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Coronavirus (COVID-19): impact on children, young people and families - evidence summary October 2020

Published: 24 Nov 2020

Summary of Scottish and UK evidence on the impact of COVID-19 on the wellbeing of children and young people.

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Contents
Coronavirus (COVID-19): impact on children, young people and families - evidence summary October 2020
15. Children and young people with vulnerabilities and/or disadvantage

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15. Children and young people with vulnerabilities and/or disadvantage

There are a range of briefings on the Children's Commissioner for England website relating to vulnerable groups including children in care, those in custody, children with disabilities, those at risk of abuse and those without a permanent home. The CCE has also conducted surveys on child wellbeing in March and June.

15.1 Poverty

Low-income parents relying on child benefit for household basics

Source: Child Poverty Action Group

Date: 31 August 2020

The Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) has released findings from a survey of 1,000 parents receiving child benefit in summer 2020. The findings were compared with the results of a similar survey conducted in 2012. The survey shows that child benefit is more likely to be used for food and baby products and less likely to be spent on clothing.

  • 28% of parents receiving child benefit said they now spend it on day-to-day living/general expenses, up from 2 per cent in 2012
  • 14% reported spending child benefit on bills, up from 4 per cent in 2012
  • 33% are spending it on food in 2020, up from 26 per cent in 2012
  • 15% of parents today spend child benefit on baby products/formula milk/nappies/wipes compared to 9 per cent in 2012
  • Today just less than a quarter (23%) spend it on clothes/shoes for children (down from 51% in 2012).
  • 37% said they couldn't manage without child benefit.

Poverty in the Pandemic: The impact of coronavirus on low-income families and children

Source: Child Poverty Action Group & The Church of England

Date: August 2020

This report is based on findings from an online survey of 285 low-income families and in-depth interviews with 21 of these families between May and August 2020, and offers insight to the day-to-day challenges low income families are dealing with, as well as their strength and resilience in managing these matters. The research team is planning to go back to the same families towards the end of the year to see how their situation has changed.

  • Overall, around 8 in 10 survey respondents reported a significant deterioration in their living standards due to a combination of falling income and rising expenditure. 76% of respondents said that they were finding coping financially quite or very difficult (2 in 5 said it was very difficult). This compares to 13% pre-coronavirus (based on findings of a pre-pandemic survey).
  • Findings from in-depth interviews is consistent with other evidence - low-income working households have been hardest hit (lower income households spend a higher share of their income on essential services and items, the costs of which have increased as people spend more time at home). This was particularly the case for single parents who have to balance childcare with work. This group was also at higher risk of experiencing loneliness and social isolation.
  • More than three-quarters of respondents said that the coronavirus has affected their ability to pay for food and utilities, and around half said it has affected their ability to pay for housing and child-related costs.
  • Almost half reported physical or mental health problems. For many, this was caused by worries about money, the rising cost of food and utility bills, and not being able to buy their children what they need.
  • The difficult living conditions that many families experience have been highlighted by the lockdown. Many families had no outdoor space, and others were painfully aware of the poor quality or overcrowded accommodation in which they were living.
  • Some parents interviewed reported that their children were suffering from mental health problems, in particular teenagers or young adults.
  • Digital access was also highlighted as a barrier to home learning for some families.
  • Government support - the government financial packages (e.g. furlough scheme, increase in tax credits) have helped people but for many this was insufficient to protect them from financial hardship. Free school meal vouchers were highly valued by the parents who received them.
  • Recommendations – the report recommends an increase of at least £10 per week in child benefit and child tax credits, extension of free school meals to those in receipt to tax credits and removal of benefits cap.
  • The report warns that inaction will lead to further deterioration of family wellbeing as unemployment rises and the Job Retention Scheme is phased out.

Childhood during coronavirus: protecting children from the effects of poverty

Source: Action for Children

Date: 14 September 2020

Action for Children has published a report following an analysis of application forms submitted to their coronavirus emergency fund from March 2020 to July 2020.

