COVID-19 resources on Safeguarding Children

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The impact of COVID19 on child criminal exploitation: interim research briefing

University of Nottingham

Through an analysis of primary interviews and a review of published sources this project aims to unpack the contours of risk related to the exploitation of young people in County Lines drug supply during the pandemic. The interviewees (N=13) were drawn from law enforcement, local authorities and a care-providing NGO, across a variety of geographic counties in England. Participants were asked to reflect on their personal experiences of working during the pandemic, its effect on the risk to service clients and observed impacts on activity related to the County Lines drug supply model. COVID-19 restrictions hamper the ability of frontline agencies to risk-assess child exploitation, and exacerbate the potential for County Lines related exploitation and harm to remain hidden. Ongoing concerns include: safeguarding capacity; evolving County Lines supply methods, including increased levels of cuckooing with young people remaining in traphouses for longer, greater use of local children involved in transporting drugs, perpetrators claiming to have COVID19 in order to avoid being stopped, questioned and arrested, and use of supermarket carparks to co-locate with customer shopping routines; and the implications for children and young people – heightened risk of exploitation due to greater social media and internet use; feelings of isolation, and greater substance misuse among children residing away from family members.

Last updated on hub: 13 January 2021

COVID-19: children, young people and families: December 2020 evidence summary

Scottish Government

This briefing is the fifth in a series of evidence summaries on the impact of COVID19 on the wellbeing of children and families in Scotland, drawing on wider UK and international research where appropriate. The emerging picture on the reopening of schools/childcare in Scotland appears to be a positive one for many children and families. There are some signs of recovery with indicative evidence of improvements in children’s emotional wellbeing, loneliness and peer and family relationships, particularly for younger age groups. However, emerging evidence on child mental wellbeing in Scotland shows that for some children, particularly for older children and young people, significant issues remain. A recurring theme is the need for more ‘recovery’ support e.g. in schools and childcare settings, particularly for child mental wellbeing. Whilst most Scottish evidence suggests a general level of satisfaction with the safe reopening of schools/childcare, there is a feeling from some young people that more could be done to enforce or increase safety measures in schools. Although social media is generally perceived by young people to be a positive means of keeping in touch with friends, there continues to be emerging evidence around increased levels of online bullying during the national lockdown. There continues to be evidence of the strain placed on parents by the pandemic and the impact that this can have on parenting and child wellbeing but there is also evidence of positive impacts of the pandemic on family relationships. In addition, the paper outlines a number of findings from Scotland and the UK about how different sub-groups of young people are experiencing the return to school/college/work, as well as new evidence on their experiences during the pandemic more generally.

Last updated on hub: 12 January 2021

The impact of the coronavirus pandemic on child welfare: schools

National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children

This briefing uses insight from NSPCC Childline counselling sessions and message boards to highlight children and young people’s experiences of being away from and returning to school during the coronavirus pandemic. Key themes include: learning during lockdown; attending school during lockdown; transitioning back to school; COVID secure measures in school; being sent home to self-isolate; bullying; and support and safety. During the first lockdown children and young people contacted Childline to talk about how they missed being in school, missed seeing their friends and teachers, struggled with being out of their normal routine and were worried about getting behind with their school work. As children returned to school, some young people talked about their challenges with the transition and the new COVID control measures. Some young people said that they see school as a safe and supportive place but were finding it difficult because they didn’t have the same support as they’d had before lockdown.

Last updated on hub: 11 January 2021

Safeguarding pressures phase 7: interim report

The Association of Directors of Children's Services

The seventh phase of a research study which uses survey and interview data from local authorities to examine the safeguarding related pressures facing children's services across England, including changes in demand and provision of children's social care. This interim report, ahead of the study full publication in February 2021, provides key headlines including a focus on the impact of Covid-19. There was a greater variation between authorities in terms of the volume of safeguarding activities in 2019/20, resulting in an overall reduction in referrals and children in need, and increases in contacts, assessments and Section 47 Enquiries in England. The study estimates, based on local authority responses, that there has also been an increase in the number of looked after children, UASC and care leavers. Local authorities reported how their approaches to safeguarding during Covid-19 were effective. Creative uses of technology to engage and support children, families and professionals during the pandemic have been harnessed. However, digital poverty, together with ‘not knowing what is happening behind the camera’ can carry additional problems for some families and groups of children including very young children, and some children with a disability.

Last updated on hub: 05 January 2021

Safeguarding children in a pandemic: pandemonium with possibility?

Child Abuse Review

This paper explores some of the clinical situations in which safeguarding challenges have presented themselves during the pandemic. It then explores some of the opportunities that the reconfiguration of services has presented for those working in child health.

Last updated on hub: 04 January 2021

COVID on three continents: how local children’s organisations in Africa, Europe and South America are adapting to the coronavirus challenge

Journal of Children's Services

Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to share anecdotally how the pandemic is affecting children, families and some of the frontline local services that support them across three continents. Design/methodology/approach: Three members of Family for Every Child across three continents detail some of the day-to-day challenges they are facing in their work with children and families as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Findings: Social distancing and fear of the virus are hampering front line organisations in Africa, Europe and South America, bringing additional challenges to keeping children safe. Originality/value: These three case studies give a snapshot of the issues faced by three non-governmental children’s organisations over three continents during July 2020.

Last updated on hub: 30 December 2020

Safeguarding children under Covid-19: what are we learning?

