(The below information has been taken from the childrens commisioner website - https://www.childrenscommissioner.gov.uk/report/teenagers-falling-through-the-gaps/?mc_cid=4612bc5554&mc_eid=d8c3498b9f )
Covid-19 has increased many of the risks facing teenagers. Not just in terms of the epidemiological risk, but also in terms of the additional risks that the lockdown itself has created, such as an increased risk of poor mental health, exposure to domestic violence and addiction in the home, and exposure to exploitation. These risks have been exacerbated by the closures of schools, youth services, summer schemes, parks and leisure activities; reductions in mental health support; and the increased strain on families.
The effects of this will have been particularly acute on the teenagers who were already vulnerable before Covid-19, especially those who were falling through the gaps and being missed by local services. With schools closed to most teenagers for half a year, and face-to-face children’s social care provision being curbed, these teens risk becoming even more ‘invisible’ than before.
This report assesses the number of teenagers in England, and in each local area, who were already vulnerable and falling through gaps in the education and social care systems before Covid-19. The risks focused on here – such as persistent absence from school, exclusions, alternative provision, dropping out of the school system in Year 11, or going missing from care – are important signals of children at higher risk of future educational failure and unemployment, as well as of falling into crime and criminal exploitation.
There is an urgent need for local agencies – councils, schools, youth workers and police – to focus resources on teenagers at risk of becoming ‘invisible’ to services or who have gone missing under lockdown. These teens are easy prey to criminal gangs and abuse, and are at very high risk of becoming not in education, employment, or training (NEET). Ensuring that they are able to recover from the crisis and have a way of getting back into education, training or work is vital.
To address this, the Department for Education, schools, LAs, police forces and safeguarding partnerships need to work together on a plan to identify, track, support and ultimately re-engage these children.
There is also a need to prioritise summer schemes – including sports clubs, play schemes, holiday clubs and youth clubs – which give young people a range of safe, positive, structured activities to take part in, led by trusted adults and role models. To make this happen, the government must work with local areas to remove any barriers to delivering these schemes. It should also advise schools to support these schemes from within their additional £650 million ‘catch up’ funding.
Please click HERE to view the keys findings.