THE pandemic has seen a sharp rise in child welfare referrals – nearly 50% – being made from the NSPCC helpline across Coventry and the West Midlands.
More than 6,749 referrals were made by the helpline to the police and children’s services across the region in 2020/21 – a 47% increase compared to the previous year.
Worries about parental alcohol and substance misuse, domestic abuse and parental mental health were the top reasons leading to 2,513 referrals to West Midlands based agencies.
The child protection charity is now warning now most children are back in schools, the hidden harms they experienced during the lockdowns will become visible and is calling for the UK governments to ensure their catch-up plans go beyond education.
It has also revealed plans for a Childhood Day on June 11 bringing the nation together to celebrate play, raise money and keep children safe.
Sir Peter Wanless, NSPCC CEO, said: ‘’We’ve been hearing first-hand about the immense pressures families have faced during the pandemic and the heavy toll that has taken on children and young people. For some children, this has included experiencing abuse, bereavement and other harm.
“The record number of contacts to our helpline reinforces the need for Governments across the UK to put children at the heart of their recovery plans. These must go beyond education and address the harm some have experienced so the pandemic doesn’t leave a legacy of trauma for children.
“But this isn’t just a job for our governments. Everyone has to play their part in keeping children safe. And that’s why we’re planning Childhood Day on June 11 when we’ll celebrate childhood and encourage people to get involved in making sure all children grow up happy and safe.”
Nationally, a record number of adults with concerns about children called the NSPCC in the last 12 months with nearly 85,000 contacts from April 2020 to March 2021, a 23% increase on the previous year.
The figures echo concerns from the charity’s frontline teams that the pandemic has increased the risks of abuse and neglect, with children both more vulnerable and out of sight of people who can keep them safe.
SISTERS, Chloe* and Debra*, found a young boy crying on the kerb outside their home and called the NSPCC Helpline for advice.
They stayed on the phone for three hours to ensure he was taken to safety.
Debra* said: “He told her (Chloe*) that he was scared of his mum – that she hits him and he’d been suicidal over it. He kept bursting into tears and explained he’d run away because he’d broken his TV and was worried about what his mum would do.
“I was really aware that Covid lockdown was affecting young people’s mental health and being stuck at home in abusive circumstances were making things worse.
“I called the number and felt confident doing it. Seeing how upset he was, I knew I was doing the right thing. The practitioner was very calm and pleasant and asked lots of questions about the situation. We wanted to get the right help and support and the NSPCC wanted to make sure he was safe.”
The NSPCC helpline is staffed by trained professionals who can provide expert advice and support for adults with concerns about a child, or for parents, carers and professionals looking for information or guidance.
To get in contact, call 0808 800 5000, email [email protected] or fill in their online form.