37% of households were single parents and 19% of households had one or more children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), while 10% of households had one or more young carer. Findings from total of 2,760 grant application forms include:

  • 37% said that the pandemic had led to financial pressures due to the increased household costs.
  • 30% of families were struggling to access enough welfare benefits to meet their daily living costs.
  • 37% had one or more adults experiencing a mental health concern as a result of the pandemic, while 23% had one or more children struggling with their mental health.
  • Two in five (40%) families were struggling to feed their children
  • A third of families (33%) requested help to afford resources for children's learning and play;
  • Nearly a third (31%) of families were lacking access to the resources necessary to educate their children at home.

A survey of frontline staff found that 86% felt that the coronavirus crisis had left the family finances of the children they work with worse off, with the majority (66%) predicting this would get worse over the next 6 months. 78% reported that the pandemic was having a negative impact on the mental health and wellbeing of the children they support.

Specific recommendations for the Scottish Government were to provide low-income families with children with a £10 per week (per child) payment, until the new Scottish Child Payment is operational; and to protect the Payment's value on an ongoing basis.

15.2 Children, young people and families impacted by disability

The end of lockdown? The last six months in the lives of families raising disabled children – UK Findings

Source: Family Fund

Date: September 2020

The Family Fund, in its third survey over the course of the pandemic, has found that many families with disabled or seriously ill children continue to struggle due to a reduction in support, increased financial pressures and a negative impact on their children's health and wellbeing. The most recent survey ran in August 2020 and was completed by 2,557 families raising 3,204 disabled or seriously ill children across the UK, including Scotland. The key findings are summarised below:

  • Half of families have lost income as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, and more than three quarters are experiencing increased household costs. Two in five families have seen their savings reduce, leaving seven in 10 families with no money to fall back on and increasing levels of debt.
  • More than three in five families (62%) have experienced a reduction in formal support since the coronavirus outbreak, with little improvement over time (from a 65% decrease reported in Survey 1 to a 62% decrease in Survey 3). The most common types of formal support families are still going without include educational psychologists [69%], speech and language therapy [67%], occupational therapy [64%], and physiotherapy [61%].
  • There has been some improvement in the level of informal support since the first survey, but it still remains significantly less than pre-pandemic for the majority of survey respondents (63% decrease reported in Survey 3). The main types of informal support families remain without include recreational and play activities for their disabled or seriously ill children [70%], respite [60%], transport [53%], and information and advice [50%].
  • The survey suggests that the pandemic is having a sustained negative impact on the wellbeing of disabled children. Survey findings suggest that there has been a marked reduction in the physical wellbeing of disabled children over the course of the pandemic (from 26% negative impact in Survey 1 to 51% in Survey 3), whilst deteriorations in children's mental wellbeing and behaviour and emotions remain high (82% and 87% negative impact in Survey 3). These impacts extend to the whole family including siblings and parents.
  • Even with the lifting of many restrictions, many families raising disabled or seriously ill children will be continuing to restrict their day-to-day activities. A third of families (32%) said they will not be changing their actions in line with the easing of restrictions due to their children's conditions. Only just more than half of families (55%) had begun visiting friends and family and less than three in 10 families (28%) have had a day out together. This compares to three quarters of families (78%) who previously visited friends and family and half (47%) who took days out together.
  • Addressing these health and wellbeing needs, as well as their growing financial and support needs are the most pressing priorities put forward by families. Things that would be most helpful were a cash grant (59%), day trip or family break (58%) and food vouchers (53%).

Public Health England's COVID-19 mental health and wellbeing surveillance report (see Mental Health section) describes the evidence to date with regards to special education needs and disability.

  • Children and young people with SEN(D), and existing mental health issues, and their parents, have reported that COVID-19 has negatively affected their mental health.
  • Although few studies compare their experiences to the wider population, those that do, find evidence that children with SEN(D) have experienced poorer mental wellbeing during lockdown than other children but not necessarily a widening gap over time compared to their peers.
  • That said, in some surveys parents of children with SEN(D) report reduced levels of emotional difficulties and are reduction in emotional and conduct difficulties through the lockdown.

