The Children’s Society and Labour Opposition Leader Sir Keir Starmer MP have predicted a severe service crisis as children return to school accompanied by a multiplicity of difficulties stemming from the pandemic and consequent lockdown.
Teachers are in the front line; expected to detect victims of neglect and abuse and refer them to the appropriate services. Health and social services will be at breaking point but Shadow Justice Secretary David Lammy MP and Shadow Attorney General, Lord Falconer have joined Shadow Children’s Minister, Tulip Siddique, in requiring also that Ministers :
. . . urgently outline the Government plan for handling the increase in family breakdown cases, which could overwhelm the family courts as children begin returning to school.
Policy Manager for The Children’s Society, Iryna Pona, added that the six month school shut-down has concealed many vulnerable children from view with an expected upsurge in problems now expected to place family courts and social care services at breaking point:
It is absolutely vital that these services are given the guidance and resources they need to manage the demand and ensure that vulnerable children are protected from harm.
Irina Pna, Children’s Society
Sir Keir Starmer asked the Secretary of State for Education Gavin Williamson to make a statement to MPs about how he proposed to make up for the damage already done…and mitigate the ongoing risk from the pandemic.
Gavin Williamson thanked teachers for their work but gave no policy announcements.
Helen Clark, Campaign Manager for the Child Mental Health Charter Campaign said:
It makes no sense that teachers should be opening school doors for the first time in six months equipped with barely a wing and a prayer to help them deal with the multiplicity of problems that their pupils will bring with them.
Quite apart from the time that will necessarily be taken in referring children to other services, how can teachers be expected to provide an accurate diagnosis of the difficulties each child is experiencing? They were trained as teachers, not expert mental health professionals! Wrong diagnoses and inaccurate referrals will compound the chaos and we will soon be faced with a situation that is unsafe for all concerned.
The Secretary of State for Education must now tell us how he proposes to deal with this crisis.
What is the plan?
What resources will be provided?
What help will be provided for parent and carers?
What in short is the Government’s strategy?’
Helen Clark, Campaign Manager, The Child Mental Health Charter Campaign