A new campaign in Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster is asking everyone to pay attention to the children and families around them during the Coronavirus lockdown to help to protect vulnerable children.
In the central London boroughs, referrals have dropped from 414 in January to 327 in March, a reduction of 21 per cent. Schools are open for vulnerable children during the lockdown but anecdotal evidence from headteachers suggests that not all vulnerable families are sending their children. This is a picture mirrored throughout the UK.
Children and young people are normally seen by various adults every day: teachers, coaches, instructors, relatives and friends. Due to the Coronavirus lockdown, children will be seeing fewer adults who they may normally trust to open up to about abuse or feeling unsafe at home. This also means there will be fewer opportunities for people to spot signs of abuse and report it.
Residents are assured that the details of anyone flagging a concern are strictly confidential and that the primary goal of Children’s Services is to strengthen and heal families.
Cllr David Lindsay, Kensington and Chelsea’s Lead Member for Families, Children and Schools, said:
“The past five or so weeks have seen extraordinary community spirit across the nation, and we must extend this to recognising and reporting any real concerns and suspicions we have around child abuse. Sadly, being in isolation will be a very difficult time for some. If something you see or hear doesn’t sit right with you, please, don’t wait for someone else to flag it. We must all do our bit.”
The campaign will be promoted through social media posts and in supermarkets, pharmacies, parks and on digital screens and bus stops around Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster. The striking graphics illustrate that children who may have confided in teachers, coaches and other adults now need neighbours and other members of the community to whistle-blow should there be cause for concern.
Cllr Timothy Barnes, Westminster City Council Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, said:
“Protecting vulnerable children is one of our top concerns and priorities as a council. As has been reported in the national media, there has been a sharp fall in the number of new reports of abuse and care issues involving children during the lockdown across the country.
“With schools and activity clubs closed, it’s more than crucial than ever that the public remain vigilant and help protect children and young people in Westminster.
“It’s vital we all play our part during coronavirus, even if you don’t think it is normally your place or role to report your suspicions. If you think a child is being harmed or abused, please get in touch and call our helpline.”
Child abuse can take many forms. Some forms of abuse to be aware of include:
Emotional: a child being made to feel scared, guilty, put down or humiliated, or not being comforted and reassured when needed.
Neglect: a child not being provided with the physical and emotional care they need. This is not always intentional.
Domestic abuse: controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading and/or violent behaviour.
Physical: a child being deliberately hurt or physically injured.
Sexual: a child being forced to engage in sex or sexual touching, to watch sexual activity in person or otherwise.
If you’re concerned a child is being harmed or abused, contact Children’s Services on 020 7361 3013 (RBKC) or 020 7641 4000 (Westminster) 9am to 5pm on weekdays.
Outside of these times, contact the Emergency Duty Team on 020 7373 3227 (RBKC) or 020 7641 6000 (Westminster).
If you'd like to support the campaign, please share our posts on the Council's social media to spread this message.