Special education during lockdown: Returning to schools and colleges in September (England)

Source: Nuffield Foundation & NFER & ASK Research

Date: 3 Sep 2020

An NFER study has found that leaders estimate that an average of 14% of pupils may not return. The most common reason this was thought to be parental concern about safety. Almost all leaders felt that some pupils would find adhering to safe practice and social distancing difficult. This was reflected in the views of parents of children with special educational needs who were concerned about sending their children back to school or college in September because their children are medically vulnerable or because their child's needs mean they cannot adhere to social distancing and safe practice. The report calls for specific guidance for these settings, including how to support children who do not return to school, and additional resources to support safe practice. The study involved in-depth interviews and surveys of special schools and colleges in England and parents whose children attend special schools.

National Deaf Children's Society says just a third of deaf pupils will attend school if teachers wear masks in class

Source: National Deaf Children's Society (TES)

Date: 31 Aug 2020

A poll carried out by the National Deaf Children's Society among 800 parents of deaf children, shows that just 36 per cent were likely to send their child to school if teachers were asked to wear face masks while teaching. A further one in five (19 per cent) were uncertain about what they would do. The charity has now called on the government to ensure schools with deaf pupils have access to clear face masks.

More broadly, evidence suggests that deaf children are more likely to experience mental health issues[15] than their non-deaf peers. Research shows that deaf children are more likely to be isolated, bullied or abused (Wolters et al, 2011; Kvam, 2004), which can impact upon mental health. There is also literature on prejudice towards deaf children and their families and experiences of feeling stigmatised[16]. Research into factors affecting mental health of deaf children shows that early access to effective communication with family members and peers is desirable[17]. Dr Barry Wright (University of York), an expert on the mental health needs of deaf children has raised concerns about the impact of COVID-19 restrictions (physical distancing and wearing of face coverings) on the mental wellbeing of deaf children, which is exacerbated by isolation and communication problems. In a national newspaper article[18], he (and others) calls for healthcare and education settings to consider the use of see-through face masks and face shields, as well as access to good communication and to deaf peers through electronic means, or other special arrangements as restrictions are eased.

Coronavirus and Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) education survey (England)

Source: Special Needs Jungle

Date: Survey conducted in June 2020

A survey of approximately 1000 parents with children with special educational needs and disabilities conducted during lockdown (June) describes a range of challenges encountered by parents, particularly around learning and lack of adequate support. Recommendations include a review into how local and national public services for children with special needs operated into lockdown (to learn lessons for future crises), research to ensure a better understanding of who needs to shield and how they can be easier to identify and reach, and return to school strategies for children that may find it difficult. Other findings of interest are summarised below:

  • The survey identified that for some children with SEND, school closures have had a beneficial effect on their anxiety levels. 37% of parents said their child's anxiety had increased, while a similar amount, 38%, reported their child's anxiety had actually reduced during lockdown.
  • Reasons given for increased anxiety levels included concerns about COVID-19, disruption to routine, the breakdown of separation between school life and home life, and anxiety about the prospect of returning to school.
  • A number of parents said their young person's school set so much work they experienced anxiety-driven meltdowns.
  • Reasons given for decreased anxiety were a less formal learning environment, more inclusive way of learning, less pressure, better understanding of the child's needs, and reduced sensory issues.
  • Some parents whose children were more settled during lockdown said they were now considering home education as a long-term option.

Education and Covid-19: Perspectives from parent carers of children with SEND (Mostly England)

Source: University of Sussex

Date: August 2020

These findings are based on a survey which was conducted in July and completed by 502 parent/carers, primarily from England, but across all regions of the UK. The aim of this research was to explore the experiences of parents of children with SEND during lockdown to inform return to school transition. Follow up research with some of these parents, will be reported on later this year, including parental recommendations for any future school closures or restrictions. Key findings are:

  • Parent/carers had varied and diverse experiences during lockdown. Some had found schools to be incredibly supportive, whilst for other families it was a very difficult and isolating time.
  • As seen in other SEND surveys, according to parent/carers, most of the children in the survey felt less stressed and anxious while at home during lockdown. This was due to being with family, less social pressure (e.g. bullying), more flexibility (e.g. to wear own clothes and take breaks when they want) and more child-led learning.
  • During lockdown, social interaction and communication were the areas where parent carers felt their children had fallen behind.
  • Parent/carers want a gradual and flexible return to school, with a focus on adapting to new routines rather than academic work. Friends and social interactions (48%) were the most commonly noted positive aspect about going to school.
  • A focus on relationships, wellbeing and routine are vital components for the return to school. Parent/carers reported that a focus on mental health and wellbeing as a top priority for the first term of education.

