Government leads national drive to protect victims of child abuse
Coronavirus has changed the way we all live, and many children and young people are seeing people they trust and those who care about them less. This has created additional risks and dangers for some.
Since the start of the pandemic, we have invested millions to support vulnerable young people and our new campaign will help them identify abuse and get the support they need.
At the NSPCC calls to our adults’ helpline and Childline about abuse and neglect significantly increased as many children were left isolated behind closed doors with their abuser.
Abuse and neglect can have an impact which can last into adulthood. As we move into tighter restrictions, we all have a role to play in keeping children safe.
Our frontline teams are still here for children who feel they have nowhere else to turn to for help and adults with concerns. It is essential that all children know how to speak out and that Childline is here to support them no matter what their worry is.
The campaign will help victims understand what may be happening to them and provide advice on how to report concerns to a trusted adult such as a teacher.
This latest communications effort will build on campaigns that ran during the Spring by the National Crime Agency and the Department for Education which were aimed and giving parents and carers advice on how to protect their children from online harms such as grooming.
Alongside signposting young people to additional support, secondary school teachers will also receive lesson plans to guide classroom discussions around different forms of hidden abuse, but also receive extra reassurance on what to do if a pupil discloses abuse to them.
The Home Office developed the campaign with children’s charities, including the NSPCC, Children’s Society, Barnardo’s, Internet Watch Foundation and the Marie Collins Foundation.
"Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said he was "astonished" by the reports adding: "Everybody would be deeply concerned, not least all those families who have lost someone in the pandemic." The prime minister was also strongly criticised by other opposition MPs in the House of Commons.
"Ms Reeves - Labour's shadow Cabinet Office minister - said the prime minister was a man who "would rather the bodies pile high than act on scientific advice - but they are not bodies; they are people, they are loved ones and they are deeply missed."
"She called for an urgent public inquiry into the government's handling of the pandemic adding: "This is all about conduct, character and decency - frankly, our country deserves an awful lot better than this." The SNP's Alison Thewliss said the comments were "not befitting the office of prime minister" describing his words as "despicable, cruel and callous".
"Matt Fowler, co-founder of the group Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, which is calling an inquiry into the pandemic, said the comments had caused outrage among members. He said: "These callous comments will have caused untold hurt to hundreds of thousands of us across the whole of the country.
"This demonstrates exactly why an urgent inquiry is so vital, to understand the decisions, rationale and consideration in protecting our loved ones that the government chose."
This comes amid a bitter row between Downing Street and the prime minister's former senior adviser Dominic Cummings. Last week, Mr Cummings published a blog in which he:
denied leaking text messages sent between Mr Johnson and businessman Sir James Dyson
accused the PM of planning to have donors "secretly pay" for the refurbishment of his flat
denied leaking details of November's second coronavirus lockdown in England
claimed Cabinet Secretary Simon Case had cleared Mr Cummings of being the source of the leak
alleged Mr Johnson had considered trying to block an inquiry into the leak in case it involved a friend of his fiancee Carrie Symonds.
Earlier, Mr Case gave evidence at an MPs' committee and said the inquiry into the second lockdown leak is ongoing; however, he added that "given the time that has now passed, I think it's probable the team will not successfully identify the source or sources".
A Cabinet Office source told the BBC that no-one had yet been exonerated in the investigation. Asked if he would launch an inquiry into the leak of the prime minister's lockdown comments, Mr Case said he would have to discuss that with Mr Johnson.
As further pandemic restrictions take effect in England, the Home Office has joined forces with charities including the NSPCC, Barnardo’s and The Children’s Society to launch a new campaign to protect victims of child abuse.
The month-long campaign, ‘Something’s Not Right’, encourages young people to recognise different forms of abuse, report it and get help..
The campaign will see animated adverts aimed at secondary school pupils aged 13+, running across Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook. Young people will be directed to a dedicated page on the NSPCC service Childline where they can access information and seek support..
The campaign follows evidence suggesting that young people faced a greater risk of sexual abuse, criminal exploitation and domestic abuse due to the impact of coronavirus. The monthly average number of Childline counselling sessions about domestic abuse and abuse increased by 20% and 22% respectively in April to July 2020, compared to pre-lockdown levels.
The Internet Watch Foundation revealed that there were almost 9 million blocked attempts to access child sexual abuse material during the first month of restrictions alone. This trend has continued, with the charity revealing that in September, they received a 45% increase in calls reporting child abuse material online.
Children must feel safe, whether they are at home, in the classroom or spending time online.
This new campaign builds on the steps we have taken throughout the pandemic to support the most vulnerable children, including increasing the capacity of the NSPCC’s helpline and placing more social workers into schools to support teachers spot the signs of abuse and neglect.
Sadly, the first lockdown increased risks for some children, but these dangers were often hidden from the view of professionals like teachers and social workers.
Some children were stuck at home in challenging, sometimes unsafe family situations, while others were criminally or sexually exploited, both outside the home and online.
As we enter lockdown again, it’s vital that children are helped to recognise grooming, abuse and exploitation and empowered to speak out if something happening to them or someone close to them doesn’t feel right.
However, while we want children to feel able to seek help, we understand that this may not always be possible and there is a responsibility on us all to look out for signs of child abuse, neglect and exploitation and report any concerns.
Covid: Boris Johnson's 'bodies pile high' comments prompt criticism
Boris Johnson said he would rather see "bodies pile high" than take the country into a third lockdown, sources familiar with the conversations have told the BBC.
The remarks were said to have been made last autumn, just as England went into a second lockdown. The PM has strongly denied saying the phrase, describing the reports as "total rubbish". Labour's Rachel Reeves urged Mr Johnson to apologise.
She called the comments "stomach-churning". The government is also facing questions over possible donations made to re-decorate the prime minister's flat, and an investigation into leaked information about England's second lockdown.
Mr Johnson's comments - first reported in the Daily Mail - came at the end of October when the government announced there would be a second lockdown in England following a sharp rise in coronavirus cases.
BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg says, at the time, the prime minister was reported to have had big concerns about the implications of another lockdown on the economy and non-Covid related health issues."This does take us back to that moment and back to the very serious claims made by some people who were involved in the decision making - including some ministers - that the hesitancy around the second lockdown did cost lives," she said.
Asked about the comments earlier on Monday, Mr Johnson denied having made them adding that the public wanted the government "to make sure that the lockdowns work, and they have".
The PM's spokesman said the reported comments were false adding: "This is untrue and the PM has denied it… I'm not aware of anyone else making that statement."
The prime minister is also facing questions about the funding of his Downing Street flat refurbishment. Over the weekend, ministers had said the prime minister "personally paid the bill" for the flat but did not answer questions on whether a Tory party donor initially provided the money to him.
Mr Johnson has said he would make any necessary declarations about donations "in due course" and Mr Case - who is the UK's top civil servant - said he would review how the refurbishment was paid for.
Speaking in Wrexham, Mr Johnson said the public were more interested in what the government was doing to move the country "cautiously but irreversibly through the steps of the road map to unlock and to get our country going".
He said the disease was "under control" and that deaths and hospitalisations were low but added "that doesn't mean that we've got it totally licked"."We've got to be realistic about that; unfortunately, there probably will be another wave of the disease."