This week marks one year since the start of our first national lockdown, when we were told that we would need to stay in our homes and only leave for essential reasons.
It’s been a hugely difficult year for many of us, and, through our Childline service, we know the pandemic has had a profound impact on children.
Throughout the last year, our Childline counsellors have delivered around 19,000 sessions a month with children across the UK, with mental and emotional health being one of the top concerns children and young people speak to us about.
For many children, the uncertainty and worry caused by the pandemic has taken its toll on their mental wellbeing, while others have felt trapped in unsafe homes – out of sight and cut off from their usual support networks.
When the announcement came last March, at Childline we acted swiftly and made our counselling rooms and offices safe spaces for our staff and volunteers, who have been essential workers throughout.
We began taking more contacts from children online, which meant some of our staff could work from home. We also made some important changes to the Childline website to provide additional support for children and young people.
Unfortunately, our volunteer numbers dropped greatly, due to volunteers needing to self-isolate to stay safe, and we are currently recruiting more volunteers and are delivering training online.
Over the past year, our Childline service has been supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery which has provided crucial funding of £1,000,000, the equivalent of running the service for an entire month.
Our fundraising volunteers have also greatly adapted, and have found ways to continue to support NSPCC Scotland through virtual quiz nights, sponsored walks and home cycling challenges on exercise bikes.
Now, as more children return to school, we know the impact of the pandemic isn’t over and we need to be ready to support them.
It is vital that the Scottish Government delivers an ambitious plan for children that goes beyond catching up on lessons and helps them recover from a really awful year.
Schools need continuing support so they are equipped to recognise and respond sensitively and consistently to students who may have experienced adverse experiences and maltreatment during the pandemic.
And investment is needed for therapeutic and support services to help children recover from trauma, as well as for pre-school children and their families to prevent the pandemic causing inequalities in child development and educational outcomes.
And as we look forward to the summer, let’s also build on the positives, such as the resilience our children and young people have shown, their support for each other, and the many new experiences and opportunities that have come out of the last 12 months.
Childline is here for children, free and confidentially, on 0800 1111 or at www.childline.org.uk and any adult worried about a child can contact 0808 800 5000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. To volunteer as a counsellor at our Aberdeen Childline base visit the NSPCC website.