child abuse

Children’s Commissioner and Dominic Raab Accuse Lockdown of Weakening Protections for Vulnerable Children

The Justice Secretary has said that school closures during lockdown had put vulnerable and neglected children at a greater risk of harm and abuse. In turn, Dame Rachel de Souza, the current Children’s Commissioner for England, concluded that the system put in place to protect six year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, who was murdered by his step-mother, was further weakened by the Government’s Covid restrictions, whereas her predecessor, Anne Longfield, mentioned that “very vulnerable children have continued to slip from view” over the course of the pandemic. The Times has the story.

Dame Rachel de Souza said that the voices of children must be listened to following the murder of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes.

Arthur was killed in June last year after Emma Tustin and Thomas Hughes had submitted him to a “campaign of cruelty” that amounted to torture at their home in Shirley, Solihull. The boy was isolated, abused and forced to eat salt-laced meals before dying from an “unsurvivable brain injury” after being beaten by Tustin.

Tustin was jailed for life at Coventry crown court with a minimum term of 29 years last week for abusing, poisoning and murdering Arthur while his father was jailed for 21 years for manslaughter and abuse. The judge described the case as “one of the most distressing and disturbing” he had experienced.

An independent serious case review is under way into the actions of Solihull council social workers who found “no safeguarding concerns” after visiting Arthur two months before he was killed. Social workers received at least three warnings from family members and teachers.

As the Government confirmed that it would be holding a national review to protect other children, de Souza, the Commissioner for England, said that more had to be done to support social workers to spot similar cases, but the coronavirus lockdown had weakened the system.

She told BBC1’s The Andrew Marr Show: “The life of a child is of inestimable value and his voice was not heard and that’s where we need to start.

“Obviously, there’s a serious case review under way and we need to see what that says but we must take decisive action and now.” She said Arthur was not a baby and had raised his concerns but “the system did not hear him”.

“We must listen to the voices of children and, secondly, these reviews and national reviews… tend to make the same recommendations. It’s not a matter of system recommendations, it’s a matter of delivery.”

The national Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel will lead the review and provide additional support to Solihull Safeguarding Children Partnership to “upgrade” the existing local review that was launched shortly after Arthur’s death.

Worth reading in full.

Lockdown Has Led To Vulnerable Children Being Abandoned, Says Former Children’s Commissioner

Anne Longfield, the Chair of the Commission for Young Lives, has said that “very vulnerable children have continued to slip from view”, with the pandemic restrictions leading to vulnerable and abused children being isolated from support networks. Drawing on the case of six year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, who was abused and murdered by his step-mother, Longfield mentioned that the young boy was not present in school during the months before his death due to ongoing lockdown restrictions. The Guardian has the story.

The neglect and murder of six year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes was possible because vulnerable children “slipped from view” during the pandemic, the former Children’s Commissioner for England has said.

Anne Longfield told the BBC she was “just heartbroken and totally sickened” by the case, in which Arthur was subjected to a what prosecutors called a “campaign of appalling cruelty” and murdered two months after social workers found no evidence of safeguarding concerns.

A court heard that Arthur was violently shaken and suffered an “unsurvivable brain injury” when his head was banged against a wall by his stepmother, Emma Tustin. After his death in June 2020, he was found to have 130 injuries.

Tustin was found guilty of murder and 29 year-old Thomas Hughes was found guilty of manslaughter on Thursday. They were due to be sentenced at Coventry crown court on Friday.

Longfield, now Chair of the Commission on Young Lives, said the case suggested a failure to put in place lessons from past failures such as the death of Victoria Climbie. “Very vulnerable children have continued to slip from view, and for anyone who looks at the serious case reviews, or hears about them that come after a child’s death, you will see the same things coming up,” she said.

“Time and time again, missed opportunities, lack of coordination, lack of data sharing, the things that professionals need to have at hand to be able to protect these children, still aren’t in place. But whilst there is learning from the serious case reviews, it’s not enough to change what happens to protect these children.”

She said Arthur was particularly vulnerable because of the Covid lockdown in place in the months leading up to his death. Noting that a high caseload and inexperienced staff could also be factors, she said: “What of course was also the case here was that it was a pandemic.

“So a lot of the services went on to the screens for children, and this child in particular, Arthur, wasn’t in school. And it’s much easier for families who want to evade view to do that when they haven’t got someone in the room. So there’s a big lesson there, instantly about if there is a crisis, there are children who are going to slip from view and we have to make sure they have the protection which does need face to face contact.”

She said the best way to keep children like Arthur safe was to intervene early when warning signs were visible to social workers. But she said that cuts to funding made that harder to do. “Long-term help is what needed, and again that’s something that’s been there less and less over recent years, and that means that more children are falling into crisis,” she said.

