Shocking levels of child abuse during lockdown in Norfolk revealed

Simon Bailey, chief constable of Norfolk Constabulary Picture: Submitted

Simon Bailey, chief constable of Norfolk Constabulary Picture: Submitted - Credit: Submitted

Norfolk’s young people have experienced high levels of abuse and sadness during lockdown – and anxiety about returning to school, according to Norfolk’s police chief.

Chief Constable Simon Bailey, who was among speakers at the Norfolk Community Foundation’s webinar on Thursday, called to formulate plans to help minimise the economic and social price of the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Bailey said: “It is only now when children are returning to school that I think we will truly understand the impact of the lockdown.

“The fact children haven’t been seeing their peers, they have been exposed to those experiences within their home environment, that it is only now that we will start to see the true impact of what that is likely to mean for us going forward.”

The discussion focused on four areas: mental health; combating the effects of poverty; helping the vulnerable; and supporting those struggling to stay in or access work.

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The Kooth service saw a 33pc increase in logins of people seeking help for bereavement, eating disorders, loneliness, sleeping difficulties and anxiety about returning to school.

Comparing Norfolk with the rest of the East of England, Mr Bailey said: “Unfortunately we have the highest levels of abuse, the highest levels of sadness, we have the highest levels of autistic spectrum disorder and we have the highest number of people reporting worries about returning back to school and college.”

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This year Norfolk Police have sectioned 19 children and 266 over-18s.

In relation to deprivation, he said 16,000 children in Norfolk were eligible for free school meals and 12,500 households with children were claiming Universal Credit. He said there were more than 3,500 vulnerable young people with an open child-in-need plan and 600 with child protection plans in place.

Between September 2018 and June 2020, 9,500 notifications were made to schools that a child had within a 24- or 48-hour period been exposed to domestic abuse.

The chief constable said: “It is a staggering number, and it gives you some idea of the challenges we face, with domestic abuse in particular, in the county and the impact it’s having in the long term on young people.”

Claire Cullens, chief executive of Norfolk Community Foundation, said the next stage was the foundation’s Build Back Brighter programme to focus on the areas discussed by the chief constable.

She said: “It [the programme] is going to make sure we support the mental health of our young people so they do not become the lost generation, so they can rebuild their lives with confidence and look to a stronger more exciting future.”

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