Silent increase in child abuse could be lurking due to lockdown

updated By D'Angelo Martin

Child Matters CEO Jane Searle is concerned there's a silent increase in child abuse during this lockdown period and is urging school teachers and the wider community to keep a close eye on the welfare of children after the COVID-19 lockdown.

"The stress across the communities caused by the lockdown and by this COVID-19 is really widespread. But for families who are already struggling that stress turns into increase risk." says Searle.

Even prior to lockdown there has always been a demand for welfare services but now that demand has all of sudden decreased, she fears that the underlining issue with this lockdown period is the unknown factor that some Level 4 bubbles will not have been a safe place for some children across New Zealand. 

She says some children often attend school to escape some of the harsh realities they face at home.

"We know that schools have been worried about that because we've had schools and board of trustees and teachers come to our organisation asking for support on how they're going to deal with the issues that they will get when they know that the children who come back to school, knowing the stresses that these families have been under," explains Searle.

Myles Ferris, Principal at Te Kura o Otangarei and president of Te Akatea Māori Principals Association, believes that not being able to see students in person can end up having a negative result, making it difficult for school staff to identify who needs that extra support for their safety.

"Some whānau in some homes across the country some of our students may not be necessarily be looked after in a way that we normally expect and we are concerned particularly with the ones we cannot get in touch with.

"We need to be upfront and honest about these things, part of it is the physical abuse or at times the mental abuse and the psychological abuse that happens and those things can really exist because of the pressure of having to stay in so long," explains Ferris. 

"We can turn around and blame parents all we like but they are just people who have also been through their own trauma and their own challenges. The stress of putting food on the table is not an easy one, the stress of not knowing you have a job or not," he adds.

Searle couldn't agree more.

"When you put that into a family situation that might've been volatile already or might've been struggling already then it wont take much for that to boil over," she says.

Searle says the current statistics don't show a true reflection of what she believes is a growing risk for some children at home.