Release Date: 11 May 2020
A new campaign in Richmond upon Thames is asking for everyone’s help to protect vulnerable children in their area during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In Richmond, referrals to children’s services have dropped by 75% in the first three months of the year. Nationally, referrals have fallen by as much as half since the lockdown began, according to the new president of the Association of the Directors of Children’s Services.
Children and young people are normally seen by various adults every day: teachers, coaches, instructors, relatives and friends. Due to coronavirus measures, children will be seeing fewer adults who they may normally trust to open up to about abuse or feeling unsafe at home. This also means there will be fewer opportunities for people to spot signs of abuse and report it.
Residents are encouraged to come forward and highlight if they have any concerns about local children. Details of anyone flagging a concern are strictly confidential.
Cllr Penny Frost, Chair of the Children’s Services Committee at Richmond Council, said:
“Protecting vulnerable children is one of our top concerns and priorities as a Council. With schools and activity clubs closed, it’s more crucial than ever that the public remain vigilant and help protect children and young people in Richmond upon Thames.
“It’s vital we all play our part during coronavirus, even if you don’t think it is normally your place or role to report your concerns. If you think a child is being harmed or abused, please get in touch and call our helpline.”
The campaign will be promoted through social media posts and in supermarkets, pharmacies, and parks around the borough.
The striking graphics illustrate that children who may have confided in teachers, coaches and other adults now need neighbours and other members of the community to speak out should there be cause for concern.
Ian Thomas CBE, Chair of Kingston and Richmond Safeguarding Children Partnership (KRSCP), added:
“The past few weeks have seen extraordinary community spirit sweep the nation, and we must extend this to recognising and reporting suspicions we have around child abuse. Sadly, being in isolation will be a very difficult time for some. If something you see or hear doesn’t sit right with you, please, don’t wait for someone else to flag it. We must all do our bit.”
Detective Superintendent Owain Richards, said:
“During this pandemic, we continue to safeguard children and investigate offences of abuse. It is important for us to be able to protect children from physical, sexual and emotional abuse as well as neglect. With social distancing restrictions remaining in place, children will continue to have reduced contact with friends, family and professionals, who they may otherwise have opened up to about abuse they are experiencing. Without these people to talk to, we ask the public to be alert to possible child abuse and to report any concerns they may have for a child.
“To remain 100% anonymous, report via the independent charity Crimestoppers. Alternatively, call 101 or if it’s an emergency, dial 999.”
Dr Patrick Gibson, GP Borough Lead for Richmond, said:
“Safeguarding children has remained a priority within the NHS during this pandemic. We are aware that children and young people do not have the traditional safeguards in place ranging from schools, social activities and regular contact with friends and the wider community. We would like to stress that NHS services continue to be available for children and young people, ranging from emergency departments and GP surgeries, health visiting and school nursing teams, mental health services, sexual health services and substance misuse teams.
“We would urge anyone who is concerned about a child or young person to report those concerns so they can receive the help, support and protection they deserve and require.”
Call 020 8547 5008 from 8am to 5.15pm, Monday to Thursday, and 8am to 5pm on Friday. Out of hours, call 020 8770 5000. Call 999 is you think a child or young person is in immediate danger.
If you are a journalist and would like further information about this press release, contact Elinor Firth on 020 8487 5159.
Updated: 23 June 2020