Child protection

Concerns over welfare of vulnerable children in lockdown

Gemma Taylor

BBC Radio Cornwall

Concerns are being raised about the safety and welfare of vulnerable children in Cornwall, during the lockdown period.

Cornwall Council said the number of children being referred to social services had fallen below normal levels. The authority is asking people to speak up if they are worried about a young person who might be in harms way.

Referrals are normally made by schools, GP surgeries and extended family. However, as many children are not currently in school and more doctors are giving telephone consultations, abuse could be going unnoticed, the council said.

It said essential home visits were still being completed where there are serious concerns. It has called on families, carers and friends to support young people if they see something.

Anyone with concerns has been asked to contact the Multi Agency Referral Unit.

Child behind glass
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Significant fall in child protection enquiries

Local Democracy Reporting Service

Child protection enquiries at Hackney Council are at less than half the rate of same period last year even as domestic abuse referrals rise – an issue causing “particular concern” at the town hall.

There have been 13 Section 47 enquiries begun in the week ending 24 April, a 55% decrease on the 29 last year.

The children and families service itself has seen a 46% decrease in referrals overall, dropping from 92 at the same point last year to 50 in the year of the coronavirus crisis.

Sarah Wright, head of safeguarding at the Town Hall, attributed the drop largely to a fall in referrals initiated by local schools during lockdown.

Children’s services carry out investigations following Section 47 enquiries, on the basis that there has been a reasonable cause to suspect that a child who lives or is found in the area ‘is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm’.

Deputy Mayor Anntoinette Bramble, who leads on education for the borough, said: “We’re concerned but not surprised by the drop in referrals, and councils across the country are reporting a similar picture.

“A significant proportion of the referrals we usually receive come from schools, and with the majority of children spending most of their time at home, they are less visible to professionals.

“However, looking after vulnerable young people is one of the most important things we do, and despite the challenges brought about by the pandemic, our staff are continuing to work with children and families.

“We have redeployed staff within the service so that we can do everything in our power to reach the young people who need us, for example by supporting schools to maintain contact with children they may be concerned about, and working alongside colleagues on our coronavirus helpline in case safeguarding issues arise from any calls.

“We expect to see an increase in referrals once children start to return to school and we are planning to ensure we can respond to this.