A new campaign in Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea is asking for everyone’s help to protect vulnerable children in their area during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the two central London boroughs, referrals to children’s services have dropped by 21 per cent in the first three months of the year. Nationally, referrals have fallen by as much as half since the lockdown began, according to the new president of the Association of the Directors of Children’s Services. While schools across England have provision for vulnerable children, government data shows that many vulnerable families are not sending their children to school.
Children and young people are normally seen by various adults every day: teachers, coaches, instructors, relatives and friends. Due to coronavirus measures, 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 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. 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 concerns. If you think a child is being harmed or abused, please get in touch and call our helpline.”
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 speak out should there be cause for concern.
Cllr David Lindsay, Kensington and Chelsea’s Lead Member for Families, Children and Schools, said:
“The past few weeks have seen extraordinary community spirit sweep the nation, and we must extend this to recognising and reporting 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.”
If you’re concerned a child is being harmed or abused, contact Children’s Services on 020 7641 4000 (Westminster) or 020 7361 3013 (RBKC) 9am to 5pm on weekdays.
Outside of these times, contact 020 7641 6000 (Westminster) or 020 7373 3227 (RBKC).