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Investigating and strengthening child safeguarding and protection responses in light of the covid-19 pandemic

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King's College London is conducting a study: "Protecting children at a distance: investigating and strengthening child safeguarding and protection responses consequent upon covid-19 lockdown/social distancing measures". The study investigates challenges to multi-agency child protection/safeguarding practice posed by the covid-19 lockdown and social distancing measures, and it identifies emerging and innovative good practice solutions. NAHT is part of the Expert Reference Group, representing the education sector, to support and influence this work's design and outputs. 

A report has been published covering the first stage of the study in which 67 interviews were conducted between June and September 2020 with safeguarding leaders in London. These leaders came from safeguarding partnerships, children's social care, health, police, law, education and mental health services. If you would like to read the full report, you can access it here

The study offered detailed findings on the impact of covid-19 on the safeguarding continuum, multi-agency working and professional practice. It identified a number of overarching trends and issues related to safeguarding and protection arising from the response to the covid-19 pandemic. These were as follows: 

  • While members of all disciplines engaged in child safeguarding exhibited extraordinary commitment, resilience, and creativity, lockdown imposition exposed some inadequacies in contingency plans and poor resilience. This was even though no agencies reported significant reductions in overall staff capacity 
  • Participants highlighted an urgent need for the government to recognise the long-term, multifaceted harm to children that is the pandemic's likely legacy. This harm is likely to arise from a number of areas including reduced educational attainment and employment opportunities to increased mental ill-health and delayed disclosure of maltreatment 
  • The pandemic has both exposed and exacerbated inequalities, particularly digital poverty and gendered inequalities. 

 The second stage of the study will comprise a national survey of senior safeguarding practitioners from safeguarding partnerships, children's social care, health, police, law, education and mental health services across England. We will share this survey with members later in January 2021.

First published 11 January 2021