Striving to keep children safe in these hard times

Written by our Chief Executive, Mary Glasgow, this article originally appeared as an agenda piece in The Herald. We need support to maintain our response to children and families at this challenging time - you can help us do more by donating to our Urgent Appeal.

Today, Children 1st’s purpose, as Scotland’s national children’s charity is more urgent than ever before.

History shows that the withdrawal of usual supports during national crises can drive more families to breaking point. History shows that at times like these children are more likely to suffer neglect, violence, abuse and exploitation.

At Children 1st our work to keep children safe has always relied on building strong, trusting relationships with their families. In these scary times, children and families are reaching out to the people they trust for support to keep themselves safe.

Across the country our support workers are hearing from parents and carers made anxious by the financial pressures of being laid off from zero-hours contracts. They’re hearing from kinship carers panicking about who will look after their grandchildren if they become ill; from Mums fleeing domestic abuse who don’t know how they will manage in temporary and cramped accommodation and from parents who are worried about the impact on their children’s mental health of isolation from school and friends and of hearing such frightening and overwhelming news and social media stories.

Children 1st will be there for every scared child and anxious parent. Our colleagues are responding with calm practical help and reassuring emotional support. We’re helping families to sort out their benefits and making sure they’ve got enough food and cards for the meter to see them through. We’re delivering supplies to families’ doorsteps and because they know us, they are opening their doors, so that standing at a safe distance we can find out how things are going and see what else we can do to help.

For families without technology, we’re accessing the iPads and broadband that schools are relying on to keep children and young people connected with their education. We’re making sure that already-disadvantaged children don’t fall even further behind their friends and that children and families can keep in direct contact with us, so they can get the support they need, when they need it.

Through Parentline we’re offering every family in Scotland help to cope with the individual challenges they face and support to protect their children’s wellbeing. We’re giving advice about how to encourage children to talk about their fears and reminding parents that we all feel better when we have someone we can safely share our feelings with.

In the last few weeks we at Children 1st have transformed our normal ways of working, while maintaining the connection, emotional and practical support which is at the core of everything we do to keep children safe. We will continue to do so in the weeks and months ahead.

As families suffer under the impact of longer but necessary restrictions on their health and wellbeing, we will be there, offering what’s needed to keep children safe and families calm. As children are devastated by the increasing trauma of separation, loss, bereavement, family tension, and relationship breakdown, we will help them to repair and recover. As society moves beyond these current weeks and months of crisis, we will continue to be here for children and their families. 

Life is unlikely to go back to how it was for a very long time. You can help children and families cope by supporting our Urgent Appeal.

We must all adjust and we are already hearing from families about what will help them most. We will continue to listen, to adapt and to be here to make sure Scotland’s children are safe, well and happy in strong families.