The EDP says... Our vulnerable children must be a priority as we recover

Parents not sending children back to school in September could be fined. Picture: PA Images

Parents not sending children back to school in September could be fined. Picture: PA Images - Credit: PA Images

A widely-used phrase throughout the past three months of lockdown has been: “We are all in the same storm, but not in the same boat.”

While we are all potentially at risk of contracting or spreading Covid-19, we are not all at equal risk - from the disease itself or its economic and personal impact.

And nowhere has this been more brutally felt than for the youngest citizens of our county.

For the most fortunate children and young people, school is simply a place to learn, play and grow.

But for others, it is a safe refuge from the confusion or violence of home; a place of much-needed care and support; and somewhere they can be certain of being fed.

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And it is for these children and young people that the past 14 weeks will have felt the longest - and for whom the effects of these months risk lasting a lifetime.

READ MORE: Referrals drop by half, parents ‘humiliated’ and going without sleep - the impact of coronavirus on Norfolk’s most vulnerable families

These are the children most likely to be at risk of sexual or criminal exploitation.

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They are less likely have access to a garden.

Their parents are less likely to have a laptop or computer for them to complete schoolwork on.

They are more likely to be in need of free school meals - and to have been left hungry by issues with the delayed voucher scheme.

Councillors have evaluated the work of the county’s children’s services team, as part of an assessment of the pandemic response, hoping to understand how actions during the lockdown have helped – and hindered – those most at risk.

Officials have even revealed that safety referrals have dropped by half, with fewer “eyes and ears” watching for telltale danger signs.

READ MORE: SPECIAL REPORT: ‘Failed and forgotten’ - are a generation of our children being let down?

But it is vital that once these safe harbours have reopened, these children are not forgotten in the rush to resume life as normal.

They will require more of our time, efforts, and support not to be left in the wake of their peers, or to be dragged beneath the surface.

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