The NSPCC has warned that many children are facing their “most dangerous Christmas yet” due to the uncertainty over COVID and the cumulative pressures of the pandemic heighten internal family tensions.
The charity said that people should not be put off reporting their concerns following the two recent cases where a toddler and a young child were killed despite social services being repeatedly informed both were in danger.
An NSPCC spokesperson said: “We know that in a normal year, Christmas can be a tense and difficult time for children, but this year there’s an extra toxic cocktail of facts and uncertainties that place many children in a difficult situation.
“It’s going to be a pretty miserable Christmas for many children living in homes where they cannot escape abuse, family tensions and feelings of loneliness.
“The government needs to be responding to the COVID data coming out and ensure that if the situation changes and children aren’t allowed to return to school in January, core agencies like the police, social care and schools come together to put in place robust multi-agency plans to safeguard children. We can’t reach a situation where children are allowed to slip off the radar.
“We would also urge any adult that is concerned about the welfare of a child to call the NSPCC helpline for help and advice, but if the child is in immediate danger please don’t hesitate to call 999.
“Childline will be here throughout the festive season to speak to children via our phone-in service, email counselling service or one to one online chat service.”
Bedford Borough Council was asked what steps it is taking to ensure that people worried about a child can be confident that they will be listened to and that their concerns will be fully investigated.
A Borough Council spokesperson said: “Safeguarding children is the utmost priority for Bedford Borough Council Children’s Services and our partner agencies.
“We always respond effectively and swiftly to any child protection concerns referred to us. Children’s Services have continued and will continue to visit children face to face despite the challenges of the COVID pandemic.
“We have strong professional relationships with schools and partner agencies such as the Police and Health and work in partnership to ensure there is a robust multi-agency response to child protection matters.
“Should anyone have concerns regarding the safety of a child within Bedford Borough they should not hesitate in contacting our Integrated Front Door (IFD) on 01234 718700.
“IFD Office hours are 08:45 – 17:20 Monday to Thursday and 08:45 – 16:20 on a Friday.
“If there is any matter of urgency outside of our IFD office hours please call the Emergency Duty Team (EDT) on 0300 300 8123.”
by John Guinn
Local Democracy Reporter