Vulnerable children at risk if removed from school during coronavirus outbreak – charity head

Vulnerable children will be at risk if they are removed from the safety of school during the coronavirus outbreak, the head of a children’s charity has warned.

Potential policies necessary to protect public health and slow the spread of Covid-19 will have consequences for some families, warned Coram chief executive Carol Homden.

These could include temporary school closures and children self-isolating at home.

She said children’s needs are not being considered as fully as they should be amid the outbreak, and urged the UK’s chief medical officer to directly address children and their concerns.

She told the PA news agency: “Some children won’t be safe if they don’t go to school. There are children living with domestic violence and with family stress, and the kinds of measures that are being discussed, however necessary or important they may be for public health, will have consequences for some families in fragile positions and the children within them.

“For some children, school is an important place of safety as well as an important place of food and care.

“So we all actually need to consider this very carefully and the whole of our community needs to have all our eyes on all our children.”

The current advice from the chief medical officer is that schools do not need to close.

Dr Homden (pictured) also said adults must avoid the “tendency in the modern era to spread panic”, which is likely to increase children’s anxiety and affect their wellbeing.

She said: “It’s the duty of us as adults to ensure that children are not panicked and frightened, and this is not what we are doing.

“This is an illness that appears to affect the young less seriously than the old, so children may actually be worried about their granny or their grandad, but also their schools will be working very hard to ensure that children are able to feel a level of proactive capability to actually keep themselves safe.”

She was speaking ahead of the launch of Coram’s Call for Change, which is urging politicians to prioritise the next generation after three years of focus on Brexit.

The charity is calling for the new Parliament to make children’s interests and welfare a priority following an “extended period in the nation’s political life when their interests and voice have been neglected”.

Changes it is calling for include a Government commitment to fund legal advice for all children, and for a child rights impact assessment to take place before the introduction of legislation.

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