Residents are being reminded of the need to stay vigilant to the signs of child abuse and the neglect of children in Stoke-on-Trent during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The plea comes as national support organisation the NSPCC and regional agency the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Safeguarding Children Board have cautioned that the coronavirus restrictions may lead to children being put at a greater risk of neglect and abuse.
During April, referrals to the council’s children’s services have so far fallen by around 35 per cent, compared to the average monthly referrals for January – March 2020. The expected number of referrals for the whole of April is around 315, compared to a monthly average of 483 in January, February and March. The NSPCC website states that: “We know isolation can put children at greater risk of domestic abuse, neglect, physical abuse, emotional abuse and sexual abuse.”
Council leader Abi Brown said: “The coronavirus has reduced the amount of contact that children have on a daily basis. Whereas children are normally seen by a number of different adults every day, like teachers, neighbours and family friends, through the pandemic this isn’t happening. This can create the perfect storm for offenders to abuse children. If a child is experiencing abuse, there aren't as many opportunities for adults to spot the signs and help.”
The council’s social services teams are continuing to deliver essential support to families and children at risk in a number of ways. Efforts are also being made to keep school places open for vulnerable children and agencies are working closely together to support vulnerable children.
Council Brown said: “It’s everyone’s responsibility to keep children safe and report concerns. Isolation can put some children at a greater risk of domestic abuse, neglect, physical abuse, emotional abuse and sexual abuse.
“While families are self-isolating at home, they may also need extra support with parenting. The impact of the coronavirus lockdown has increased online risks and while social media and gaming sites are proving to be a lifeline for parents and their children as they adapt to being at home, they may also bring heightened risks.
“It is more important than ever for parents to have regular conversations with their children about what they’re doing online and to reassure them they can come to you with any worries.”
Support is available from a number of areas:
- If you spot any signs of neglect or any have any concerns, please contact the city council. Call the Stoke-on-Trent safeguarding referral team on 01782 235100, Monday-Thursday, 8.30am-5pm, Friday 8.30am-4.30pm. For out of hours support, contact the emergency duty team on 01782 234234.
- The Lucy Faithfull Foundation runs a confidential helpline called ‘Stop It Now!’ on 0808 1000 900, for anyone who is concerned about their own behaviour or the behaviour of others. This can be accessed by any member of the public or by professionals who need advice. There is also a secure messaging service and information and advice on their website.
- The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Command Centre (CEOP) has launched a campaign, #OnlineSafetyAtHome, to help prevent all forms of online exploitation. CEOP has produced a number of resources for all age groups and for those concerned about sexting.
- The NSPCC has a number of resources to keep children safe. They have also produced resources for parents about online safety.
- Anyone who thinks a child may be in immediate danger should call 999 immediately.
Meanwhile, the authority is reminding residents that Carmountside Cemetery and Crematorium is open seven days a week for families to visit the graves of loved ones. It is open 8am-5pm Monday to Sunday and on public holidays, for funerals and burials and for loved ones to put flowers on graves. All of the authority’s eight district cemeteries have remained open during the coronavirus outbreak, with signage and monitoring of social distancing.
Councillor Brown said: “In the interests of social distancing and in terms of respecting the difficult emotional circumstances surrounding funerals and burials the council is asking people not to run, exercise or walk their dogs in the cemeteries at this time.
“We understand that this is a sensitive time for families and we ask that they do not delay funerals at this time. The opening hours of the crematorium at Carmountside have been extended, from 9am-4pm to 8am-5.30pm, and services at 8am, 8.30am, 9am and 9.30am are available at reduced fees.”
The city council is also reminding residents that a two-week ‘sweep’ of brown bin garden waste collections has started today (Monday). Bin collections have started in Abbey Hulton, parts of Adderley Green, Bentilee, Berry Hill, Bucknall, Eaton Park, and parts of Hanley and Longton. They will continue tomorrow (Tuesday) in parts of Adderley Green, Fenton, Longton, Meir Hay, Sandford Hill and Weston Coyney. Details of the streets collection crews will visit is being updated on the council’s website 36 hours in advance of the collections via: www.stoke.gov.uk.
Residents are asked to check the website and to help their neighbours, to check if they have put their bins out, or help them to do so if they haven’t, so that bins are not missed.
Bins will continue to be collected on bank holiday Friday on 8 May. Crews have found that bins are very full and heavy and in some cases additional bags have been put out – these cannot be collected with garden waste.
A national minute’s silence is set to take place at 11am tomorrow (Tuesday) for International Workers’ Memorial Day to honour key workers who have lost their lives due to the coronavirus. The council will take part in observing the silence and encourages residents to make the same observation in honour of those who have lost their lives through the pandemic.
For more information and advice on coronavirus (Covid-19) please visit Public Health England:
https://publichealthmatters.blog.gov.uk/2020/01/23/wuhan-novel-coronavirus-what-you-need-to-know/ and the NHS: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/.
All residents are reminded about the critical importance of regular handwashing with soap and hot water for 20 seconds. The significance of this action cannot be underestimated.
For more information on digital services, visit www.stoke.gov.uk, download the MyStoke App, or follow the city council’s social media channels.