Dame Esther Rantzen: Schools must help counter domestic abuse in third lockdown

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Dame Esther Rantzen: Schools must help counter domestic abuse in third lockdown

Childline founder says national restrictions are 'different but not better' for young people effected by abusive homes, as she urged authorities to look out for vulnerable children

Dame Esther Rantzen (Screenshot from Youtube)
Dame Esther Rantzen (Screenshot from Youtube)

Childline founder Dame Esther Rantzen has said a third national lockdown is “different, but not better” for young people affected by domestic abuse as she called on schools to include them as vulnerable children.

The broadcaster, 80, said: “This is a game nobody can win. As the cases of Covid and deaths from Covid multiply exponentially, the national lockdown became inevitable. But of course, there are terrible consequences when you live in an unsafe home and can’t escape from it.”

According to the NSPCC, calls between April and November about child emotional abuse, neglect and physical abuse were 43 percent higher than before the first lockdown. Between April and August, the charity also received 4,500 calls about domestic abuse, a rise of nearly 50 percent.

Rantzen is advocating for schools to be notified when police are called in cases of domestic violence and for those children to be treated as a vulnerable group when schools are closed, so they can access support outside the home. “We want to be sure police still contact schools and schools make provisions so children in these situations do have the safe haven of going to school during the day.”

When asked if lockdown third time around is different for the charity, Rantzen said: “Yes, they are different, but they are not better. Childline, like a lot of other charities, has lost a lot of its volunteers, many of whom are over 65 and are in self-isolation. We have only around half our cohort of volunteers.” 

She is concerned that charities are struggling across the board, “because funding has been hit badly.” Despite the difficulties, both Childline and Silver Line, a helpline for older people also founded by Rantzen, have “proved their worth” during the pandemic, as they provide support remotely on the phone and online.

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