continues to challenge professionals’ ability to identify signs of exploitation and there is concern that many children remain in dangerous and exploitative situations both within and away from their homes; online exploitation and grooming – as young people continue to spend more time online and on social media platforms, there is an increased risk of online grooming for both criminal and sexual exploitation; vulnerability – the overall level of county lines activity was mostly unchanged during the pandemic, and the widespread exploitation of children persisted. Mental health has deteriorated among already vulnerable children and there are indications that substance misuse and self-harm are on the rise.

Last updated on hub: 21 June 2021

Voices during the Covid-19 pandemic: the impact on children, young people and child helplines around the world

Child Helpline International

This report aims to understand the impact the pandemic has had, not only on the children and young people who contact child helplines, but also on the child helplines’ operations. We undertook four quarterly surveys of the members of Child Helpline International covering the whole year (January to December 2020). This report presents our findings, the conclusions that can be drawn from these findings, and key recommendations to ensure that child helplines can continue their vital work. These special surveys revealed that, globally, our child helpline members received 25% more contacts in 2020 as compared to 2019. Violence and mental health were important reasons for contact globally in 2020, as they already were in 2019. However, in 2020 requests for information about Covid-19, and contacts relating to family relationships, access to essential services and the caller’s own physical health emerged as the other main reasons for making contact. The child helplines who participated in this research also reported that their operations had been noticeably impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. This impact related both to an increased demand from children and young people and to the various national restriction measures put in place in response to the pandemic. Most importantly, the vast majority of child helplines proved to be extremely resilient and they were able to continue their operations. 94% of the respondents indicated that they remained operational.

Last updated on hub: 09 June 2021

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