How has Covid-19 affected the work of child helplines?

By Steve Erwood

Almost every aspect of daily life for everybody around the world has been significantly impacted since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the day-to-day operations of child helplines around the world have been no exception. Many of our child helpline members have worked hard to make sure that their services were still available during all of the disruptions.

Together with our partners at UNICEF Headquarters in New York, we’ve looked at our child helpline data in order to shed light on what has been occurring, and what is being reported to child helplines during the pandemic. Media articles and news stories around the world have been a great source of information of course, but we also asked our child helpline members to submit data about their contacts from the first six months of the year. We were then able to compare this against the data we had collected for the whole of 2019. We were especially interested to see whether violence against children had escalated during a period of school closures and children and young people being forced into lockdown. We found that contacts relating specifically to violence had indeed increased in some countries, but decreased in others.

Our study did reveal that, overall, the number of contacts received by child helplines has dramatically increased since the beginning of the pandemic. This shows that child helpline services are a critical lifeline for many children during events such as this, and that child protection services should be designated as essential services to ensure that children and young people continue to be able to receive the support that they need.

We’d like to warmly thank our child helpline members who were able to submit their data for this research article (they are all credited in the article). The article has now been published in Child Abuse and Neglect. You can read it here.