The ISPCC has urged any individual with concerns in relation to the safety or welfare of a child or young person to report these to Child and Family Agency Tusla or An Garda Síochána, as a report of the Child Care Law Reporting Project highlighted how Covid-19 restrictions were having a significant impact on children and young people at risk.
The organisation outlined how it is aware from its own work that children and young people are at a heightened level of risk during periods of restrictions, as they are separated from school, sports clubs, extended family members and other trusted adults who can play a pivotal role in their safeguarding.
A significant reduction in referrals to Child and Family Agency Tusla was recorded when Covid-19 restrictions were introduced in Ireland in 2020.
The ISPCC emphasised to parents, carers, children and young people, that support remains available to them always. The organisation continues to provide virtual therapeutic support services to children, young people and families as well as its Childline Listening Service for children and young people and Support Line service for parents and carers.
ISPCC Childline Director of Services Caroline O’Sullivan said: “The vital work of the Child Care Law Reporting Project, as published today, indicates the extent of the impact that restrictions associated with the Covid-19 pandemic – including the closure of schools – is having on children and young people across Ireland. It holds a mirror up to aspects of Irish society and the lives of children and young people who are enduring things which no child should ever have to – including abuse, neglect and abandonment.
“We know through our work directly with children and young people that they are at a heightened level of risk at this time. A significant drop in child welfare referrals to Tusla was noted as soon as Covid-19 restrictions were introduced in Ireland. Children and young people are cut off from school, extended family members, activities which bring them joy and other supports. Many may be encountering Adverse Childhood Experiences, perhaps for the first time – and these can leave an impact which endures for life. In this context, the early detection of risk is essential.
“In the case of one young girl who turned to Childline for support in the weeks leading up to Christmas, she told our service how she was living in care but felt as though nobody cared. A continued sense of disillusionment left her feeling as though she wanted to end her young life.
“Now, more acutely than ever before, it is imperative on us all to acknowledge that child protection is everyone’s responsibility. If any individual has concerns in relation to the safety or welfare of a child, they must make these known to Tusla or to Gardaí.
“It must be acknowledged also, that being cut off from school exacerbates the vulnerability and disadvantage of many children and young people. They tell us how they feel isolated, frustrated and fearful. It is difficult to share a sense of hope without any information on when they will be able to see their teachers and friends again. A clearly-communicated roadmap for the safe re-opening of schools, in line with public health guidance, would be most welcome and helpful to this end.
“Childline is always here for any child or young person who would like support, in relation to any issue which may be on their mind. The service can be reached at any time by calling 1800 66 66 66, online at Childline.ie, or by sending a text to 50101.
“It is important that parents and carers know that support is available to them also. The ISPCC’s Support Line Service is available 9am – 1pm Monday – Friday mornings by calling 01 522 4300 or by sending an email to [email protected]”