Without a doubt, the COVID‐19 pandemic has affected the entire country in different ways. Some would argue that children have been affected the most and others would not. Nevertheless, even before COVID‐19 the children of London needed support. Did you know that 37 per cent of all children in London are living in relative poverty? That equates to more than 700,000 children not being able to maintain an acceptable standard of living.
When Londoners were ordered to stay at home once again, several young people and parents have lost hope in their educational futures and the quality of education currently being provided. A high percentage of students I have spoken to have had to retake their school year due to the pandemic, leaving them a year behind in schooling. Other young people have been encouraged to change their career paths due to no alternative facilities being provided for them to successfully engage in their classes. From first‐hand experience, the quality of support has been lacking. Students have been left without laptops and internet access, resulting in failing the year’s course and losing the opportunity to progress on to university.
The topic of child exploitation has consistently been mentioned in the media this year. These cases can stem from financial struggles that potentially lead already vulnerable children into dangerous and victimised circumstances. According to the London Safeguarding Children Board, one aim regarding all children in London is to: ‘support London’s Local Safeguarding Children Boards to meet their statutory obligations to coordinate the work of local organisations in safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children and making sure that work is effective in improving outcomes for children’.
The boards comprise London’s local authorities, the Metropolitan Police, NHS England, London clinical commissioning groups, London Local Safeguarding Children Boards (LSCBs), represented by four LSCB Chairs, London voluntary sector, represented by Children England, London Probation Service and/or the London Youth Justice Board, London CAFCASS, London NSPCC and many more organisations. So why is child poverty allowed to persist?
The Child Welfare Inequalities Project's findings show that children in the most deprived 10 per cent of neighbourhoods in the UK are 10 times more likely to be in care than children in the least deprived 10 per cent. There have been numerous reports that children in care have suffered tremendously during the COVID‐19 pandemic, especially those held in single‐occupancy residential placements. It is a shock to the system that during a nationwide crisis, vulnerable children looked after by the local authority have been expected to visit food banks to meet their basic needs for food. In cases in which children have had no means of transport to reach food banks, it was allegedly deemed appropriate for children to walk one hour each way to receive bags of food.
These normality forming experiences the youth in London have experienced are a partial result of poverty. The consequences vary and ripple from reported lack of hope for the future, to mental health issues and reduced focus in schools. It is a harsh realisation to know that in London today a percentage of young people have lost a part of their youth at the hands of poverty. Awareness needs to be raised to improve the future for the children of London by meeting their basic needs and allowing their potential to flourish.
I Angel Beddelem is a campaigner with Just for Kids Law, and an aspiring journalist whose work can be found at Inayiabeddelem1.journoportfolio.com