The Observer (7 June) relayed reports from charities that “trafficked and unaccompanied children are going missing in ‘significant’ numbers from the UK’s care system” during lockdown.
It says that it is “too early” to estimate figures, but that the government’s move under the Coronavirus Act (via Statutory Instrument 445, 23 April) to remove or weaken councils’ legal obligations on vulnerable children is probably a factor.
A report from the IPPR think-tank (4 June) reckons that by the end of 2020, 300,000 more children will be living in poverty because of the effects of the lockdown and job losses (though 100,000 will have been pulled above the poverty line by the increases in Universal Credit).
Department for Education figures on 21 April showed that just one in 20 of the “vulnerable” children entitled to attend schools after they were closed to most students on 23 March was turning up. School staff who have phoned round say many parents are too scared of the virus to allow their children to attend.
By comparison, in Australia, where the government had similar rules to Britain, many more “vulnerable” children attended during school closure. In Australia the general death rate was lower and confidence about government plans was higher.
The government has allocated £12 million to projects to help vulnerable children. More solid funding for services and benefits is needed, and serious discussions with school workers about the best ways to get more “vulnerable” children into school.