NSPCC have launched a new campaign to help children in Renfrewshire exposed to harm under lockdown.

With growing concern for the safety of some children during the coronavirus crisis NSPCC Scotland wants more people to know how to get advice and support and where to raise concerns about a child’s wellbeing.

The charity is launching a new TV and advertising campaign across the UK to promote its free and confidential helpline for adults.

The film, which will run on national television and across social media, depicts a helpline expert taking a call from someone concerned for the wellbeing of a neighbour’s child.

The UK Government has provided £1.6m in funding so that the NSPCC can expand its helpline by employing more staff across two sites and raise public awareness of it.

The work comes as the charity publishes the latest data from its helpline which shows that the crisis has exacerbated existing risks for children and created new ones.

  • In the month since lockdown there have been a total of 5,237 contacts to the helpline from across the UK from adults concerned about the wellbeing and safety of a child
  • Of these, 817 contacts were from adults with worries about parents and carers misusing alcohol and other substances, a 22% increase on the four weeks prior to March 23rd
  • Other issues where there has been a double-digit percentage increase in contacts include domestic abuse (10%) and emotional abuse (50%)
  • From April 13th to 19th the NSPCC helpline received 1580 contacts, the highest number in a single week in 2020.

One adult who contacted the helpline in the last month said:

“I am concerned about the children who live next door. Just now I heard the mother screaming and shouting at the child and I heard her say “Shut the **** up!” and there were threats of violence too. There is an ongoing situation where the mother invites adults to the family home and there is a lingering of cannabis in the air whilst the children are present.”

While schools and social workers remain at the forefront of work to protect vulnerable children, including by supporting them to attend school, expanding the NSPCC helpline and raising its profile will mean more adults will know they can contact our experts with concerns about the safety and wellbeing of any children.

The trained helpline staff can offer advice and make informed decisions about whether further support is potentially needed for a child and their family.

Matt Forde, NSPCC Scotland head of service, said: “One of the big challenges caused by the coronavirus pandemic is ensuring that children are safe, now that so much of their everyday lives are hidden from public view.

“It is more important than ever that all of us in society play our part in looking out for those children for whom home is not always the safest place.

“Thanks to this new funding, the NSPCC will be able to reach more adults across Scotland with the message that our helpline is here to provide confidential support and advice if they have any worries about the safety and wellbeing of a child.”

Iona Colvin, Scotland’s Chief Social Work Adviser, said: “Our communities are playing a tremendous role during the COVID-19 pandemic by supporting neighbours and paying special attention to individuals and families who are more vulnerable.

“The changes to the ways that families are living at this time may put some children at greater risk and also reduce opportunities for children to speak out for themselves.

“Whether you are a family member, friend or neighbour, please be alert to any signs that children might be at risk. If you have any concerns call the police or local social work department or you can talk it through with the NSPCC.”

Alan Small, Chair of Child Protection Committees Scotland, said: “With the closure of schools and nurseries, the onus of care has now shifted on to neighbours, delivery people, volunteers and the wider community.

“We’re urging everyone to keep their eyes and ears open for anything amiss. This is even more important at a time when families may be under significant additional stress. If you’re at all worried about a child’s welfare, it’s much better to say something than do nothing.”

Some common signs that there may be something concerning happening in a child’s life include:

  • aggressive or repeated shouting
  • hearing hitting or things being broken
  • children crying for long periods of time
  • very young children left alone or are outdoors by themselves
  • children looking dirty or not changing their clothes
  • children being withdrawn or anxious.

Last year the NSPCC helpline, which has around 100 staff, received 73,000 contacts from people with concerns about a child’s welfare.

It can be reached 24 hours a day by email – help@nspcc.org.uk – or through its online reporting form. Its team of experts can also be called Monday to Friday 8am-10pm or 9am-6pm at the weekends on 0808 8005000.

By Ricky Kelly

Main writer for Renfrewshire News