Vulnerable children and young people are at significantly greater risk of or harm or, in some situations even death during times of lockdown, says Australia’s leading child protection advocate, Bravehearts.
Bravehearts Founder and Executive Director, Hetty Johnston AM says, “Currently 1 child is murdered every 19 days by a parent, one woman every week by her partner, and too many men are committing suicide largely due to their inability to see their children and their feelings of loss of control.
These numbers are horrific and unacceptable, but with COVID-19 and the increasing pressure on families, and isolation of vulnerable children and their mothers, we expect these numbers to spike exponentially.
Calls to our national support line have almost doubled in the past two weeks. Despite this increase in need to our largely community funded services, we have been forced to stand down half of our highly experienced and skilled staff at a time when they are needed most. Many are volunteering time to try and assist in this current situation.
Our federally funded Redress Support clients who have already endured so much in their lives, are typically men in their fifties and sixties who are at risk of losing their jobs and facing the prospect of social isolation. This will lead to an exacerbation of their mental health issues and need for support.
Increasingly and alarmingly, the calls are from parents who are concerned that they cannot exit domestic violence situations due to the changes in their financial standing, that are now trapped in a home with their perpetrator all day and night and with potentially no access to their support networks.
Others are reaching out, concerned about the existing access an alleged sex offender has to their children, their ability to enforce contact orders, and simply trying to keep their children safe.
Many of the women calling us are worried they and their children will not survive this crisis – not because of COVID-19 but because of their violent, abusive partners who they are now required to spend 24/7 with – with no reprieve.
As parents become increasingly stressed as a result of their employment and financial security changes, we anticipate an increase in potential harm of children. Amongst those families experiencing familial dysfunction we predict an increase in filicides, murders, and suicides.
To this end, we as a community need to increase our support and availability to protective parents fleeing unsafe situations, by encouraging these parents to reach out, to recognise their stress and ask for help rather than acting out and thus increasing the risk that they present to their children and vulnerable family members.
Importantly, protective parents need somewhere to run as isolation closes in. We simply cannot leave these children and their protective parent in their homes to be beaten, abused, exploited, raped or killed.
Bravehearts is working with the Qld Hotels Association to find a solution. With their support and with so many vacant rooms right across the State, QHA have reached out to their membership to help us negotiate a way forward and co-ordinate fleeing families with safe accommodation.
So far, the response from the sector has been heart-warming and discussions are underway with government.
Bravehearts is focussed on the safety and well-being of children and their protective parents. At this time of crisis, we call on all Australian’s to remember that the safety and protection of children must be everyone’s first priority.”
If you have concerns about the safety of a child, contact the police or your child protection authority. If you are unsure of what to do, please call Bravehearts Information and Support Line on 1800 272 831. This line continues to be manned with staff who are able to provide you with advice and support.