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Please help protect children and young people in your community, urges Police and Crime Commissioner

SOUTH WALES Police & Crime Commissioner Alun Michael is asking everyone in our communities – family, friends, neighbours, postal workers, delivery drivers – to act as eyes and ears during the Covid-19 pandemic, and to alert their local safeguarding team or the police if they believe a child is being neglected, experiencing abuse, or is at risk of harm.

Lockdown has reduced the opportunity for young people to let someone know what is happening at home. The usual referral routes such as schools and nurseries are closed, resulting in a decrease of about 40% in cases being brought to the attention of police and partner agencies.

Mr Michael said

“Protecting vulnerable people is the number one priority for South Wales Police and from the start of the Covid19 crisis we have emphasised our concern about hidden harms, whether it’s domestic violence and abuse, modern slavery or ill-treatment and abuse of children,”

“The Chief Constable and I have taken every opportunity to let the public know that the local police response will be prompt even during the lockdown period – and we’ve heard the same message from Welsh Government Ministers who have also called on communities to look out for vulnerable children, and to report any concerns.

“In Wales we have taken the lead in understanding how Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) during a child’s early years can have a devastating impact throughout their adult life, which is why it is essential that police and partner agencies can intervene at the earliest opportunity.”

“However, the normal places of escape for young people – school, college, a friend’s house, youth centres, and workplaces – are not currently available, and this leaves children with little prospect to share how they are feeling or to ask for support so we want them to know that help is available and they are not alone.”

Detective Superintendent Mark Lewis, Head of Public Protection, said

“Where a child is already known to us, we have worked together with partner agencies to ensure safeguarding measures are in place.

“Our concern is that the extended lockdown period may trigger abuse or neglect behind closed doors within families and households that we do not know about, and that some children and young people will not be able to comprehend what is happening, nor will they be aware that there are agencies that can help them.

“This is why it is so important during this unprecedented period that we are all custodians for the vulnerable people in our communities, and if you see or hear something that concerns you that you please report it.”

South Wales Police works together with local safeguarding boards to protect vulnerable people and prevent harm. Social services, specialist teams and third sector organisations are still open and are working hard to support anyone who needs their help.

Signs of abuse could include repeated shouting, the sound of things being hit, smashed or broken, and continuing crying or pleas to stop. The child might have cuts or bruises, look confused or dishevelled, or be anxious or withdrawn.

Det. Supt. Lewis added

“To enable us to intervene, support and protect children and young people at the earliest opportunity, we are asking anyone that has concerns about a child to let us know. This will allow a welfare check to be undertaken.”

Anyone that is worried about the wellbeing of someone should not intervene themselves for their safety and the victim’s. Instead, call the police on 101 or 999 in an emergency. You can also report anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Alternatively you can contact social services in your area, details available via local safeguarding boards:

Cardiff and the Vale Safeguarding Board

Cwm Taf Morgannwg Safeguarding Board

West Glamorgan (Western Bay) Safeguarding Board

The details of anyone reporting a concern will be treated as strictly confidential.

Information about support services – helplines and online resources – can be found on the South Wales Police website.

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