Journal of Children's Services

Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to identify and share learning about safeguarding children under Covid-19 drawn from a series of webinars held by the Association of Safeguarding Partners (www.theASP.org.uk). The learning is relevant for health, police, local authority and other relevant safeguarding agencies and includes sharing information about both the challenges and opportunities presented during the Covid-19 pandemic. By creating a webinar lead community of learning, lessons can be drawn that will help safeguard children during the remaining of the pandemic and during the release of lockdown as it emerges. Design/methodology/approach: This paper summarises themes from discussions within three webinars run by The Association of Safeguarding Partners (TASP) (www.theASP.org.uk). Each webinar was attended by between 60 and 80 participants, sessions involving presentations and discussions on topics such as “managing safeguarding reviews at a distance”, “the impact on early years’ provision” and “how work with families and children has changed with remote working methods”. With the participants’ consent, webinars were recorded, and these can be viewed on www.theasp.co.uk. Webinars were supported by an on-line programme: “meeting sphere” capturing comments in a “chat” facility and providing capacity for participants to collectively code comments into themes. Findings: Findings from the webinars note concerns about continuing and undetected abuse of children within and outside of the home; about the changing nature of criminal exploitation; and about the strains created by social distancing on children in families experiencing problems with poor mental health, drug and alcohol misuse and domestic abuse. Findings include some important lessons, including the discovery of innovative ways of working, the rapid collation of data across partnerships and about different methods of engaging with children, young people and families. Findings include suggestions about the impact of changes on the future safeguarding of children. Originality/value: There is little published discussion of the implications of Covid-19 on practitioners working on safeguarding children. While some research is emerging, there have been few opportunities for practitioners to listen to emerging practice ideas under Covid-19 or to discuss in an informal context how to address the new and emerging problems in safeguarding children. This think piece contains original material from webinars held with safeguarding children practitioners and is valuable for those working to safeguard children during and post Covid-19.

Last updated on hub: 30 December 2020

Multi-agency safeguarding arrangements: overcoming the challenges of Covid-19 measures

Journal of Children's Services

Purpose: Information sharing and joint working between agencies undertaking direct work with children have long been recognised as fundamental to robust and effective safeguarding and child protection arrangements. The public health response to Covid-19 disrupted those arrangements abruptly. This study aims to identify some of the innovative practices that have been implemented and how responses might inform planning for multi-agency working in the future. Design/methodology/approach: This study presents reflections on preliminary fieldwork from a study of how agencies in London are responding to the challenges for multi-agency safeguarding arrangements created by the Covid-19 measures. It draws on the experience of expert practitioners in the research team as well as interviews with 17 senior professionals from local authorities, safeguarding partnerships and health. Findings: The study participants endorsed known concerns around increased risks to children and raised new concerns about particular groups of children that under normal circumstances would not have been at risk. They identified some unexpected benefits derived from new arrangements, especially in relation to engagement with remote working. Originality/value: Early insights are offered into promising initiatives to preserve strong multi-agency arrangements in crises and strengthen the resilience of the child protection system.

Last updated on hub: 30 December 2020

Keeping children and young people safe during a pandemic: testing the robustness of multi-agency child protection and safeguarding arrangements for schools

National Institute for Health Research

This study explored whether the multi-agency arrangements, of which schools are a part, have been sufficiently robust not to place children at increased risk during the first months of the coronavirus pandemic in the UK. The study provided the opportunity to explore the role of the school in multi-agency work during this time, not only from the perspective of schools and children's social care, but from that of other agencies including child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS), school nurses and the police. Five local authorities took part in the research; in addition to strategic and operational leads for education and children’s social care, interviews were conducted with representatives of the police, strategic managers in health services, schools and colleges, virtual school heads, the school nursing service and child and adult mental health services; and a survey was also undertaken to gain schools’ views on how, if at all, multi-agency working had changed under COVID-19 restrictions. The study identified initiatives which had been introduced before COVID-19 but were accelerated by the prevailing conditions, as well as those that were developed because of these conditions. There were numerous references both to how quickly agencies’ ways of working had adapted and how a reactive response had been followed by a more proactive approach. This had been possible because of conversations that led to improved processes as well as systems that had been rapidly introduced. The report argues that it is now critical to consider how agencies will build on the strengths that have emerged, not least how professionals increase their availability and accessibility to others, and to reflect on those aspects of multi-agency work that did not get done or were carried out less thoroughly than they would have been before the pandemic.

Last updated on hub: 15 December 2020

Children’s rights in Great Britain: submission to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child

Equality and Human Rights Commission

This submission aims to provide the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (UN CRC) with information on the implementation of the rights set out in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in Great Britain since it was last reviewed by the UN CRC in 2016. The thematic areas covered include: equality and human rights framework, looking at the implications of Covid-19 and Brexit; living standards and poverty; education; children in institutions; youth justice; refugee and migrant children; health, including mental health; and violence and personal safety, covering violence against children and trafficking and exploitation. The report raises concerns about how the pandemic is exacerbating existing inequalities, and having a devastating impact on children’s rights, well-being and futures. Key concerns include more children being pushed into poverty, widening educational inequalities and worsening mental health. School closures and inequalities in home-learning environments also risk exacerbating growing attainment gaps for certain groups, including disabled pupils, some ethnic minorities, and those who are socio-economically disadvantaged. The shift to online learning risks undermining the right to education and may have a long-term effect on attainment. The report also cites challenges affecting special educational needs and disability (SEND) provision in schools, with staff shortages, social distancing rules and the need to concentrate resources on the health emergency resulting in local authorities reducing SEND provision and, in some cases, ceasing it all together. Although the effect of the pandemic on children’s mental health is not yet fully understood, the report warns that the combined impact of limited capacity within the mental health service and children being cut off from support at school, could be severe and long-lasting.

Last updated on hub: 01 December 2020

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