Fear for vulnerable children if schools stay closed after Christmas

Parenting columnist Ruth Davies with her husband and three children

Parenting columnist Ruth Davies with her husband and three children. She says she is in two minds when it comes to children returning to school - Credit: Ruth Davies

So that’s it. Christmas is over along with the dreaded year of 2020 but we’ve gone into this new year with little certainty of when change will come for the better. 

We know a vaccine is there and we can hope that it rolls out fast but right now we’re stuck in the Covid limbo of what might feel like nothing to look forward to. As parents we are all, naturally, as worried as ever and while my heart is very much telling me to keep my children home, willing the government to make the decision to close schools and afford us a bit of known safety, my head also tells me that not all children are as fortunate as my own. 

Not all children would mentally survive another full lockdown so what to hope for the best leaves me stuck between a rock and a hard place when I think about it.

For most of our children they are loved, looked after, warm, fed and we help them achieve everything educationally that they could possibly need. But what about the children who aren’t in quite such a fortunate home life situation? What will become of them if once again we are forced into home schooling and no one really checking up on their wellbeing? Vulnerable children have been, rightly so, still allowed to attend school when in full lockdown but the thing is, do they? 

Parents who don’t care for their children in the ways that they should very often don’t bother to actually take them in the first place and a school closing is a prime opportunity to not be seen in the neglect of that. The chances of those parental failings slipping through the net and going unnoticed are far greater during this pandemic as there are so many to oversee and of course they are under no obligations to send them just because they can.

My worry is that this winter there will be many children who will find themselves alone and without the care they all deserve. All the while this will be facilitated by circumstances around the pandemic. These children will become a statistic and we can’t forget that this means their childhood is broken even more than it already was simply by not being in an educational environment every day. 

For these children school is a place where they may have their only hot meal of the day. It might be the only chance they are attended to for help with personal care, the only time they are shown warmth both in human contact and temperature and the only calm in an otherwise stormy life. School for them is a haven of safety in a day which is otherwise terrorising. Without it what are they left with?

So for me, for my own personal and selfish reasons I want my Florence, Jimmy and Raffie at home. I would love the schools to close so that they can enjoy the freedom of knowing they won’t encounter a virus or bring it home to their family. I want also to know that we can still see my mum who is technically allowed in our bubble but while the family are mixing won’t be joining us as why take the risk? 

I want to be able to take them out daily on walks and bike rides and come home to hot chocolate, warm baths, movies and even a tiny bit of home school (it we have to, and we would). But those children who will wake up hungry having not been fed the night before to a new day of no breakfast, no clean clothes, no warm baths, walks, cuddles, movies, education or care… Well, perhaps that’s too high a price to pay and the collateral damage of Covid too damaging in this instance to close the schools.

There are many side notes of devastation to this pandemic. There are cancer patients remaining undiagnosed or un treated, the mental health of almost everyone has been affected, pregnant women and new mothers are left out in the cold, loneliness, isolation, poverty and more. But the one I can’t seem to shake thinking about and yet don’t want to think about the most is the children who fall by the wayside and get forgotten about simply because there is a loophole.

So do we do protect the vulnerable children and potentially exacerbate the virus or do we know that we have protected ourselves, looked after our own little patch and hoped for closure? 
I really don’t know. 
Like with a lot of things right now, I just don’t have a clue. 

Ruth Davies has a parenting blog at www.rocknrollerbaby.co.uk

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