A crisis of mental health and unprocessed trauma “is only just beginning” for disadvantaged children emerging from the coronavirus lockdown, a charity said.
Many children interviewed by the Childhood Trust were “deeply disturbed, worrying extensively about their family’s health, the closure of schools, a loss of routine, social connection and the future”, its new report reveals.
Most of the 25 children said they were scared about dying from the virus or worried about their family dying, according to the trust, which funds over 200 child poverty charities in London.
Experts fear a “tsunami” of safeguarding referrals once schools return in full, but the report said it may take many years before the impact on children is fully understood and documented.
During the lockdown children in households where domestic, emotional and physical abuse is taking place have been less able to seek refuge and support elsewhere, with schools and youth clubs closed.
There are also concerns that more children are being exposed to their parents’ hazardous drinking after a reported rise in alcohol sales during the initial weeks of lockdown.
And children are also feared to be more vulnerable to online abuse as they are spending more time in front of the screen.
Dr Maria Loades, from the University of Bath, was quoted in the report as saying: “Current social distancing measures enforced on children because of Covid-19 are likely to increase the risk of depression and probably anxiety, as well as possible post-traumatic stress.”
Chief executive Laurence Guinness said: “The Childhood Trust is extremely concerned about the ways in which this crisis is adversely and disproportionately affecting disadvantaged children and young people living in London.
“We have engaged directly with children and families living in poverty who have been severely affected by this crisis and are deeply worried that if we don’t get immediate aid to children in need, the long term effects will be catastrophic for their mental health, education and future prospects.
“Disadvantaged and vulnerable children have been abandoned by the Government and whilst the lockdown might be easing, for many children living in poverty a very real crisis of mental health and unprocessed trauma is only just beginning.”
Olivia, 10, told the charity: “My friends call to check up on me, but sometimes I scream into the phone because I’m so stressed.”
Another girl, 12-year-old Melody, said: “I’m scared my mum will go to work and not come home”.
The Childhood Trust has launched the Champions for Children campaign to raise £3 million for 96 charities that support over 170,000 children and young people in London.