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Fears over vulnerable children in danger being missed as referrals drop 50% in coronavirus lockdown

PUBLISHED: 05:30 04 June 2020

The number of vulnerable children referrals in Suffolk has gone down by up to half in the coronavirus lockdown, leading to fears some children are at harm and being missed. Stock picture: GETTY IMAGES/iSTOCKPHOTO

The number of vulnerable children referrals in Suffolk has gone down by up to half in the coronavirus lockdown, leading to fears some children are at harm and being missed. Stock picture: GETTY IMAGES/iSTOCKPHOTO

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Communities in Suffolk are being urged to be the “eyes and ears” for children in danger, as children’s services bosses report a 50% drop in referrals.

Cidie Dunkling urged people in the community to be the eyes and ears looking out for signs of a vulnerable child at risk. Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCILCidie Dunkling urged people in the community to be the eyes and ears looking out for signs of a vulnerable child at risk. Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL

Suffolk County Council’s children and young people team said it had been receiving just half the usual number of referrals for vulnerable youngsters who may be in danger since the coronavirus lockdown started.

From March to April alone, it had fallen around 40% from 1,825 to 1,167.

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Teachers, GPs and nurses are among those trained to spot the signs of abuse or neglect, but with pupils being home schooled and lockdown forcing youngsters to stay indoors, there are fears children who could be at risk of domestic violence or neglect are being missed.

Now volunteers and frontline workers are being urged to be the “eyes and ears” to look out for signs of young people in danger.

Cindie Dunkling, NHS designated nurse for safeguarding children, said: “You have a significant role to play in safeguarding out in the community.

“Your role is to be curious – be the eyes and ears and report anything that concerns you.”

Among the things people may see or hear that could be indicators of an issue were:

Walter McCulloch said it had been a national problem under the coronavirus lockdown. Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCILWalter McCulloch said it had been a national problem under the coronavirus lockdown. Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL

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• Aggressive or repeated shouting

• Things in a home being hit or broken

• Children crying for long periods of time

• Children being left alone or alone outdoors

• Strangers at the door

• Unexpected signs of injury like cuts or bruising

Walter McCulloch, assistant director for children’s social care and youth justice at the council, said: “Our real concern is that there are children and young people out there in the community at the moment who are experiencing very difficult things that would usually come to our attention, and we are only picking up about 50% of that.

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“This reflects the low level of attendance in the emergency department, so we are not alone in this, but it is a big issue.”

The council said it was still carrying out face-to-face visits from children’s social workers for those the authority is most concerned about, and those whose family lives may be breaking down under the current crisis.

To report a concern call 0808 800 4005.


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