A charter to support vulnerable children's needs post lockdown

Mark Willis
Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Lockdown has impacted on everyone in the UK, regardless of age, gender, class, financial status: we have all found ourselves in situations we have never experienced before.

While many adults have struggled, the associated anxieties of lockdown have been compounded among young people. Schools closed save for children of key workers and vulnerable children, clubs and groups cancelled indefinitely, children were prevented from seeing friends and even family members and experienced a lack of routine and locked down at home with their immediate family.

Those fortunate to have loving stable families have benefitted from being helped to navigate their way through lockdown. Those less fortunate and growing up in already dysfunctional families have had an entirely different experience.

These children have been out of sight and out of mind for the last six months.

Many will not have had access to the internet to at least engage with friends online. Social distancing means they may not have seen a kind family member throughout lockdown. They have had no sanctuary, no outlet, no access to friends or a concerned teacher noticing a dirty school uniform or bruises.

This is why WillisPalmer is launching our Children’s Charter in a bid to get vulnerable children identified and to receive much needed support. We acknowledge readily that teachers will have their hands full getting children’s attainment levels up and managing social distancing. We want the government to support schools and for teachers to be vigilant for signs of abuse, neglect or mental health problems and to refer any safeguarding issues to children’s services as soon as possible. We want schools to have access to therapists and social workers to help them navigate the system and ensure children are signposted in the right way for the most appropriate service.

We anticipate that children’s services will be flooded with referrals and are calling on the government to ensure that local authorities are funded and resourced to support these children. Where cases are complex, social workers should have access to funding to buy in specialist help.

Children’s professionals must work together to identify children who have experienced hardship, neglect or abuse in lockdown and to ensure they are swiftly referred for support and intervention. Parents and carers who are struggling through emotional/socio or economic hardship should have access to intensive support.

Above all, we want the generation of vulnerable children to be identified and heard and for them to access services as soon as possible to help them recover from the traumas of lockdown and to thrive. No vulnerable child should feel the legacy of lockdown, nor should their lives be blighted by their experiences of it.

Mark Willis is chief executive of WillisPalmer

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