A generation of children cannot be allowed to be “damned” by Covid for the rest of their lives, the head of the NSPCC has warned.
If children’s trauma is left unaddressed, it can “fester” and stay with them “potentially for a lifetime”, according to Peter Wanless.
On June 28, The Telegraph launched a campaign calling on ministers to put children first as the country recovers from its repeated Covid lockdowns, with action to bring an end to the disruption in schools.
Backing the campaign, Mr Wanless said that children have neither been listened to nor involved in decisions made over the past year, adding that ministers have shown little understanding about the damage their policies have wreaked on youngsters’ lives.
He explained how children can experience trauma from emotional abuse and calls to Childline, the children’s helpline run by the NSPCC, about this have risen dramatically over the past year.
“It is where people have felt isolated, disconnected and unable to work through emotional issues, either things happening to them or their families,” he said.
His remarks come as local council chiefs join headteachers in the fight back against bubbles, with one director of children’s services saying that schools are “bleeding out”.
Meanwhile, former chief examiners have expressed concern that young people’s exam grades will not be taken seriously by employers.
Campaign for Children: Calls to childline
Figures from Childline show that counselling sessions about emotional abuse increased by 18 per cent during the pandemic, from 4,185 in 2019/20 to 4,919 to 2020/21.
But these numbers are likely to only capture a fraction of the true number of children experiencing trauma, since many do not come forward for help.
“Based on what we are hearing through Childline and picking up from our services, there are all sorts of different expressions of anxiety and concern across a variety of issues that young people are sharing with us,” Mr Wanless said.
“It comes from fractured relationships, it comes from experiencing bereavement, it comes from being detached from friends, there are all sorts of triggers.”
He called on the Government to invest more in children’s mental health services and to step up support for young people’s wellbeing in schools.
Mr Wanless told The Telegraph that children need a great deal of support in rebuilding their confidence so they can move forwards with their lives “as opposed to being backward looking and feeling that they are somehow or other damned by being the young people who had to live through this”.
He said that if children are supported to work through their trauma, they will be able to recover and move on, but if this does not happen quickly enough it could undermine their recovery.
“Each day and each week goes by and this is left unaddressed, the risk to children heightens,” he said.
“At Childline, we have been hearing the full range of anxieties and concerns being expressed by children. And we know from our wider work with children and young people that trauma which is left unaddressed festers and remains with young people potentially for a lifetime.”
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Children lockdown mental health callout/form