Posted: 02 April 2020

Covid-19's impact on children at risk of abuse, neglect and exploitation

Thousands of vulnerable children who are already struggling are now having to face new challenges because of Coronavirus Covid-19.

The government lockdown means many children will be trapped in situations where they feel unsafe and unable to access support. We’re particularly worried about the children most at risk, including children in care, children at risk of abuse or neglect at home, children at risk of homelessness and young carers.

Here we look at the impact of lockdown and school closures on those at risk of abuse, neglect and exploitation.

Safe places

For thousands of children across the country who are at risk of exploitation or abuse and neglect at home, school is a safe place to be during the day. Without this protective factor, more children will be at greater risk.

With less contact between young people and trusted professionals, it’s more likely that cases of abuse, neglect and exploitation will go unseen and unreported. On top of this, individuals may see an increase in unsupervised hours as opportunities to target and groom for sexual or criminal purposes.

‘there’ll be perpetrators out there taking advantage of this situation’ - Practitioner 

This is especially true in the online world. Young people will be spending a lot more time online and will be at greater risk of online grooming and exploitation. It’s important to for parents or carers to start a conversation about staying safe online. 

High visibility

If children aren’t staying at home and are spending more time outside then this makes them more visible, both to professionals and to individuals who want to target them for exploitation.

Through our #LookCloser campaign, we developed guidance on how to spot signs of exploitation and how to report it. It’s important we all stay vigilant in our communities and are able to take appropriate steps if they are concerned about young people who are not at home during the lockdown. 

Contact and care packages

Our incredible front-line staff are delivering vital care packages and providing urgent advice and support to children that can literally save their lives. Where possible, we continue to stay in contact by video or phone sessions, provided the young people feel comfortable with this. 

When a child is in imminent danger, we arrange an emergency response. We’re the only workers doing this for some young people. These are difficult times but we need everyone to work together to make sure children at risk have a trusted professional they can talk to in times of crisis.

Please donate to our emergency lifeline appeal to help the country’s most vulnerable children in this time of crisis.


By Kaja Zuvac-Graves

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