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Government funding for vulnerable children amid COVID-19

Children in care, young people with mental health problems are care leavers are to benefit from £12m government investment during the Coronavirus outbreak.

The government has announced £12 million of funding to be allocated to 14 projects across the UK to tackle the increased risk some children and young people are facing as they stay at home to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

The funding will help vulnerable children most at risk of neglect, violence or exploitation, pay for individual support for families at risk of domestic abuse and community volunteers to work with families.

Children and Families Minister Vicky Ford said: “I will always put the care and safety of vulnerable children first, especially at this time as they face unique challenges due to COVID-19. For many of these children, social distancing measures may present additional risks, whether from neglect or abuse at home or from strangers online.

“We are working hand in hand with all the professionals supporting these children to prioritise their wellbeing during these unprecedented times. These new projects will prevent children suffering from isolation or exploitation as the country continues to respond to COVID-19,” she added.

The £12 million package includes funding to tackle:

Adolescent exploitation: - Teenagers in North London who experience multiple risks will benefit from the funding which will bring together NHS, social care, police, criminal justice and third sector services under one roof – a “child house” to support children and families affected by child sexual abuse and exploitation

Domestic abuse support: - Domestic abuse through a programme in Newham that works with whole families, to reduce the chances of it from happening in the first place through early intervention, and where a designated social worker will work intensively with families if risks escalate

Children in care: - Various programmes around the country will build lasting support networks for children and families in the care system including foster parents, to prevent social isolation at this time, as well as finding homes for young people leaving care

Mental health support: - Families in Camden will receive a range of services from which families choose the ones they want to rely on, including mediation, mentoring, family therapy and youth support.

Alongside this, the government has also provided extra funding of £3.2 billion for local authorities, to help them meet additional demands including within children’s social care services at this time. The NSPCC’s helpline has received an additional £1.6m to provide advice and support on how to raise concerns about children at risk. The Adoption Fund has been boosted by£8m to help families under pressure as a result of the outbreak. Free school meals remain in place, so that eligible children benefit from this even if they are not in school.

Furthermore, over £33 million has been invested in the Staying Put programme, supporting young people leaving care to continue living with their foster parents past age 18 and preventing the risk of becoming homeless, and a further £9 million to provide personal adviser support for care leavers through to 25, helping them into employment, education and training.

Education secretary Gavin Williamson has asked local authorities to ensure that no one has to leave care during this difficult time.

Education is a strong protective factor for many vulnerable children and young people, which is why the government is also ensuring there is a place in nursery, school or college for them.

Chief Social Worker for Children and Families Isabelle Trowler said: “It’s never been more important for children and their families to receive the support they need. In the true spirit of dedicated public service it is so heartening to see these projects adapting and continuing to deliver services in times of unprecedented challenge.”

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