A recent study by Ofsted found that of 300 “serious notifications” of abuse reported to local authorities, 40% related to harm to babies. Ofsted have recently reported that 64 babies were intentionally injured in England during the first lockdown. Eight babies tragically died from their injuries.
Amanda Spielman, Chief Inspector at Ofsted has attributed this concerning information to a “toxic mix” of mental health issues, isolation and poverty between March and October 2020.
Whilst the health and wellbeing of vulnerable children can be monitored at school during the present lockdown, harm caused to babies is much less visible as they remain at home with parents. As infants are unable to understand or communicate that they have suffered abuse, they largely rely on social workers and other professionals attending at their homes and witnessing their injuries.
During the first lockdown, scheduled home visits were often conducted remotely or not at all.
The Guardian conducted a study of the impact of the Coronavirus on child protection since the first lockdown. It has found that “health visiting, early help and therapeutic services that normally support young children and parents have retreated from homes and either gone online or stopped altogether.”
Ms Spielman noted that abuse of infants is a “hidden danger” for this reason.
The latest Government Guidance to Social Workers was published in 5 November 2020. It states that “Visits should be face-to-face where possible and should be sufficient to meet the intended purpose of the visit whether that is safeguarding or promotion of the child’s welfare. Social workers should consider the different needs of babies and young children, as well as disabled children, who may not have verbal communication abilities.”
The NSPCC has written an open letter to Matt Hancock highlighting that it is vital that other professionals such as health visitors regularly visit babies during lockdown. Judith Blake, Chairwoman of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board, has stated that, “It is absolutely critical that professionals are able to keep engaging with families throughout any restrictions, whether local or national…and that health visitors and other community health practitioners are not diverted to acute care.”
If you have been or are affected by the impact of COVID-19 or someone you know has been a victim of abuse at the hands of a person in a position of trust such as a care worker, foster carer or indeed any other person and you would like confidential advice on making a claim, our team at Farleys are specialised, experienced and dedicated in discussing matters relating to this area of law. It can often be extremely difficult to make that first call but our sensitive and highly confidential approach can help you to try and make sense of your options. Contact our Abuse Team on 0330 134 6430 or alternatively send us an email.