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According to Ofsted, there has been a 20% rise of non-accidental- injuries and deaths to babies during the first Covid 19 lockdown
During the first lockdown due to Covid-19 in March 2020, there was an alarming rise of 20% of accidental injuries in children under 12 months old. According to Ofsted, these children were either seriously injured or killed by a parent/carer.
In England, sixty four babies were deliberately harmed and of these, eight infants died. The Chief Inspector of Ofsted, Amanda Spielman spoke at the online National Children and Adult Services (NCAS) Conference on the 8th November 2020, stating that it is a ‘toxic mix’ of isolation, poverty and mental health caused the March to October spike in cases.
Professionals such as social workers and health visitors were unable to visit homes during the first lockdown. Monitoring of valuable families took place remotely, using the telephone or video links, which made it difficult to capture the full extent of the concerns.
Children’s charities and teachers raised fears that children were at risk within the home when schools closed in March 2020. This is partly the reason why parents of vulnerable children were being asked by social services to send their children to school in order to safeguard and monitor them.
Ms Spielman advised the conference, ‘of course, babies can’t tell an adult if there’s a problem, and the abuse is only uncovered when there’s a critical injury or it’s too late. We must all be alive to the hidden danger’.
Ofsted has also seen a high number of unexplained infant deaths. Some of these deaths were preventable, such as babies being laid to sleep unsafely. This included, sharing a bed or sofa with a parent who may have been drinking or misusing drugs.
Ms Spielman acknowledged that professionals who understood the risk factors have ‘acted decisively to give parents the support they needed, but she also urged professionals to be alert as England heads into another lockdown. Everyone must play their part, this includes; midwives, health visitors, GPs and other health workers who have good relationships with families and can build trust with them’.
According to Ms Spielman, the restrictions have made face-to-face visits for professionals difficult, so while these children are out of sight; they should never be out of minds.
A spokesperson for the government stated that it has invested £4.3bn in local councils to enable them to meet the additional demands in these unprecedented times.
Councillor Judith Blake and Chairwoman of the Local Government Association's Children and Young People Board, said
‘the pandemic had led to an increasing number of families facing exceptionally difficult circumstances. Councils have worked tirelessly to try and keep children and their families safe and well, through online and virtual contact and resources, as well as high priority home visits. It is critical that professionals are able to keep engaging with families throughout any restrictions, whether local or national.
As we experience a second wave of the virus and learn lessons from the first, it is vital that health visitors and other community health practitioners are not diverted to acute care.’
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Ms Spielman went on to explain that Ofsted suspended routine inspections in March 2020. From April 700 Ofsted staff and inspectors were deployed to other organisations. This included the Department for Education, Department of Health and Social Care, as well as may other organisations. The work covered included child protection and staffing food banks. Some employees also volunteered as foster carers. This gave them an insight into the hard work carried out by frontline workers, as well as their dedication to the profession.
Ofsted have resumed their visit to schools and colleges to observe what is happening for children and to give an assurance to parents, commissioners and the government. In terms of the inspection process, this is not taking place, rather evidence is being gathered by the officers to give schools, colleges, early years and social care providers an overview of what happened during the pandemic.
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