Left stranded: The impact of coronavirus on autistic people and their families in the UK (UK wide)

Source: National Autistic Society

Date: 07 September 2020

The National Autistic Society has published a report on the impact of coronavirus on autistic people and their families, including children. Findings from the report, which surveyed 4,232 autistic people and families in the UK during June and July, include:

  • 68% of family members said their autistic child was anxious about the loss of routine brought on by disruption to education.
  • Seven in ten parents said their child had difficulty understanding or completing school work and around half said their child's academic progress suffered; 65% said their autistic child couldn't do online work.
  • The withdrawal of services during lockdown has had a profound effect on the mental wellbeing of family members and children with autism.
  • One in five family members respondents had to reduce work due to caring responsibilities, reducing their household income.
  • As well as the loss of routine and structure, which are especially important for autistic people, the loss of social interaction was also keenly felt.
  • The return to school for some has not gone smoothly with some schools refusing autistic children for risk reasons and others not putting in place the necessary individual plans.

"In normal times [my son] goes for respite 36 overnights a year which gives me a chance to sleep and usually attends a day service five days a week. I am now being told there will be no respite for the foreseeable. I can't go on for much longer in this situation. My son is unpredictable, he has severe meltdowns. I have no one. My mum died in February just weeks before lockdown. If I don't get a rest soon, I really don't know how I can continue." Sylvia, parent in Scotland

Recommendations for Scotland are:

  • Ensure that the Scottish Government's forthcoming review of social care and the pandemic includes the impact on autistic people and families.
  • Implement the commitment to introduce a baseline of autism awareness within Initial Teacher Education.
  • Move forward with plans for a national public awareness and understanding campaign due for the autumn.
  • Take forward the recommendations from the Independent Review into Learning Disability and Autism within the Mental Health Act.

15.3 Care experienced children and young people

Young Lives in Lockdown (England and Wales)

Source: National Youth Advocacy Service

This study draws on data from NYAS' survey of care-experienced children and young people across England and Wales between the 15th April to the 7th of May (230 respondents).

  • Factors such as reduced levels of contact are having an effect on the wellbeing of care-experienced children and young people. Half of children in care (50%) said they felt lonely more often during the lockdown. At the same time, one in five children in care (23%) had less contact from their social worker, and one in ten (13%) had not heard from them at all.
  • Of the different care arrangements, young people living in independent or semi-independent accommodation were at greatest risk of feeling lonely more often (59%) and children in foster care the least likely to feel lonely (39%).
  • A similar trend emerged for care leavers, who overwhelmingly reported feeling lonely more often and anxious during the lockdown (86%), as well as saying that they were seeing their personal adviser less (43%). One in five care leavers said that they did not have the technology they need to stay in touch with friends and family during the lockdown.

Kinship Care

During kinship care week (5-11 October) findings from an annual survey of kinship carers in England and Wales were released by Grandparents Plus. This is described in a piece written for Research in Practice. Key messages and findings were:

  • 70% of kinship care survey respondents found parenting as a kinship carer during the COVID-19 pandemic difficult or very difficult, with half saying their children had also struggled.
  • 82% of kinship carers said they don't get the information and support they need from their local authority.
  • Previous worries have been exacerbated, including concerns about money (31%), feeling alone (32%), limited resources and space (23%) and children's behaviour (26%) as well as lack of access to therapeutic support for their children.
  • Nearly one in four kinship carer respondents (24%) are worried they will be unable to cope with a second lockdown.
  • When compared to others raising children, they are more likely to be older, have a chronic health condition or disability, be single, live in poverty, unemployed, poorly housed and socially isolated. These factors place them at increased risk of negative impacts of coronavirus and related restrictions.
  • Barriers to virtual support approaches include digital skills and confidence as well as access to smart phones/computers and internet data. However, virtual support by Grandparents Plus has developed over time using WhatsApp and Zoom. Benefits of this approach include increased access for those living in rural areas, who find travel difficult or are balancing work and childcare. Practice varies depending on local needs/preferences with some operating during the day and children sometimes participating and others operating in the evening after the children have gone to bed.
  • The article reports an increase in reports of child on carer violence and abuse.
  • One of key learnings is the need for more information, advice and support for kinship carers, and that virtual support can be part of the solution.

