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Spotlight falls on vulnerable people during virus lockdown

Vulnerable groups face even greater risks under the current coronavirus ‘lockdown’, recent claims suggest.

Speaking after a recent meeting of the COVID-19 emergency committee in Manchester, the city’s deputy mayor said the police had already seen incidents related to the continuing restrictions and expected a surge in serious cases.

Lady Beverley Hughes declared:

“I think we are beginning to see a rise in domestic abuse incidents. We anticipated this might happen in the very stressful circumstances for many families.”

One contributory factor was the economic strains many families face as hours are cut and jobs are lost. She explained:

“The potential for tension to arise in the home as a result of what we are asking people to cope with, in order to suppress the virus, is going to increase and therefore we would be right to think this might display itself in an increase in the number of domestic incidents we are called to. We are preparing for that. Some of those most serious incidents will be challenging to deal with, particularly if the victim needs to be moved to a refuge, but the police specialise in these kinds of cases and the local partners, local authorities, they’re working together really closely to prepare for that.”

Lady Hughes’ concerns were echoed by Cumbria Police. DCI Dan St Quintin urged essential workers to watch for signs of trouble.

“In the coming weeks and months we ask for everyone to look out for each other as much as possible. We would also like to extend this plea to those such as postal workers, delivery drivers, food delivery companies and carers who will still be visiting houses, to keep an eye out for any signs of abuse and to report any concerns to us.”

His call was endorsed by the National Centre for Domestic Violence. Chief Executive Mark Groves said:

“While the whole country grapples with the consequences of Covid-19, there are huge dangers lurking for victims of domestic abuse and violence. We fully support Cumbria police’s plea to key workers to help the police investigate suspicions or concerns surrounding victims or perpetrators.”

Meanwhile, the Children’s Commissioner for England and Wales has highlighted the pressures imposed by the lockdown on vulnerable children living in unstable homes, who had been at risk of being taken into care before the pandemic. In a recent statement Anne Longfield claimed there may be as many as 2.3 million such youngsters.

“These children are in families that are already unstable, and this crisis is going to put them under even more pressure. For these children, school tends to provide one, and often two, hot meals a day; it provides structure and support from peers and teachers, and gives professionals direct line of sight to children, with a well-established escalation procedure. All this is lost if a child isn’t in school.”

Longfield warned that close to a million children who have needed intervention by a social worker over the last three years are now “…becoming invisible to professionals, just as their families come under unprecedented strain.”

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