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Keep an eye out for lockdown abuse - charity urges

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With some children back at school, school staff and the wider community are urged to keep a close eye on children’s welfare after the COVID-19 lockdown.

Child Matters CEO Jane Searle says some level four bubbles will not have been a safe place for some children across New Zealand, but this may only become apparent once they go back into their school environments.

“The Lockdown – and ongoing restrictions relating to COVID-19 – have been challenging for us all. But for some families, the situation is exacerbated by pre-existing issues such as drug and alcohol abuse, over-crowding, or factors such as stress about loss of employment.

“In these situations, it doesn’t take much for the melting pot to boil over and tragically, family members – including our children – often bear the brunt of the consequences.

“Due to the lockdown constraints, this harm may not have been obvious to neighbours or wider family, while it could also have been difficult for victims to reach out for help.

“However, the impact could become more visible once the bubble starts widening, and particularly when it includes school. We are urging teachers and the wider school community to keep a watchful eye on their students for signs of concern.”

Jane says there are some obvious signs of physical abuse, but emotional abuse and neglect can be harder to spot. She says teachers and other adults can seek advice from a number of different organisations if they have concerns.

“It could simply be a feeling that something ‘is not quite right’.

“If you have that gut feeling, please let someone know, whether that is your principal or someone like Child Matters. We have a free advisory service for anyone who is concerned about the wellbeing of a child or young person.”

In an ideal world, New Zealand would have mandatory child protection training for those working with children which would ensure that those people would know how to recognise the signs of abuse, how to respond and to have the confidence to do so, says Jane.

“In the meantime, we can help with assessing risk, when to make a report, or providing information about what organisations and services are available. Don’t be scared to call us, we all want the same thing – to make sure children are safe. Please, say something to someone. It could honestly save a life.”

Child Matters is an independent child abuse advocacy and training provider and New Zealand’s only national charitable trust dedicated to the prevention of child abuse.

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