Read the survey findings of the Grandparents Plus survey.

COVID-19 series: briefing on children's social care providers, September 2020(England)

Source: Ofsted

Date: Evidence from visits to children's homes between 1 and 11 September

The briefing, based on ungraded visits to 70 homes between 1 September and 11 September. The briefing reports concerns over a lack of mental health support for children during lockdown with young people reporting an increase in low mood, phobias and anxiety. However, it adds that in some cases children experienced an improvement in their mental health and had good engagement with mental health professionals (possibly due to better relationships with staff and children in the home and reduced anxiety about school or outside pressures). Some homes reported improved relationships between staff and children during lockdown e.g. fewer physical interventions. That said, relationships between children in some homes during lockdown were described as "difficult", with occasional reports of bullying and conflict between children. There were also reports of children going missing during lockdown.

15.4 Young carers

The Barnardo's research states that the pandemic will increase the number of young carers, especially BAME young carers, as parents, siblings and other relatives have been required to shield or have become ill from the virus. Lack of information (e.g. on whether a family member was on the 'vulnerable' list) was associated with increased uncertainty and anxiety for young carers.

15.5 Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) children and young people

Public Health England's COVID-19 mental health and wellbeing surveillance report (see Mental Health section) describes the evidence to date with regards to ethnicity. As per previous SG C&F briefings, the report states that there is mixed evidence on whether mental wellbeing varies by ethnicity during COVID-19. Some evidence suggests that young people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds have experienced a higher rate of mental health and wellbeing concerns, though other studies have not found this to be the case. As previously reported, data from Kooth service indicates increased risk for BME children and young people (see July & Sep SG C&F briefings), as does research from the COVID-19 Psychological Research Consortium's study (a non-representative study of 2,000 young people) which found that BME respondents had higher levels of anxiety and depression compared to White and Asian respondents. The report also notes that there is variation within children and young people from the same ethnic background, and that the findings of COVID-surveys are complicated by the increased profile of racism and anti-racism over the same period.

Coronavirus and Me: Experiences of children from Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups in Wales.

Source: The Children's Commissioner for Wales

Date: 30 September 2020

The Children's Commissioner for Wales has published a report looking at the systematic disadvantages faced by Black, Asian and Minority ethnic (BAME) children living in Wales during lockdown. Findings from a survey conducted in May 2020[19] of children and young people in Wales aged 3-18, of whom 1,496 were from a BAME background, include:

  • Across most of the factors measured, BAME children fared worse. This included factors such as play, outdoor exercise, food security, support, information, learning and mental wellbeing.
  • 7-11 year old BAME children were significantly less likely to say they felt happy 'most of the time' and 12-18 year old BAME children were significantly less likely to say the felt safe 'most of the time'.
  • BAME 12-18 year old respondents were significantly more likely to say they had been affected most by not being able to leave the house, and changes to physical activity and exercise. BAME respondents were significantly less likely to say they had been exercising outdoors, across the age groups.
  • BAME 7-11 year olds were significantly less likely to say they were playing more often than before, and significantly more likely to say they were actually playing less than before.
  • BAME respondents 12-18 were significantly more likely to say they were worried about getting behind with their learning.
  • BAME respondents were significantly more likely to say they needed help making sure their family has enough food, across age groups.
  • However, there were some responses from BAME children that could be seen as representing more positive experiences. These included learning new skills, time spent reading/writing, and indoor exercise (although these measures varied by ethnic group). For example, BAME respondents were significantly more likely to say they have been reading and writing (among 12-18 year olds), and cooking (among 7-11 year olds), during lockdown.
  • There was mixed evidence of levels of worry about the coronavirus but overall, it does not appear that BAME children were more worried.

