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Child protection: school nurses report ‘extraordinary’ rise in cases

Jump in numbers following first lockdown ‘reflects pressures on children’
Picture shows a classroom with a female teacher talking to a schoolgirl

Jump in numbers following first lockdown reflects pressures on children

School nurses have reported an extraordinary rise in the number of child protection cases in England since the new term began in September.

School and Public Health Nurses Association chief executive Sharon White told Nursing Standard: It is taking up most of our time, and the complexity is horrendous.

Mental health issues include self-harm, eating disorders and substance abuse

Her comments follow the release of a survey by the County Councils Network showing there was a 15% increase in young people being referred for local authority support in the months of July, August and September, compared with the three COVID-19 lockdown months when services and schools were closed.

Jump in numbers following first lockdown ‘reflects pressures on children’

Picture shows a classroom with a female teacher talking to a schoolgirl
Picture: iStock

School nurses have reported an ‘extraordinary’ rise in the number of child protection cases in England since the new term began in September.

School and Public Health Nurses Association chief executive Sharon White told Nursing Standard: ‘It is taking up most of our time, and the complexity is horrendous.’

Mental health issues include self-harm, eating disorders and substance abuse

Her comments follow the release of a survey by the County Councils Network showing there was a 15% increase in young people being referred for local authority support in the months of July, August and September, compared with the three COVID-19 lockdown months when services and schools were closed.

School and Public Health Nurses Association chief executive Sharon White
Sharon White

The network, which is made up of 36 county authorities covering 86% of England, said this was equivalent to more than 630 young people being referred each day.

The overall increase in these three months compared with the spring lockdown months amounts to an extra 7,518 extra young people needing help.

Commenting on the first term back at school in England, Ms White said: ‘We have had cases of complexity before, but there are now more.’

She said children are exhibiting mental health issues including self-harm, eating disorders and substance abuse as manifestations of the pressures the COVID-19 pandemic has placed on them.

Some schools reluctant to allow school nurse visits

Some schools have been hesitant to accept external visitors, including school nurses, due to infection control worries, and some students refused to see school nurses because they were regarded as COVID-19 carriers, she said, adding: ‘We had not anticipated this.’

To counter this, videos and learning products have been distributed explaining how the virus is transmitted and the infection control precautions taken by nurses.

Ms White said she is pleased that, for now, school nurses have been told they will not be redeployed as they were during the first wave of the pandemic.


Find out more

Over 600 vulnerable young people a day referred to councils after lockdown, with an increase in demand for family support during the pandemic (County Council Network)


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