Worth reading in full.

Calls to Child Abuse Helplines Surged to Record High During the Pandemic

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) have reported that the charity experienced a 36% increase in calls to its helpline in the first six months of the 2021/22 financial year than it did in the same six month period of the previous year, leading to a record high. The Head Helpline of the NSPCC stated that “the risk of abuse has gone up since the start of the pandemic”, mentioning that vulnerable children were away from adults who could have provided support. RT has the story.

“The number of calls concerning child sexual abuse or exploitation reached a record level during the pandemic, a U.K. charity has reported.

“This reached a record high of 4,735 reports, a 36% increase in the first six months of 2021/22 when compared to the same six months of the previous year,” the NSPCC said in a statement.

The NSPCC specified that 40% of 3,560 messages on abuse where the time frame was known were reported to have happened in the last six months, while 60% of them referred to earlier dates. According to the Press Association news agency, which was provided with additional data, more than 1,500 messages received by the NSPCC were referred to authorities for further investigation.

According to NSPCC Helpline Head Kam Thandi, the organization is concerned that “the risk of abuse has gone up since the start of the pandemic” with children more vulnerable and out of sight of adults who can protect them.

The Everyone’s Invited website, launched in April by the NSPCC and the Department for Education as a helpline for those facing abuse and harassment in educational settings, has become an opportunity for many to raise their concerns, Thandi claimed. The helpline will be extended until the end of this year, the Department for Education confirmed.

Other charities and child abuse victims reacted to the NSPCC’s report by expressing support for those who contacted the charity. 

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: The Everyone’s Invited website was not launched by the NSPCC and the DfE, as RT claims. That’s an absolute howler and is a reminder that RT is not always a reliable source.

Lockdown Behind Increase in Attempted Suicides Among Australians Aged 5-25, Says Youth Helpline

Lockdown has been a major factor in the increase in attempted suicides among Australians aged 5-25 over the past six months, according to the country’s free helpline for young people. Figures reveal that the area with the longest lockdowns over the last year saw the greatest increase in suicide interventions. The Mail Australia has the story.

Figures released by Kids Helpline has shown there were 862 attempted suicides recorded in people aged 5-25 and that the number of interventions to help vulnerable youngsters had doubled in the space of one year.

The Kids Helpline said heightened levels of despair and depression through the Covid lockdowns was a major contributory factor in the increase. 

A duty of care intervention – in which Kids Helpline make contact with police, child safety or ambulance services because a child or young person is at imminent risk – almost doubled in the same period. 

Such interventions were 99% higher nationally in the period from December 2020 to the end of May this year compared to the same period a year ago. 

Suicide attempts made up 38% of those interventions, and child abuse interventions comprised 35% across Australia.  

“We feared an increase in child vulnerability as a result of the pandemic and ensuing lockdowns, however the current spike in emergency interventions on behalf of children and young people across Australia is very disturbing,” said YourTown CEO Tracy Adams… 

Victoria, which had the longest lockdowns and most deaths from Covid during 2020, saw the greatest increase in suicide interventions, jumping 189% to 294 incidences

Worth reading in full.

U.K. Child Abuse Helpline Contacted Almost 85,000 Times during Lockdowns

A U.K. children’s charity says that messages and calls to its helpline have risen to record levels over the past year of lockdowns. The most frequently raised concerns were about neglect, parental mental health and physical and mental abuse. BBC News has the story.

Children’s charity the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) says calls and messages to its helpline have risen to record levels during the pandemic. 

In the year to March 2021 the helpline was contacted almost 85,000 times, up 23% on the previous year.

The figures amplify fears that children who could not go to school during the lockdowns were more vulnerable to abuse and neglect, says the NSPCC. 

Chief Executive Sir Peter Wanless says Government recovery plans must address the harm children may have faced. 

“We’ve been hearing first-hand about the immense pressures families have faced during the pandemic and the heavy toll that has taken on children and young people. 

“For some children this has included experiencing abuse, bereavement and other harm,” said Sir Peter…

Of the 85,000 contacts to the helpline, the NSPCC says almost half, 47%, led to a referral – for example to police or children’s services. 

The most frequently raised concern was about adult or parental behaviour, including: 

~ alcohol or other substance misuse

~ domestic abuse

~ parental mental health

Other issues raised included neglect, physical abuse and emotional abuse.

NSPCC’s Chief Executive said children should be placed at the centre of the Government’s plans for the recovery from lockdown. The findings from this charity echo previous reports on the “pandemic of mental health problems” among children as a result of lockdowns, caused not only by domestic abuse but by the banning of social contact and, for example, the closing of children’s playgrounds.

Worth reading in full.