Opportunities to pick up safeguarding issues lost during lockdown
As the county’s schools return this week, Bedfordshire Police is asking educators to remind themselves of the signs of child abuse and neglect, and to be aware of those children who may be living in a household with a domestic abuser.
Many children will have been away from school since the start of lockdown, with no regular interaction outside of their home with adults they trust, such as a teacher, and many opportunities for safeguarding issues to be picked up will have been lost.
Detective Chief Inspector Marie Gresswell, of the Bedfordshire Police Public Protection Unit, said:
“The lockdown gave abusers more scope to control, isolate and harm, and sadly, we are experiencing a rise in the number of reports we are receiving of offences against children, both recent and non-recent, including sexual and physical abuse, and neglect.
“We know that the new term, and a return to the classroom after many months away, may provide the first chance for a child or young person to confide in someone about what has been happening at home.
“We are urging those working with children to understand if something doesn’t feel right, report it. Even if you’re not sure, as this could potentially save a child’s life.
“Teachers are able to spend a lot of time with a child, often more so than the parents, and are ideally placed to spot when something isn’t right; whether that’s in a child’s behaviour, an injury or other problem, or even to hear of difficulties at home.
“Many of these signs can be true of multiple problems that children and young people face, and all could be the result of many different forms of abuse or neglect at home.
“However, it’s important to treat every child as an individual, and take that into account when considering the possibility of abuse, but never overlook that something might be wrong.”
Signs of physical abuse are usually distinct from everyday injuries
Neglect can often be spotted in a child’s demeanour and appearance, from untreated coughs and skin infections, to poor hygiene and fatigue, or constant hunger. But, it’s important to note that many of these signs can also be due to families struggling with low income.
It’s quite normal for kids to occasionally get hurt in the course of play and exercise. But signs of physical abuse are usually quite distinct from everyday injuries such as scraped elbows, or knees, and often go hand in hand with other behaviours.
Child sexual abuse can result in a range of problems that can become very severe; from age-inappropriate behaviour, medical problems, through to depression and even self-harm.
If you are worried or have any concerns about a child in your care, please raise it through your school’s safeguarding procedure, or you can report through the force’s online reporting tool.
You can also call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
More information about child protection is available on the force’s website information pages.