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BojanaMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 03-Jun-20 09:22:11

Guest post from the Home Secretary: “The most vulnerable children urgently need more protection during lockdown”

Home Secretary Priti Patel explains how she is working to protect children online during the lockdown

Priti Patel MP

Home Secretary

Posted on: Wed 03-Jun-20 09:22:11

(127 comments )

Lead photo

"As parents we keep our children’s welfare at the heart of everything we do."

More children than ever now have access to the internet, with as many as half of all 10-year-olds owning a smartphone. Some spend more time chatting online than they do with friends or relatives in person.

As parents, we know the huge benefits the online world can bring to our children – opening up new horizons at the swipe of a screen – but we also have to be alive to the horrific dangers it can harbour.

The past weeks have undoubtedly been a difficult time for families, with parents having to juggle work and homeschooling. Many will be even more anxious after hearing warnings that internet predators may take advantage of the fact that children are off school and spending longer online.

I share your concerns and will use the full might of our law against these vile criminals. As Home Secretary, I work across government and policing to help ensure vulnerable children are protected from abuse. But as a parent, I too worry about my son when he spends hours on his phone. We don’t want to take our children’s devices away from them, but we need to make sure that they’re being protected from people approaching them who intend to do them harm.

Thankfully, parents don’t have to navigate the complexities of internet safety alone. Forums like Mumsnet are a wonderful way to brainstorm ideas, support each other and share experiences of the different ways children are dealing with the pressures of the lockdown, and some of the threats and challenges they are confronted with.

There are also plenty of resources developed by specialists and children’s charities which can help parents protect their children online, and we have compiled this guidance to help parents and carers find the right ones. It highlights the importance of age-appropriate parental controls, which I use myself for my son. These controls can help block unsuitable content, including nudity or excessive violence, or prevent children from buying things when playing games.

Alongside ensuring parents are armed with the tools they need to protect their families, I am working across government and with charities to ensure our children stay safe.


Our excellent law enforcement agencies are also working flat out to keep our children safe, including advising parents and carers how they can play their part. The National Crime Agency’s Thinkuknow campaign helps children of all ages develop the skills, knowledge and confidence they need to identify risk online and access help when they need it. The campaign includes animations for primary-age children and, for teens, guidance on relationships and sending images.

It also advises on steps we can all take to protect our children. This can be keeping communication channels open and talking to them about online dangers, or discussing their favourite new websites and apps – which may have changed during the pandemic. For younger children, it is also advised to talk about online safety as soon as they have an interest in using a family device – Thinkuknow has lots of advice on how to do this in an age-appropriate way.

Alongside ensuring parents are armed with the tools they need to protect their families, I am working across the government and with charities to ensure our children stay safe. The amazing voluntary sector has been ramping up their efforts to protect young people in this time of crisis, and we are continuing to work together to ensure that victims and survivors have access to the best possible support.

My mission to make the internet a safe place for young people to thrive has not been thrown off course by Coronavirus. The government continues to work at pace on our Online Harms legislation, which will place a legal duty on tech firms to protect vulnerable users from harmful content.

And we are acting now to do more when the most vulnerable children may need it most. That includes those who are not safe in their own homes, who may feel particularly vulnerable, afraid and exposed during the lockdown period. Last month, the Prime Minister hosted a Hidden Harms Summit to bring together experts and organisations to explore what more we can do to protect vulnerable people during and after lockdown, including children at risk of sexual abuse.

Have no doubt, while children are at risk of these heinous crimes, we will provide help wherever it is needed. As a Government we’ve provided additional funding of over £3.2 billion for local authorities, helping them to support the most vulnerable during lockdown. We have also invested £1.6 million to expand and promote the NSPCC’s helpline for adults, offering advice and support on how to raise concerns about children at risk.

Our next big step will be to publish a national strategy later this year to tackle all forms of child sexual abuse and bring predators to justice. 

My message to worried parents is simple. I know how you feel, I share your horror, and I will not stop until we have rooted out the abusers who prey on our children. I have met with victims of sickening child sexual abuse and their stories have only strengthened my resolve to prevent this horrendous crime from shattering the lives of more young people and their families.

That is why I will continue to do everything in my power to crack down on abusers online and offline, and to arm you with the support and tools you need to reduce your child’s risk of being targeted by paedophiles.

As parents, we keep our children’s welfare at the heart of everything we do. Let’s join forces to ensure our loved ones are using the internet in a safe way. Protecting our children’s lives and securing their futures, during lockdown and beyond.

The Home Secretary will respond to some comments and questions next week.

By Priti Patel MP

Twitter: @PritiPatel

AwkwardAsAllGetout Wed 03-Jun-20 09:24:05

Can’t see this going well

BankofNook Wed 03-Jun-20 09:46:18

I can't think of a single question that won't get me banned and there is so much I want to say right now but won't.

