The hidden side of coronavirus: How Britain’s invisible children are being forgotten – BBC Newsnight

published on July 27, 2020

when we heard the schools were closing that is the first time in my life that I went home and I actually was sick some families are really struggling to manage and resources are stripped to the bone but for those who deliberately hurt

Children these closures work very much to their advantage because they have people who can't get away is the lockdown putting the UK's most vulnerable children at risk of serious harm is it possible that we will see a a

Coronavirus impact upon child sexual abuse yes I think it is possible in exactly the same way that I've got to work on the premise that it's also possible that we will see more children groomed and abused online

Tonight Newsnight can reveal growing concerns about the low numbers of at-risk children taking up the school places they've been allocated to keep them safe will the coronavirus crisis herald a future crisis in child

Protection I think we have to look at it through the lens of that there is a high possibility that this might well happen it's the first time we've done a food hamper didn't everyday what here has involved basically is trying to get 281

Hampers out to families with schools shut down for most children a dynamic executive head and her staff at an inner London primary school are marshalling to deliver bags of food to their most economically disadvantaged people's

People in the NHS were working really hard and I just wanted to do my bit there's a loaf of bread some fruit bars tins and some vegetables fresh vegetables the schools identified its most deprived children teachers and

Others are no longer educators but a delivery service schools like Newington Green are being kept open not just for the children of key workers but for others who are deemed vulnerable kids who have a social worker for example in

Normal times attending school is a vital protection tool for the most at-risk children now across the country many of them aren't turning up some families they don't want their children at school because the message from the government

Is quite strong clear stay at home for us that the scary part is that when they're here with you you see quite a lot of what's going on you see their behavior during the day you you you notice how they are coming in if they're

Hungry you can feed them but remote even though you can interact with them remotely of course and you might be able to call them and speak to them or there's even video calling for some children that's not going to give you

The full picture of what's going on with them we asked the UK government's how many vulnerable children had education places during the lockdown and how many were actually attending the Department for Education in English

Said it wasn't publishing the figures and the others couldn't supply them but we understand the numbers are extremely low one school told us that while on some days 60% of vulnerable children turn up on others it drops to a whirring

20% we've had other reports of around 1/4 attending going down to less than 10% in some areas in the county where we have been given an overall figure Norfolk it is 13% among those concerned by the figures is Norfolk's Chief

Constable who's also the police's national lead on child protection it is a worryingly low statistic at this moment the risks are are really significant i fear that those children that are not going to school are being

Exposed to the potential for familial abuse within the household being exposed to domestic abuse again within the household and we've seen a significant increase in reports of domestic abuse nationally and then the risks that there

Are going online spotting what's going on inside lockdown homes is harder now than ever though social workers are doing their best in difficult circumstances we've spoken to one anonymously who works with schools in

The north of England a good turnout in the schools I work with is under 10% of children that should be attending school because we're concerned about them are in fact attending school in one school not a single child attended who was

Supposed to be there last week it's quite frightening when you think not a single child that we've got concerns about was in school or such a small percentage or in school it makes me angry that those children are invisible

There are children who are absolutely not ok we're really trying to do something about it but you do feel helpless the NSPCC is already seeing a significant spike in calls to its helpline

Since the coronavirus restrictions have tightened Newsnight has exclusively seen a snapshot of these calls from adults worried about children they include I'm concerned about a child I know the mother is incredibly abusive

Towards both the father and the little girl I spoke to the little girl and she fears being at home as a school is closing another talks about two children their mother has invited her new partner to

Come and stay to self isolate as he has symptoms one of the children has asthma and the mother regularly screams in their face for no reason I'm worried about their physical and mental health and a neighbor rang to say I have been

Hearing very frightening accounts where the mother and her partner frequently shouted the children the couple scream at each other all the time and you can hear the boy crying it can go on for ages I'm worried that the children will

Be at home all day now when schools closed many staff and some children themselves feared they'd be kept at home even though they still had places some children were getting really upset children were asking us what will I do I

Don't have a phone anymore someone sold my phone I don't have that we don't have a landline if something happens how do I get in touch with you there was just real fear that not only would they not be able to get outside the house every

Day they wouldn't be able to contact people who were part of what makes their home safe two little boys asked us if we could take them home with us because they were really worried about what was going to happen what we now classes

Children at risk of the tip of the iceberg there are lots of children on the borderland at the threshold if your family has critical struggles in the first place you're at breaking point and all your protective factors have fallen

Away which makes these doorstep deliveries even more important they're not just a vital welfare check where a child may be at risk just as crucial as the unfolding economic situation hits deprived families these bags of food

Will sustain children physically I think what it's telling us is that we're doing the right thing I think that's the first thing that our families are in need we need to respond to their needs I think the second thing

Is it's quite emotional to see families who really need our help would you hope to persuade more of your vulnerable children to be coming to school over the next weeks and months we've certainly got more children that

We would like to be at school the dilemma about that is how do I protect my staff and keep them safe when the government's say they shouldn't be out of their homes and how do I make sure that the children are safe who need to

Be at school a friendly face may make all the difference as across the country the lockdown puts a strain on families it's been introduced to save lives but the cost to the most vulnerable children may

Be very high do you think we're gonna look back and think we got that wrong only history will judge us on this will any of those decisions been taken lightly categorically not there are always going to be some significant

Risks with the decision that's been made ultimately the historians will judge whether those decisions were the right ones or not

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