Vulnerable children could be at risk due to coronavirus school closures

11 March 2020, 07:55

Some children could be at risk due to public health measures
Some children could be at risk due to public health measures. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Vulnerable children will be at risk if they are taken out of school during the coronavirus outbreak, a charity head has warned.

Some children who live with "domestic violence and family stress" could face harm by potential school closures which could occur as authorities attempt to halt the spread of coronavirus.

Children's charity chief executive Carol Homden has said children's needs are not being considered as fully as they should be amid the outbreak, and urged the UK's chief medical officer to directly address children and their concerns.

She said measures such as temporary school closures and children self-isolating at home could mean children who live in situations with domestic abuse of family stress could be at risk.

"Some children won't be safe if they don't go to school. There are children living with domestic violence and with family stress, and the kinds of measures that are being discussed, however necessary or important they may be for public health, will have consequences for some families in fragile positions and the children within them.

"For some children, school is an important place of safety as well as an important place of food and care.

"So we all actually need to consider this very carefully and the whole of our community needs to have all our eyes on all our children."

The current advice from the chief medical officer is that schools do not need to close.

Dr Homden also said adults must avoid the "tendency in the modern era to spread panic", which is likely to increase children's anxiety and affect their wellbeing.

She said: "It's the duty of us as adults to ensure that children are not panicked and frightened, and this is not what we are doing.

"This is an illness that appears to affect the young less seriously than the old, so children may actually be worried about their granny or their grandad, but also their schools will be working very hard to ensure that children are able to feel a level of proactive capability to actually keep themselves safe."

She was speaking ahead of the launch of Coram's Call for Change, which is urging politicians to prioritise the next generation after three years of focus on Brexit.

The charity is calling for the new Parliament to make children's interests and welfare a priority following an "extended period in the nation's political life when their interests and voice have been neglected".

Changes it is calling for include a Government commitment to fund legal advice for all children, and for a child rights impact assessment to take place before the introduction of legislation.