Council working to support vulnerable children through pandemic

Assurance has been given that vulnerable children in the county are being supported through the coronavirus pandemic, after it emerged thousands of Shropshire children could be locked down with parents suffering drug and alcohol addiction and domestic violence.

Shropshire Council said its staff were in regular contact with those concerned
Shropshire Council said its staff were in regular contact with those concerned

Data compiled by the Children’s Commissioner for England has identified a range of vulnerability factors affecting children and their prevalence in each local authority area.

They range from exposure to parents’ substance dependency and domestic abuse to overcrowding and inadequate internet access. Factors like poverty, homelessness and parents suffering from severe mental health issues are also ranked.

Due to public health measures in force as a result of Covid-19, the commissioner said children already experiencing these difficulties faced being cut off from their usual support networks of schools, children’s centres, friends and family, health visitors and social workers.

The most vulnerable youngsters are still able to attend school under government guidance, but many families have chosen to keep their children at home regardless.

The child vulnerability profile for Shropshire estimates there are 3,290 children in households where a parent is suffering domestic abuse and 6,300 living with a parent with a “severe” mental health issue. Among all English local authorities, Shropshire is ranked in the third and fifth centile respectively on the two factors, meaning the numbers are relatively low when compared to other areas.

With 2,230 children estimated to be living with a parent suffering from drug or alcohol dependency, Shropshire is ranked in the 38th centile nationwide on the issue.

The problem is particularly prevalent for children under four years old, with almost one in 20 pre-school aged children thought to be living in these circumstances, putting Shropshire in the 70th centile.

A Shropshire Council spokesman said: “Shropshire Children’s Social Care have continued to support our most vulnerable children and all of our front line services remain in regular contact with these children, either face to face or virtually.”

The child vulnerability factor in which Shropshire ranked worst was the number of households with adequate internet access.

The figures reveal there are 578 children in households with no home broadband above 2mbps is available at the premises, putting Shropshire in the 98th centile.

In total there are 3,736 children in households with no internet above 10mbps – neither home broadband nor mobile data. This puts Shropshire in the 99th centile for poor internet access, meaning it is one of the worst areas in the country.

The council spokesman said: “In Shropshire nearly 94 per cent of premises can access superfast broadband and the council has current contracted plans to build better broadband into more gap areas.

“Shropshire remains well served with superfast broadband when compared with many other rural counties.

“The government is addressing the issue of some of the most vulnerable pupils having access to digital resources in their homes – in particular children in care and those most vulnerable children – through the introduction of a scheme to source and allocate laptops and tablets to local authorities for distribution to these pupils.

“Shropshire’s schools have responded effectively, in exceptional circumstances, in supporting the learning of their pupils not in school through the provision of online learning resources, including making use of the Oak Academy resources, a set of online resources produced by teachers across all education stages, funded by Department for Education.”

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