Just one in 10 vulnerable children attended school during lockdown, Peers hear

Only one in 10 children defined as vulnerable attended school or early years education during coronavirus lockdown, according to a new Parliamentary report.

The House of Lords Public Services Committee said that Covid-19 restrictions hit children, disabled people and the BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) community the hardest.

The report found that hundreds of thousands of “invisible” children are falling through gaps between social and education services across England.

Peers found that disadvantaged and vulnerable children “face more risk of abuse and dropping further behind due to Covid-19 school closures”.

Fewer home visits by social workers due to Covid made the situation worse, the study noted.

The committee heard that “just one in ten vulnerable children went to school during lockdown.”

And that there was “not enough support for prevention and early intervention services”.

The report also insisted that the “fight against health inequality” should be Government priority and that good work “will be lost” without fundamental reform.

The committee said “fundamental weaknesses” need to be addressed to make services resilient enough to withstand future crises.

Baroness Armstrong of Hill Top, chairwoman of the Public Services Committee, said: “Government, local authorities and other public service providers are not working together effectively to protect vulnerable children.

“Before Covid-19 many vulnerable children couldn’t get the public services they needed. With most unable to attend school because of the lockdown they had little support and many more have become invisible after losing contact with public services during the pandemic.”

The study called for the Troubled Families Programme and community services, like children’s centres and family hubs, to be extended and expanded.

The committee also said schools should work more with mental health professionals, police liaison officers and youth workers to meet vulnerable children’s needs.

The committee called on ministers to draw-up an action plan for vulnerable children to ensure they do not suffer adverse long-term effects from the Covid crisis situation.

Peers also want the Government to recognise “the vital role of preventative public services in reducing deep and ongoing inequalities exacerbated by Covid-19”.

And “introduce a race equality strategy that would apply across public services to address health, care and educational inequalities”.

The committee also heard that “many deaths from Covid-19 could have been avoided if preventative public health services had been better funded”.

The committee noted: “Death rates were highest in the most deprived communities where avoidable health conditions made people more vulnerable.

“Poor health is particularly prevalent among black and ethnic minority people living in poverty – almost one third of all hospital patients critically ill with Covid-19 were from BAME backgrounds despite making up just 13% of the UK population”.

Baroness Armstrong said: “There should be no return to the pre-Covid-19 status quo.

“The fight against health inequality should be a priority for the Government. Black, Asian and minority ethnic people suffered disproportionately due to health inequalities and unequal access to services.

“The Government’s own pandemic planning identified that social care would need significant support during the outbreak of a disease like Covid-19, yet social care was the poor relation to the NHS when it came to funding during lockdown.

“Discharging people from hospital into care settings without testing and with inadequate PPE led to the tragic loss of thousands of older and disabled people.”

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