Children’s services on the Isle of Wight have issued important guidance on what to do if you are worried a child or young person could be at risk of abuse during the coronavirus crisis.
It comes as charities nationally warn of an increased risk of harm, neglect and online abuse faced by vulnerable children amid the UK-wide lockdown due to the pandemic.
Teachers are often the first to recognise the signs a child could be at risk of harm — but with children staying at home, there are concerns those signs could be harder to spot.
If you suspect child abuse:
• Do listen to the child.
• Do take what the child says seriously.
• Do act quickly.
• Do continue to offer support to the child.
• Don’t delay.
• Don’t probe or push the child for explanations.
• Don’t assume that someone else knows and will help the child. You must act.
• Don’t be afraid to voice your concerns, the child may need urgent protection and help.
If you are worried about a child or young person who could be in danger, or is suffering from harm or neglect, contact the Isle of Wight Council’s child protection service on 0300 300 0117. The line is open 24 hours a day.
In an emergency always contact the police by dialling 999.
Councillor Paul Brading, Cabinet member for children’s services, education and skills, said:
“To many people, sending children home may seem like the safest option, but the sad reality is that not all children are safe at home.
“Teachers act as the eyes and ears of the community, and are often the first to spot signs of abuse and neglect, and can be fundamental in ensuring children receive the right support and protection.
“Daily contact with these trusted adults, also including youth and mental health workers, means children can raise issues that are worrying them, including abuse.
“In these difficult times, we all have a responsibility to look out for one another and this is particularly relevant for the well-being and protection of our children.
“If you have any concerns about the safety of a child or young person, please do contact our child protection service on 0300 300 0117, or if it’s an emergency, dial 999.”
Charities are also warning that young people staying at home are more likely to be spending more time online, meaning they could be more exposed to cyber bullying, sexual grooming, self-harm forums and other harmful content.
To tackle these risks, parents should be having regular conversations with their children about what they are doing on the web and reassure them that they can talk about any worries they may have.