CHILDLINE ADVICE: Why it’s important to stay alert for signs of abuse and neglect

It’s difficult to think that hundreds of thousands of children have spent lockdown in unsafe homes with potentially abusive people.
Stay alert for signs of child abuse and neglect.Stay alert for signs of child abuse and neglect.
Stay alert for signs of child abuse and neglect.

And even though government guidelines are now changing, allowing us to meet up with more people while observing social distancing, I want to emphasise why it’s crucial that we continue to recognise the signs that a child may be trapped in an abusive household.

We can’t underestimate the lasting impact of lockdown on adults and children alike, with long-term stress and anxiety a possible result of the pandemic. But it’s important that we continue to stay alert for possible signs of abuse and neglect in our communities.

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One girl told Childline: “I don’t really know what to do at the moment... I’m stuck in a home that I don’t feel safe in, with my mother...

“She has abused me from a very young age. I constantly feel scared of her getting mad at me, but I’m afraid to go outside because I feel anxious around other people...

“I’ve began to feel so disassociated from life. Quarantine has made my anxiety levels peak.... I’m just trapped.”

Though schools are in the process of reopening over the next few months, children are still lacking their usual support systems and trusted adults, who they might usually speak to about their worries. Thousands of children are turning to Childline for someone to talk to, whether that’s a 1-2-1 with a counsellor or using the message boards, where they can talk to other children going through similar experiences. They can play games or get craft ideas to help them relax, too. However, it’s still important for friends and family to make an effort to recognise if a child is

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struggling, and get advice on how to help them.

The NSPCC helpline, which runs as an advice service alongside Childline, responded on average to a call reporting domestic abuse every single hour since the start of lockdown. This totals 1,500 calls to the Helpline on this issue alone. These numbers have emerged as the NSPCC continues to lobby the government to amend the laws around domestic abuse to recognise how the daily nightmare of violence and coercive control can impact on children and why they must have access to specialist support to recover. The Domestic Abuse Bill is at Committee stage and in its current form fails to do that despite repeated calls from multiple experts.

Here at Childline, we see the real impact that domestic abuse has on children and, as a result, believe that the law should reflect that. Growing up in an abusive home can have a devastating impact on a child’s life, and it is vital that they can get access to specialist support and receive help in their recovery.

But the first step towards helping children recover from abuse is by being the person to spot the signs. After months of lockdown, abuse has bred behind closed doors, and it’s crucial that communities step up to help vulnerable children and families at risk of abuse.

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Now more than ever we all have a responsibility to support children and families, continue our contact with them through phone calls and technology, and seek advice for any worries we may have. Community plays a crucial role on helping children and parents escape abusive households, but we all need to play our part.

If you have any concern whatsoever for a child’s wellbeing, it’s vital that you seek advice

from services like the NSPCC Helpline. You could be the person to free a child or young

person from a life of abuse. The NSPCC Helpline can be reached on 0808 800 5000, or by emailing [email protected] Meanwhile, children with worries can be signposted to Childline, free to call on 0800 1111, or online.

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