A local MLA has said no child should feel unsafe because of lockdown as figures revealed the extent of the issue over the last ten months.
SDLP Assembly Member for Newry and Armagh Justin McNulty expressed his concern at the revelation that almost 200 additional children have been placed in care since March 2020 – the beginning of the pandemic in Northern Ireland.
The figure was revealed to him during an Education Committee meeting.
Mr McNulty explained: “Since the outset of this pandemic last March I have been raising my concerns about vulnerable and looked after children.
“Whilst we recognised the need to close schools by doing so we also took away a safe haven for many children and young people.
“Home schooling is a challenge for every family, but, we are all sadly aware that not every home is a happy home.
“Some children are children at risk and need looked after and that is why I have been raising this issue consistently. My position has been clear, no child should be unsafe as outcome of lockdown.”
Department of Health confirmed the extent of the challenge they face on Friday, stating that an additional 178 children have been brought into care over the last ten months.
“This is truly heart-breaking consequence of the added pressures on families as an outcome of Covid-19,” said Mr McNulty. “It is hugely important issue that must be recognised with appropriately sensitive measures and resources.”
He added: “These children and young people are at their most vulnerable. Their family unit has sadly broken down through no fault of theirs and now they need love, care, understanding and support.
“At times like this we as a society need to step up and wrap our collective arms around these children. We need to provide them with a safe and loving environment and to let them know that society cares and that they matter.
“I was so saddened and heartbroken to hear the true extent of this frightening predicament for children and young people – it is a hidden harm of this pandemic and needs a greater focus.
“Families need help and support to overcome their challenges and if relationships do break down, every resource must be put in place to protect and support and to love and care for the children and young people.”