Where to report and get support during lockdown
There’s no getting around it: the past year has been tough for many of us.
The COVID-19 epidemic has brought with it many disruptions, with schools closures and many workers put on furlough. And now as we enter another lockdown, staying in touch with those close to us is harder than before.
Technology has helped us navigate this new reality, but many of the challenges families faced online before the lockdown are still there – and some new ones have been introduced.
Fortunately, help is available to those who need it. What’s more, much of it is accessible online – which is obviously vital as we continue with social distancing.
We’ve pulled together a list of support services, helplines and reporting platforms that might be of use to children, parents and carers.
Online safety and digital wellbeing
The online world has proven to be an absolute lifesaver in these strange times. Children and young people, especially, have been spending more time online than usual, both for education and entertainment purposes.
But as much as they’re benefiting from technology, it’s important to bear in mind that the risks haven’t gone away. These are the places to go if you have concerns about your family’s online safety and digital wellbeing.
- Parent Info: If you’re looking for support or advice on any issue caused or amplified by the internet, Parent Zone and NCA-CEOP’s parent information service Parent Info is packed with helpful articles about the challenges and opportunities children face online.
- VoiceBox: A new international content platform from Parent Zone's sister organisation Youth Zone, VoiceBox encourages young writers, vloggers, podcasters, artists or memesters to share their ideas and experiences. This is particularly important during lockdown, when young people may want a safe space to talk about the new challenges they face.
- Thinkuknow: NCA-CEOP’s online service Thinkuknow has information and advice for children, parents and carers related to online safety and sexual exploitation. The site is structured so that children can access age-appropriate information, find out how to respond to the issue they’re experiencing and, if necessary, contact NCA-CEOP. It also has worksheets parents can use with their children at home.
- Childline: Anyone who’s 19 years or younger can get in touch with Childline to talk about any problem they’re facing – online or otherwise. Normally, the service is 24/7 but due to the COVID-19 outbreak, counsellors are available from 7.30am to 3.30am everyday, either on the phone (0800 1111) or via 1-2-1 online chat.
Adapting to a new lifestyle where we’re confined to our homes has, understandably, taken a mental toll on some. But if you or any member of your family is having a hard time coping right now, bear in mind that there are lots of charities and organisations out there which offer free advice and counselling.
- Mind: The charity Mind offers free support for anyone suffering from mental health-related issues. If you need advice or signposting to an appropriate support service you can get in touch with Mind by phone (0300 123 3393), email (email@example.com) or 1-2-1 chat.
- YoungMinds: YoungMinds is the UK’s leading mental health charity for children and young people. Through its website, young people and their parents can access a wealth of resources to help them respond to mental health challenges and get help. If you’re concerned about your child’s mental wellbeing, they also have a parent hotline you can call on 0808 802 5544, where you'll get advice on how to tackle the issue.
- The Mix: Young people between the ages of 13 and 25 can get free mental health support by calling The Mix’s hotline on 0808 808 4994 or sending an email. They also have a crisis messenger and 1-2-1 webchat. No topic is off the table and whatever issue your child is facing, The Mix will connect them to an expert who can give advice and signpost to other helpful tools and services.
- Beat: The UK’s go-to charity for expert information and advice on eating disorders has online resources for people who have an eating disorder and those who are worried about someone close to them. You can also get direct support with live chat, or by calling one of their helplines every day between 9am and 8pm during the week, and 4pm to 8pm on weekends. They also offer an online safe space called The Sanctury, where people with eating disorders can share concerns and advice on how they are coping with the pandemic.
- Parent Zone Crisis Messenger: If you or any member of your family are experiencing a mental health crisis and need immediate help, the Parent Zone Crisis Messenger – powered by our trusted partners Shout and Crisis Text Line – is available 24/7 and will connect you to a trained volunteer. Text PARENTZONE to 85258 to get help.
Child sexual exploitation and abuse
While most children only have positive experiences online, occasionally things can go wrong.
Research from NCA-CEOP has suggested that children and young people are more at risk of being groomed or otherwise sexually exploited now that most of them are home from school.
Here are the services you need to report to if you have any concerns related to child sexual exploitation and abuse.
- NCA-CEOP: If your child has been exploited sexually online, or if you suspect that they have been a victim of grooming, you can make a report to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection command of the National Crime Agency (NCA-CEOP). You or your child can do this by filling in a short and simple form on the CEOP website.
- IWF: The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) is an independent organisation which works to remove illegal content such as child abuse images and videos from the web. If you or your child stumble across anything related to child sexual exploitation and abuse online, you can make a confidential and anonymous report to the IWF via its website.
- Pace: If you have questions about child sexual exploitation and abuse, or are in doubt about whether to make a report, the organisation Pace has lots of resources for parents and professionals who want to find out more.
Addiction and substance abuse
The lockdown can be especially tough for people who are fighting to keep addiction in check, as they might not be able to access all the support they would under normal circumstances.
Fortunately, there are still many services which can offer remote support for anyone struggling with addiction.
- National Gambling Helpline: If you or anyone in your family struggles to stay on top of a gambling habit, the National Gambling Helpline is available 24/7 for anyone who needs support. The service is completely confidential and you can get in touch on 0808 8020 133 or via live chat to speak to a trained professional who can offer advice on how to tackle the problem.
- BeGambleAware: BeGambleAware is a free information service which has lots of resources for those affected by problem gambling, as well as the people who are close to them.
- Frank: If you need to talk to someone about any kind of substance abuse – drugs, alcohol etc – the organisation Frank’s helpline is open 24/7 for those who suffer from an addiction and for people who are concerned about someone close to them. You can call 0300 123 6600, text 82111 or live chat every day between 2pm and 6pm to get confidential support. On its website, you can also find advice for parents and carers who are worried their child might be struggling with substance abuse.
- Ditch the Label: Ditch the Label offers support to young people between the ages of 12 to 25 who have experienced bullying. You’ll find many helpful articles on its website about how to combat bullying, plus advice on how to get help. And if your child can’t find information related to their specific problem, they can get in touch with the organisation’s Digital Mentors.
One of the big changes of the lockdown period is that most children have been at home all day, rather than going to school.
But while remote learning has become the norm, the extent to which schools have been able to deliver lessons virtually has varied. Some parents might therefore be looking for extra educational resources – and the below suggestions would be a good place to start.
- Department for Education: The DfE has an extensive list of resources which they say can be used by parents to “support their children’s education”, alongside whatever their school sends to them. It’s all free and covers English, maths, science, PE, wellbeing and Special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).
- BBC: A brand new education push from the BBC in the third lockdown will air on CBBC and BBC2 for both primary and secondary school students. Programming will include BBC Live Lessons and BBC Bitesize Daily as well as older programming such as Horrible Histories. The summer term will be complemented by Shakespeare, classic drama adaptations as well as science, history and other subjects.
- PSHE Association: Although the majority of the PSHE’s information is aimed at professionals, it does have a very useful guide to educating your child at home, which you can download for tips if you plan to cover the subject with your children.