Family Walking Outside

NSPCC response to COVID-19: Still here for children

Published: 11/05/2020

Author: Pat Branigan and Dawn Hodson

Across the country, children and families are struggling to adapt to lockdown. Many of the children we work with are feeling isolated, experiencing increased anxiety, emotional difficulties and poor mental health and as the UK enters its seventh week in lockdown, sadly, home isn’t a safe place for every child.

Across the whole of the NSPCC we have, and continue to, change and adapt to one of the greatest challenges we have faced in decades – to ensure that we are still here for children.

National Services

Our National Services (Childline and Helpline) are continuing to provide services to support children and young people, members of the public and professionals, and to respond to safeguarding concerns. Everyone is working extremely hard to keep the Childline service up and running.  All bases have remained open with staff and volunteers available directly via chat and voice calls. Our current priorities are keeping our live channels open and available to the large amount of young people calling in and supporting our existing pool of staff and volunteers through the changes they’re facing, including changes in shift rotas and remote working.

The NSPCC helpline continues to be there for adults who have a concern about a child or young person. This is critical now more than ever with most children not in school and therefore less visible outside of the home. We’re calling on all adults to be alert and report concerns. If you need advice or information, please call the NSPCC helpline on 0808 800 5000 or email help@nspcc.org.uk.

NSPCC Children’s Services

In less than two weeks we’ve transformed how we operate in Children’s Services to make sure we’re still here for the families and children who need us. We’ve moved from an operating model that focuses on face-to-face work in our service centres, to a virtual model with all our staff moving to home working and contact with children and families through technology alone. Much of this technology had not been used previously in the delivery of our services. All our child sexual abuse services now have adaptations to allow support sessions to continue where safe, appropriate and needed. As well as continuing to support the families and children we were already in touch with, our frontline staff are working together with partners to support new families and children whose vulnerability is heightened at this time.

One example of this is our Pregnancy in Mind service, which supports expectant mums at risk of mild to moderate anxiety and depression. Our practitioners have been providing resource packs for mums, running remote group sessions via video call and providing individual support over the phone.

Due to heightened anxiety and stress in the context of the pandemic it’s important to ensure that we focus on parent and child emotional health and wellbeing. Whichever service from our portfolio families are accessing, a cornerstone has been to support parents and carers to understand, express and contain their emotions so that they can support their child through the current crisis in the most emotionally healthy way.

Scale-up

We have been supporting local authority areas who are using our neglect assessment tool, Graded Care Profile 2 (GCP2), to think about the best way to record family interactions in a structured way with our GCP2 ‘From Observation to Conversation’ guidance. For those sites who are wanting to continue training we are also adapting our face-to-face training into a virtual offer.

With teams outside the NSPCC that we’ve trained to deliver Baby Steps, our perinatal education programme that helps parents transition to parenthood, we’ve been busy  working together to create video content to share with parents in place of group sessions, and Baby Steps practitioners have been keeping in touch with mums and partners over the phone and through video calls.

Risks online

The risks of online harm and exploitation of children who are spending more time than ever unsupervised online, has increased. It is likely that during this lockdown there will be more youth-produced sexual imagery as the young communicate amongst their peers solely online. In the last week alone over 2,500 Keeping Children Safe Online booklets, developed by the NSPCC and O2 in partnership, have been requested and sent out to our service centres to be disseminated through their local contacts, community organisations and food banks.

We have also adapted our In Ctrl preventative online sexual abuse service so that it can be delivered virtually during lockdown – and potentially beyond. The original In Ctrl programme adopted a holistic approach that includes supporting children’s offline relationships and emotional wellbeing. It also involved helping parents gain understanding of the potential risks that exist for children online to help them provide the guidance, support and protection needed. The aim of the work was to help build children’s digital resilience while increasing parental knowledge and confidence to support and protect their children. The original service was developed and feasibility tested as a group-work programme, but due to the circumstances around COVID-19, the programme has been rapidly reviewed and adapted to work on a 1:1 basis and tailored to the needs of the individual child and parent. It launches across the UK from our sexual abuse service centres this week.

Please share our free 02 and NSPCC parent and child online safety resources with families you work with.

Over the coming weeks and months we will continue to adapt the way we deliver services to ensure we can still be here for children. Please get in touch if you would like to discuss our work: Pat.Branigan@nspcc.org.uk.

Pat Branigan and Dawn Hodson

Pat Branigan is the Theme Lead Child Sexual Abuse at the NSPCC and Dawn Hodson is the Theme Lead Early Years at the NSPCC.