I was delighted to join Chance for Childhood on 1st of April as the new Global Safeguarding Lead. There couldn’t have been a better time for Chance for Childhood to create such a role, COVID-19 will have an unimaginable impact on vulnerable children, young people and adults at risk all around the world and we hope to do everything we can to support our partners keep children young people safer during and after the outbreak.
Lack of safe spaces for children during COVID-19
The reality for many children and young people during Covid-19 is that they have lost their safe spaces that our partners provide. Spaces such as schools, youth clubs, drop in centres and sports teams provide safety and respite for children and young people. The adults in those spaces are often seen by children and young people as their protector and their lifeline to safety. Now schools are closed and movement is restricted, those safe spaces and safe adults are not available. Instead they are forced to spend time in places where they are at their most vulnerable without the adults that make them feel safer. This may be home, the streets, in prisons or in refugee camps.
We want to make sure that our partners are equipped in the best possible way to support children and young people through the crisis and beyond.
“They are forced to spend time in places where they are at their most vulnerable without the adults that make them feel safer.
What is the reality for our partners?
We recently held a call with all our partners to discuss the challenges they are facing around safeguarding during COVID-19 and beyond. Although our partners work in very different contexts, the themes around their concerns were the same; children becoming more vulnerable and facing increased risk. There are fears around increased violence in the homes, children fleeing their homes, malnourishment, and increased risk of children becoming commercially sexually exploited. Everyone also shared their concern COVID-19 will have on the mental health of the children and young people they support.
How can we support Safeguarding during COVID-19?
It is such a difficult time for all our partners as they try and support children and young people during lock downs, curfews and social distancing. They are firefighting on a daily basis and responding to complex issues in the most creative and inspiring ways. From our call, it was clear that there was a power in sharing challenges and ideas to combat those challenges. We will continue facilitating those spaces so partners can share good practice, ideas, resources and can offer general support to one another during this time.
We will also be identifying and sharing useful resources for all our partners. Key themes were identified during the call including remote case management, positive communication, conflict resolutions and arts/play activities for children and young people to express themselves.
As well as meeting the immediate needs of vulnerable children and families by distributing foods and emergency supplies, we’re working with our partners to find the best ways of safeguarding children and young people while in lockdown.
What happens after Coronavirus?
Whatever the situation children and young people are facing during COVID-19, the impact doesn’t go away once lockdown ends. Children and young people from across all our partners will have experienced multiple and complex traumas during lockdown. Our support must go beyond lockdown and we must invest in holistic support for this foreseeable future.
Safeguarding is not only about protection from abuse but also about supporting children young people through the rumour trauma that they experience. We will be ensuring that partners can access our Survivors Support Fund, a dedicated fund we hold within our budget to support survivors of a safeguarding incident.
We will also be supporting the staff at our partners. It has been an incredibly challenging time for all our partners and their teams who have been working tirelessly to ensure the children and young people they support are as safe as can be, whilst putting their own safety at risk. They too, have experienced significant trauma during this time and will continue to as children and young people come back into their spaces and share the traumas they may have experienced during COVID-19. Over the next few months we will also be exploring how we can best support all our partners and their teams.
There is still much to do and much to think about in terms of our safeguarding support to partners and their work, but we are committed to supporting them in the best way we can during these unprecedented times.
Global Safeguarding Lead