As more families find themselves in stressful situations as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the risks to children grow.

So it’s fitting that this year’s Child Protection Week marks the 30th anniversary of this important moment in our calendar, falls in the midst of the pandemic and reminds us of the importance of ‘Putting Children First’.

A recent report commissioned by Berry Street estimated that an additional 4,500 Victorian children could enter the out-of-home care system by 2026 because of the impact of the pandemic. This would increase the number of children in the system to 27,500.

At Concern Australia we encounter many of these young people at different stages of their life journey through our Inside Out, Steps Outreach Service and Hand Brake Turn programs. The impact of abuse and neglect on their lives is enormous, and the support that Concern Australia and other similar organisations provide is crucial.

Yet at the same time, the not-for-profit sector is under threat from a struggling economy. The ATO recently confirmed that 320,000 charity workers are receiving the JobKeeper supplement. With scaling back of the scheme beginning soon, the ability of the charity sector to support the increasing numbers of at-risk children and young people will be very much stretched.

It’s a perfect storm and one we desperately must work to avoid – increasing numbers of children and young people at risk, while the ability of child-focused organisations to provide support and protection is under threat.

NOW is the time for action. There is much to be done to ensure that children and young people are kept safe during the pandemic, and that we BUILD BACK BETTER to ensure we all play our part in protecting children

To grow up well, children need to feel safe and loved, have a chance to play and explore, have a say in decisions that affect them, and have access to essential needs such as food, shelter and healthcare.

For children to thrive we need to come together as a community and put children’s needs first during National Child Protection Weekand every week.

Concern Australia CEO Michelle Crawford said we need to redouble our efforts to protect children in these challenging times.

“In our programs supporting young people, we see the long-term impact of family situations that are unsafe or, sadly, abusive,” Michelle said. “We are committed to providing safety and support to these young people as they process the effects of their experiences and build for the future.

“As a community we need to do more to ensure that children and young people are safe and have every opportunity to grow into healthy adults. In this time of uncertainty, a shared commitment to protecting children and young people is more important than ever.

“It will require us all, including Governments, to provide every support necessary to ensure vulnerable families are not tipped over the edge into circumstances that will make their children even more vulnerable to abuse and neglect.”

It’s time to band together to put children first. Together we can call on State and Federal Governments to do more to ensure that the charity sector will be in a position to support even more vulnerable children and young people, along with providing immediate support to families so that they are not pushed over the edge.

WE INVITE YOU TO JOIN US

Here’s some of the actions that you can take:

Support our work with young people in the Child Protection system. Donate now.

You can also support our Hope at Home project, meeting the needs of young people living in our Inside Out houses. Find out more here.

We hope you can ALSO put your weight behind powerful and important campaigns and petitions including:

  • Raise the Rate: so young people have enough to survive and cover the basics.
  • The Home Stretch: campaigning for young people in state care continuing to have a home and support until the age of 21.
  • Everybody’s Home: campaigning to address our broken housing system.

Every action you take to support young people makes a difference to their lives, so if you can, do something today to help BUILD BACK BETTER, and provide hope and care for vulnerable young people who need it more than ever right now.