Schools' responses to Covid-19 The challenges facing schools and pupils in September 2020

Source: The Nuffield Foundation & National Foundation for Educational Research

Date: 1 Sep 2020

Teachers estimate that pupils are on average three months behind on their learning as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, with the most deprived pupils and those from BAME backgrounds most likely to be affected, according to new research from the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER). Almost half of pupils are in need of intensive catch-up support, with those from the most deprived schools and schools with highest proportions of pupils from BAME backgrounds in greatest need. This is based on a NFER school survey of 3000 school leaders and teachers in England. The findings were collected between the 8th and 15th July 2020.

15.6 Vulnerable children and young people

Beyond the pandemic: Strategic priorities for responding to childhood trauma

Source: UK Trauma Council

Date: 17 September 2020

A new and independent expert body, the UK Trauma Council (UKTC), has been established and published a report calling on a sustained response to childhood trauma. The body brings together 22 leading experts in research, policy and practice from all four nations of the UK. In its report, the UKTC identifies three ways in which the pandemic is impacting on the experience of childhood trauma:

  • It increases the risk that more children will be exposed to trauma, including through sudden bereavement or exposure to domestic violence;
  • It increases the likelihood that those with prior experiences of trauma (for example, because of abuse) will experience significant difficulties; and
  • It compromises the ability of adults and professional systems to identify a struggling child and mitigate the impact of trauma, including mental health problems.

The report states that the full extent of this impact will take time to understand, as many children and young people's needs have been hidden within their homes during lockdown. As education settings open there will need to be a renewed focus on children and young people's wellbeing and mental health.

The UKTC makes four recommendations in response to the pandemic, which it addresses to government departments, professional bodies, and those developing policy and practice. These are to:

  • Prioritise responding to trauma in national and local strategies;
  • Invest in specialist trauma provision for children and young people;
  • Equip all professionals who work with children and young people with the skills and capacity to support those who have experienced trauma;
  • Shift models of help towards prevention, through research, clinical innovation and training.

The impact of the coronavirus pandemic on child welfare: online abuse

Source: NSPCC

Date: September 2020

This briefing uses insight from Childline counselling sessions and NSPCC helpline contacts to highlight the impact of online abuse on children and young people during the coronavirus pandemic. Key findings include:

  • Since lockdown, the NSPCC helpline saw a 60 per cent increase in contacts from people with concerns about children experiencing online sexual abuse.
  • Childline has seen a 11 per cent increase in the number of counselling sessions about online sexual abuse.
  • The briefing describes a rise in the use of online platforms by children and young people to counter loneliness (sometimes for the first time), with some then being targeted by perpetrators of sexual abuse.
  • For some children and young people, experiencing online sexual abuse can leave them frightened about using online platforms. This can give them extra challenges during the pandemic, when a lot of communication is taking place online. Others described suicidal ideations, self-harming and difficulties trusting other people after what had happened to them.
  • Some parents and carers felt their child was struggling to understand the severity of online risks and described sophisticated systems that perpetrators use to sexually exploit children online.
  • It can be difficult for children to report online abuse and ask for help for fear of judgement, blackmail or punishment, as well as feelings of shame and guilt.
  • The briefing calls for Online Harms regulation across the UK which would include a 'Duty of Care' for online platforms, a regulatory body, and user advocacy arrangements.

The impact of the coronavirus pandemic on child welfare: physical abuse

Source: NSPCC Learning

Date: 02 September 2020

NSPCC Learning has published a briefing using insight from Childline counselling sessions and NSPCC helpline contacts to highlight the impact of physical abuse on children and young people during the coronavirus pandemic. Key findings include: a 22% increase in the number of counselling sessions provided by Childline about physical abuse, from an average of 420 sessions per month before pandemic restrictions were imposed to 514 sessions per month since lockdown; a 53% increase in contacts to the NSPCC helpline from people with concerns about children experiencing physical abuse, from an average of 696 per month before lockdown to an average of 1,066 since lockdown.

Online grooming – rise in self-generated videos of children

Date: 07 October 2020

Source: UK Safer Internet Centre

The UK Safer Internet Centre (UKSIC) has revealed new data on online child sexual abuse material. The data, from the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), shows that in the first six months of 2020, 44% of all child sexual abuse content the IWF dealt with involved self-generated material, compared to 29% in 2019. Self-generated content can include child sexual abuse content, created using webcams, sometimes in the child's own room, and then shared online. In some cases, children are groomed, deceived or extorted into producing and sharing a sexual image or video of themselves.

