The NSPCC’s CAROLINE WATTS explains how to spot signs of abuse during lockdown...

LOCKDOWN has created new stresses for all of us but for some households, issues have been exacerbated. Already strained family relationships and financial pressures have been taken to breaking point, with our children and young people potentially suffering as a consequence.

For some children, home is not always a safe place. And the pandemic means the risk they face has been heightened.

A myriad of problems, ranging from the daily terror of domestic abuse, to neglect or parents with a drug or alcohol dependency – all having even more impact during the lockdown.

With so much of everyday life now being conducted behind closed doors, how can we identify the children who need our help when the usual support networks, like school for example, are closed off to them?

29-year-old Jess was emotionally abused by her father who beat her mother throughout her childhood.

Her father subjected the family to years of domestic abuse before a final attack which prompted Jess’ mum to relocate the family to a refuge.

He was later jailed for an attack on his new partner after Jess and her mother gave evidence against him in court. Jess is now backing our campaign to raise awareness of the NSPCC Helpline as a resource for those who want to share their concerns for a child’s safety.

She said: “Our lives could have been completely changed. If there had been an intervention earlier on, then we perhaps would have been able to escape sooner.

“He may not have gone on to carry out the same abuse on his next partner and her son.”

Since the lockdown, our helpline has seen an increase in concerns about domestic abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse and substance misuse.

This could range from parents using drugs around children to a child being hit or left without food to children being routinely ridiculed and humiliated, or threatened with violence.

Underreporting is a worry for sure, especially in light of a recent NSPCC survey which found that in the North of England 26 per cent of respondents felt they wouldn’t know what to do if they had a concern about a child.

The same survey revealed that more adults are worried about the impact of the lockdown on children suffering domestic abuse than any other type of harm, with 75 per cent reporting they were ‘fairly’ or ‘very’ concerned, compared to 73 per cent for physical abuse and 71 per cent for neglect.

So, whilst it is positive that we are all beginning to be aware of the heightened risks posed by lockdown it is a very great concern that many of us wouldn’t know what to do if we thought a child or young person was being abused or neglected.

It is crucial that all of us recognise we have a role to play in looking out for those young people, to speak up if we have concerns about a child, to be the eyes and ears for children who may be experiencing abuse or neglect but can’t speak up for themselves.

But what does that actually mean?

Spotting the signs of abuse or neglect may be more difficult in the present climate, but indicators can include:

  • aggressive or repeated shouting
  • hearing hitting or things being broken
  • children crying for long periods of time
  • very young children left alone or are outdoors by themselves
  • children looking dirty or not changing their clothes
  • children being withdrawn or anxious.

Once you have spotted the signs it is so very important that you don’t keep your concerns or suspicions to yourself. Please do share them.

It is terrible to think that cases of child abuse and neglect may be going unreported because people don’t know where to go to for help and advice.

So, I would say, even if you are not 100 per cent sure, I would urge any adult who is worried for the safety or wellbeing of a child to contact our helpline.

We can answer any questions and concerns, provide reassurance or importantly take quick action if we feel a child is in danger.

You can remain anonymous and surely the old adage in this case is so true, “it is better to be safe than sorry”.

It is not about “getting anyone into trouble” but could make the world of difference for a child.

The NSPCC Helpline is available for advice and support on 0808 800 5000 or via

If you suspect a child or young person is in immediate danger call the police immediately on 999.