Children’s Commissioner for England
“The arrangements for children in care are of particular concern. I have written to the Departments for Education and for Communities and Local Government asking them to make clear how much of the £5bn funding announced at the Budget for supporting public services in their response to COVID-19 is being allocated to children’s social care.
I have asked the Government for reassurance that councils are preparing for shortages of staff in children’s homes and among foster carers as more people become unwell. Social workers will also become unwell, meaning the hundreds of thousands of children who are not in care but who rely on social workers, family workers and others for help may not get the support they need.
The spotlight has been on older teenage children in care, living in semi-independent accommodation over recent months – those children will be as vulnerable now as they were before, with the added concerns about coronavirus. It is important they are kept informed and supported by local authorities.
The stark reality is that the situation for many of the most vulnerable children could get worse over coming months as the economic impact of the virus kicks in. There will be children whose parents could lose their jobs or income in the coming weeks, some of them already living in families struggling with poverty. It is vital that the benefits system is able to respond quickly to protect their needs.
All of these scenarios demand careful consideration and detailed planning as part of the Government’s response to coronavirus. This is a huge challenge at every level, but the test of our success will be the ability to continue to support our most vulnerable children.
Of course we do also need to think about how we explain what is going on to children. Our first instinct is often to want to shield them, but it rarely works because they will hear things from other children or see the constant news headlines on TV or online.
For most families, being able to talk about what is happening will actually help children who are feeling anxious. BBC Newsround is doing a great job with excellent films which help answer many of the questions children are raising. Be open and honest, stick to the facts and don’t over complicate. Listen to what children have to say and reassure them that they themselves are safe.