ONS modern slavery statistics (April to June 2020) indicate an increase (from last year) in child exploitation, which is 'partially driven by an increase in the identification of 'county lines' cases'. For the first time, more referrals were received for child potential victims than adults. Just over a third (38%; 843) of the NRM referrals were for potential victims who claimed exploitation as adults (compared to 52% in the preceding quarter), whilst 58% (1,274) claimed exploitation as children. Between April and June, 409 referrals were flagged as county lines referrals, accounting for 19 per cent of all referrals received in the quarter. The majority (85%) were made for boys. Criminal exploitation accounted for 55 per cent of all referrals for children received by the NRM (93% male). However, 90 per cent of referrals for child sexual exploitation were for female potential victims. This data raises concerns about children being at greater risk of being groomed during lockdown.

Impact of Covid-19 on county lines (England and Wales)

Source: Crest

Date: May 2020

Research being undertaken by Crest for the Hadley trust on the criminal exploitation of looked after childrenin North Wales and Merseyside includes an article on the impact of COVID-19 on county lines. The research suggests that rather than reducing county lines activity, COVID-19 has led to criminal gangs adapting their methods of working e.g. by recruiting local young people to carry drugs, instead of recruiting young people in cities to travel long distances. The move towards local recruitment means that in assessing whether children are being exploited in county lines during lockdown, attention should be paid to both vulnerable children in the 'county bases' and those going missing from the 'home bases'. The article states that a reduction in missing incidents involving looked after children (compared to the same period in 2019) may reflect this move towards recruitment of local children.

15.7 Domestic abuse and violence against women and girls

Contacts to NSPCC helpline about domestic abuse up by nearly 50%

Source: NSPCC

Date: 2 Oct 2020

NSPCC helpline data reports a substantial increase in calls from people concerned about children living in homes with domestic abuse. Since the introduction of national lockdown measures, the number of contacts from people concerned about children living in homes with domestic abuse rose by 49%. There were 818 contacts in August. The charity is calling for the introduction of statutory (funded) recovery services for children living with domestic abuse.

15.8 LGBTQ+ Children and Young People

No new evidence to report this month.

15.9 Children and young people impacted by the justice system

Living through lockdown: Reflections and recommendations from young people at risk of serious violence (England)

Source: Redthread

Date: 28 September 2020

Three violence prevention charities, StreetDoctors, Redthread and MAC-UK have published a report following a survey of a small number of young people who use their services in England to find out how lockdown affected their lives and their communities. The survey ran between 6 May and 15 June 2020. Findings from analysis of 41 responses from young people aged between 14 and 25 include:

  • Most survey respondents encountered difficulties during lockdown, with isolation, boredom, and inability to access services.
  • Most felt that lockdown has negatively impacted on their mental health.
  • Most felt that their safety levels have been maintained or increased over lockdown (mainly because they were at home); however, 17% said they felt less safe during lockdown. Of those that felt their safety has decreased, this was predominantly due to their fear of contracting coronavirus.
  • One in ten respondents have been directly affected by COVID-19, with a close friend or family member dying of the disease.
  • As well as the essential support of friends and family, over a third of respondents note the support of youth work and counselling services in getting them through lockdown.
  • More than half of respondents identified specific deficits in the support they receive. As well as the support they would receive through school or college, health services, employment and social care were highlighted.
  • Things that are important to young people include spending time with family and friends, being given opportunities to contribute to their local community through work or volunteering, support from social workers and youth workers, clear communication from policy makers and feeling safe on the streets.

The report includes a section on recommendations for planning for a local lockdown. These include consulting with young people to produce targeted messages around restrictions; ongoing opportunities for community engagement; schools to have the resources to support children during local lockdowns; clear digital engagement strategies to ensure consistency during lockdowns; funding for local organisations to support young people during lockdowns where schools and other services cannot; referral criteria for support services to be relaxed during lockdowns (particularly for those struggling with mental health problems); and, a long-term plan to ensure young people do not suffer disproportionately.


Contact

Email: socialresearch@gov.scot