Labour has called on the government to bring forward a plan to support “vulnerable children and those moving into the care system” in response to a 44% rise in children needing foster care during the pandemic.
Responding to figures released by charity Barnardo’s today, Tulip Siddiq warned that children have been “far more exposed to domestic abuse, online grooming and other threats in recent months” as a result of the virus.
Labour’s shadow minister for children and early years also urged the government to scrap the “unnecessary and dangerous” regulations introduced during the health crisis, which Labour argues has weakened safeguards for children.
Commenting on the impact of Covid-19, Siddiq said: “This pandemic has taken a terrible toll on vulnerable children, who have been far more exposed to domestic abuse, online grooming, and other threats in recent months.
“The result is that many more children now need foster care and other support services, which have been cut to the bone in the last decade.
“Labour has been warning for months that there will be a huge rise in demand for children’s services. The scale of this crisis is now starting to come to light, and it’s not clear how the government plans to deal with it.”
The figures released by the charity today also show that the number of people looking to become foster carers has simultaneously halved over the period of the pandemic.
Siddiq added: “The government must come forward with a proper plan to ensure that vulnerable children and those moving into the care system can access the support they need.
“Ministers must also scrap the unnecessary and dangerous regulations that have weakened safeguards for children entering foster care placements.”
The government introduced new regulations relating to the duties owed by local authorities to children via a statutory instrument in April, with the stated aim of reducing the pressure of coronavirus on councils.
The regulations suspended the obligation of social workers to visit children every six weeks, removed the requirements for care plans to reviewed every six months, as well as relaxing standards around fostering and adoption.
The children’s commissioner for England Anne Longfield issued a statement in which she said that she is “extremely concerned” and called for the new regulations revoked. The regulations are set to remain in place until September 2020.
Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey brought a motion in parliament earlier this month to annul the statutory instrument, but this was defeated as MPs voted to reject it by 260 votes to 123.