CHILDLINE ADVICE: No child should suffer abuse – here’s how you can help
As national Care Day approaches, it’s important to reflect on what the social care system means for a child and the people around them.
Out of the 12 million children living in England just over 400,000 (3%) are in the social care system at any one time. More than 75,000 of these children are children in care. Each UK nation has a slightly different definition of a child in care and follows its own legislation, policy and guidance. But in general, looked after children are living with foster parents, living in a residential children's home or living in residential settings like schools or secure units.
Children may enter care for all sorts of reasons. But government figures show that around 63% enter because of abuse or neglect. These experiences can leave children with complex emotional and mental health needs, which can increase their vulnerability. As a result, a child may need a great deal of attention and protection.
Others may be from families that, for a variety of reasons, are not able to give them a caring and safe living environment. These experiences can have a profound impact on a young person, often affecting their behaviour and leaving them with a range of emotional needs – so it is therefore crucial that they are given stability and access to support.
One girl told Childline:
“I went in care because my real mum and dad were druggies and alcoholics and my dad hit me and my mum, and my mum had mental health issues as well.”
Our counsellor then asked how the girl was finding her new home:
“I love living where I am because they never hit me or get angry at me. They don’t even shout, they just help me.”
Here at Childline, we believe that no child should be a victim of abuse. Our aim, as part of the NSPCC, is to fight for every childhood.
Every child deserves a safe and stable home. More needs to be done to ensure that all looked after children are healthy and safe, have the same opportunities as their peers and can move successfully into adulthood. But we all have a role to play in making that possible.
Far too often families are reaching crisis point before getting the support they desperately need. Early intervention services must be properly resourced so families get support as quickly as possible to help them develop secure and healthy relationships with their children.
It’s also crucial that the government sticks to its promise to review the care system and commits to proper investment in children’s services so young people and families get the right help at the right time.
Meanwhile; people like neighbours, teachers, and doctors who are in direct contact with children can help simply by recognising the signs of abuse and neglect. These may include becoming withdrawn and anxious, covering or hiding bruises or wounds, and changes in behaviour or personality.
In any case, adults who are concerned for the wellbeing of a child can contact the NSPCC helpline on 0808 800 5000 for free, confidential advice. It's staffed by professional practitioners with backgrounds in jobs like teaching, healthcare and social work, who know how to spot the signs of abuse and what to do to help.