Supporting children and young people through the coronavirus pandemic
In the light of the developing coronavirus pandemic, Welsh Women’s Aid is concerned about the impact on children and young people who live with violence, control and abuse. Self-isolation will shut down routes to support and safety for women and children, as social distancing will mean that adult and child survivors will have reduced contact with supportive friends, families, communities and services. School closures will mean that children at risk or in need of care and support will not be observed everyday by teachers. Equally, children and young people who depend on the stability and relative safety of school will be kept at home. Finally, children may be impacted by economic hardship, as a result of parents not being able to work, and the accompanied pressures and stresses that this brings.
The current climate provides increased opportunity for perpetrators to monitor and control family members and means that more children and young people become “invisible” to services.
Supporting children and young people through the coronavirus crisis:
The contact they can have will often be through social media, phone and other forms of technology which the perpetrator may be easily able to monitor. Assume that this is the case while you establish the safest way to communicate with the child. Ask the child/ young person what works best for them.
Ensure that while contacting young people using different methods the safeguarding and data protection protocols are still followed. For example, contact using social media should only take place through work phones and work emails/ social media accounts not personal ones. Notes of all support need to be kept up to date as well as notes recording missed appointments or contacts. Aim to keep boundaries around the time of support sessions.
Messaging services and webchat support are often a preferred medium for young people to access support and can provide a sense of reassurance. You may need to establish a code verbally with the young person for security so that as a support worker you can establish that no one else is using their phone. Video calls can be used but check with the designated safeguarding lead in your organisation as schools are advised to only use these if contact is in a group or can be recorded. These methods of communication can be seen as less formal by children, young people and parents and as a CYP Worker it may be necessary to re-establish boundaries around when and how often you will be able to offer support. Be clear what the procedure is if you are not available, how they could contact other staff and what do to in an emergency.
Do not assume that reduced contact is due to social distancing or a choice made by the child, young person or parent. It could be that the perpetrator is exploiting the situation to actively interfere with support.
Risk assess regularly to monitor any changes in behaviour by the perpetrator.
Revise safety plans for children and parents- plans created before the pandemic may not now be realistic. For example, family members or emergency contacts may be in isolation or ill. Keep in regular contact with your organisation’s Designated Safeguarding Lead.
Social services and the police will still be available for support if needed.
Helping children and young people cope with the coronavirus and social distancing:
The outbreak of the coronavirus has created a lot of anxiety and uncertainty for all of us, including children and young people. There is a lot of information online about how to help young people understand what is happening and how to manage anxiety. There are ideas for activities for children who are isolating and things to do outdoors. These can also be used to support parents.
Some useful resources available online:
youngminds.org.uk/ – Young Minds
https://www.nspcc.org.uk/keeping-children-safe/our-services/childline/ -NSPCC – Childline
https://www.childline.org.uk/toolbox/calm-zone/ -NSPCC- calm zone
The Live Fear Free helpline and webchat continues to provide a service for adult and child survivors.