Safeguarding partnerships across Sussex are asking workers with access to people’s homes to help spot possible child abuse and neglect during this third lockdown.
Local authorities and Sussex Police have joined forces with the NSPCC to promote safeguarding children awareness training for workers who regularly go into people’s homes, such as gas engineers, taxi drivers and local authority workers. They are telling people in Sussex if they see something they should say something.
During the pandemic children and young people have spent much more time at home and behind closed doors, meaning that some children have been at a greater risk of abuse and neglect.
As a result the NSPCC has found that concerns about child abuse have soared since national lockdown measures were first introduced – with the average monthly number of referrals from the charity’s helpline to local authorities on the issue increasing by 81 per cent in the south east.
Detective superintendent Jon Hull of Sussex Police, speaking on behalf of community safety partnerships across Sussex, said, “Right now we know that some children in Sussex and nationally are at an increased risk of abuse including sexual abuse, neglect and domestic violence.
“People who work within their community can play an important role in helping keep children safe and spotting possible signs of child abuse, neglect and domestic violence.
“If you are still working with members of the public, taking the NSPCC’s free quick training course could mean a child does not have to suffer needlessly during this lockdown. If you see something, say something.”
The NSPCC has put together a 15-minute online course called ‘It’s your call’. It helps workers to:
- Recognise the signs of possible child abuse and neglect
- Report concerns either through your work channels, the NSPCC helpline or if the concern is urgent the police
- Support those who may have already witnessed signs of child abuse and provide advice
The training is free until March 31, 2021. It is aimed at postal workers, delivery drivers and workers who regularly visit homes such as housing maintenance staff who are well placed to spot any emerging safeguarding concerns or signs of possible abuse and neglect.
Ciara, from Brighton, had a chaotic upbringing with a mum who had substance misuse problems and suffered with bi-polar disorder. She was often left to fend for herself and care for her siblings.
She said, “There was so much shame attached to it all, I was always scared of being ‘found out’. She’d frequently leave us in harm’s way or abandon us when she was prioritising the men, drink or drugs.
“I would compare our home life to my friends and I knew it wasn’t right. I felt responsible for my sister, I felt responsible for my mum and responsible for the way she was perceived by others. That’s a lot for a child to cope with. It affected my confidence – I was trying to survive but worrying about everyone else around me.
“I don’t think it’s that unusual for children to go through this kind of thing, but it’s rarely spoken about.”
The various Safeguarding Children Partnerships in Sussex are also hoping to raise community awareness about the increased risk to children by using NSPCC resources like posters and wallet cards.
Anna Collishaw-Nikodemus, NSPCC local campaigns manager for Sussex, said, “Since April the NSPCC helpline has received over 31,000 contacts from adults anxious about child abuse or neglect. The monthly average number of contacts has surged 43 per cent compared to pre-pandemic levels.
“It is essential that we all play our role in helping to keep children and young people safe. Workers visiting people’s homes during the pandemic have the unique opportunity to see or hear things that others may not. Therefore, it is important that they feel confident in knowing what to do if they are concerned about a child.”
She said the charity’s team of professionals working on its helpline for concerned adults and the dedicated volunteer counsellors at Childline will all play a vital role in being here for children during the current lockdown.
Adults concerned about a child can contact the NSPCC helpline seven days a week on 0808 800 5000, or email [email protected]
Children can speak to a counsellor on 0800 1111 or chat online.
If you think abuse may be happening now contact Sussex Police on 999 or 101.
For further information on sources of advice and support see SafeSpace Sussex, and the Sussex Police website.