As the country re-opens and some form of normalcy returns, Barnardos says that for many children normal is a fairytale; it is something that did not exist before Covid-19, and now looks further from reach as the impacts of the pandemic on vulnerable children and their families start to emerge.
Barnardos’ emergency response to the Covid-19 crisis has seen an increase in families seeking vital support in the form of 8,726 hot meals, 5,407 activity packs and 5,417 food parcels. These families mostly had a previous relationship with Barnardos and knew they could reach out for help at this time.
However, there is concern at the drop of new families and children being referred to Barnardos as the usual supports for those in need were not available during the lockdown period. It is the decrease in numbers of new families and children referred to Barnardos for support, from schools or other community based organisations and pathways, which is extremely worrying.
According to Barnardos CEO, Suzanne Connolly, “While our dedicated staff around the country have maintained links with the children and families they had been working with, we are very conscious that other vulnerable children will have been exposed to situations behind closed doors that we are not yet aware of. Without intervention and the required supports, these situations can have a long term negative impact on children.
“It has been a challenging time for many, especially vulnerable and at risk children who were not already known to us. Their usual support networks that surrounded such as teachers or other trusted adults disappeared overnight. They have had no one to reach out to and ask for help.
“As we re-open our services this week we are excited to welcome back families and children, but there’s no denying that we are also anxious and concerned for what lies ahead. It is only in the coming months that the true impact of Covid19 on vulnerable children and disadvantaged families will start to emerge.”
A recent UN report highlighted children and young people as part of a group that would be particularly impacted by mounting mental health pressures. Reports from project workers throughout Barnardos services would also suggest this. Incidence of child to parent violence have increased and are believed to be the result of the emotional impact of enforced restriction. Acrimonious separation issues have also been exacerbated with children exposed to traumatic scenes in the home and left living in pressurised, tense environments.
According to Ms. Connolly another area for concern is the increase in domestic violence during this period.
“The virus has been a helpful tool for the perpetrators of domestic violence who have been given an opportunity to exert further control over their families.
“Our concern is that these children will be forgotten about. The need for Barnardos services is critical now more than ever.”
The general public can help Barnardos make normal a reality for more children by donating at www.barnardos.ie