History won't judge this government kindly.

orangejuicer Wed 03-Jun-20 09:48:02

Cringe cringe cringe. Poor decision MN.

iwantmysay Wed 03-Jun-20 09:59:26

During Austerity, the tories cut funding to womens refuge's (over half of those seeking help have to be turned away) & social services, you destroyed Sure Start too.

Many of the most at risk children do not have access to on-line services nor would they even know about these.

The cuts to Police and the justice system will ensure few abusers end up in court and it was pretty poor before cut backs.

Is the money you are promising New Money? will it be specifically ring fenced by councils?

nestisflown Wed 03-Jun-20 10:06:20

How much did the government pay/ mumsnet accept for this?

BoreOfWhabylon Wed 03-Jun-20 10:09:05

orangejuicer

Cringe cringe cringe. Poor decision MN.

Au contraire, I think it's an excellent decision.

BoreOfWhabylon Wed 03-Jun-20 10:12:40

iwantmysay has already made some very good points and I'd be interested to see the Home Sec's response to them.

neveradullmoment99 Wed 03-Jun-20 10:25:56

I can't think of a single question that won't get me banned and there is so much I want to say right now but won't
History won't judge this government kindly.
This in SPADES
All I can say is, thank god I am in Scotland. Real leadership there. Take notes.

AlovelybitofsquirrelJackie Wed 03-Jun-20 10:57:27

When a 14 year old boy in Plymouth's only connection to the outside world in lockdown was a local radio station due to the domestic violence and abuse he was living with there is a big problem in this country. He had the where with all to flee. The vast majority wouldn't have the ability or would be too frightened to do the same. He took enormous risks. There is nothing this government has ever said or done that makes me feel they care one bit about vulnerable children and families. The number of women and children killed by men in lockdown has risen. Sure start was one of the most positive and successful
projects to improve the lives of disadvantaged families since the end of the Second World War and the Torys pulled it apart in a conscious and deliberate way. Priti Patel would have to have a spectacular epiphany for me to believe anything she has to say on the subject.

RowanMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 03-Jun-20 11:26:02

nestisflown

How much did the government pay/ mumsnet accept for this?

There was no payment for this nestisflown - we rarely charge for guest posts, and didn't in this instance.

WomanDaresTo Wed 03-Jun-20 11:44:27

Hi, Fiona from the We Can't Consent To This campaign here. Our campaign formed here on Mumsnet, after women like Natalie Connolly and Laura Huteson were killed in appalling violence by men who successfully avoided a murder charge by saying they asked for the violence as "rough sex". We're glad that you and your government have committed to supporting woman through the reintroduction of the domestic abuse bill, and children as you set out here. But we know the Domestic Abuse bill must go further - in providing funding for services and support to migrant women, and ending the evasion of justice through "rough sex" claims.

Do you agree that the rough sex defence is allowing men to get away with murdering and assaulting women, by claiming they consented to it? And can you say what the Government is going to do about it?

What assurances can you give the women who read this that men will no longer be able to evade justice, by claiming that women asked to be killed or violently assaulted?

AlternativePerspective Wed 03-Jun-20 15:27:05

Mmm this thread should b interesting.

StealthPolarBear Wed 03-Jun-20 15:38:37

Yes, will read

AlovelybitofsquirrelJackie Wed 03-Jun-20 17:02:22

@womanwhodares - excellent question

Pheasantplucker2 Wed 03-Jun-20 17:08:17

Is the Home Secretary actually going to respond to any of these questions?

PacificState Wed 03-Jun-20 17:29:04

What does the data tell us about how lockdown has affected things like family violence and child sexual abuse? Is the government collecting stats? I think I saw somewhere that calls to DV helplines have increased a lot but it must be a worry that a lot of things have gone unreported - even more so than usually. If pandemics are going to be a part of our future, agencies should be collecting stats and information now so that we know what we’re likely to have to deal with if/when lockdown happens again.

BuzzShitbagBobbly Wed 03-Jun-20 17:49:00

Many will be even more anxious after hearing warnings that internet predators may take advantage of the fact that children are off school and spending longer online.

This is a huge problem, with adult ideologists seeking out children and essentially grooming them to confide in them, to influence them into believing what they say and above all, coaching them to keep secrets from their parents and guardians, including promising a new life for them if they do as the groomer suggests. Yet the public platforms they use to do this continue to host them and allow them to weasel their way into vulnerable children's minds with not a single consideration for safeguarding.

How will the Minister stand up to the might social platforms and protect children from this?

alreadytaken Wed 03-Jun-20 17:57:27

after the way the government tried to gaslight us over Dominic Cummings I find it hard to listen to anything they have to say - or read anything they have to say.

nogooddeedgoesunpunished Wed 03-Jun-20 18:17:10

Cannot believe this is real ?! Get a grip. The government's handling of this pandemic is shameful as is this blatant propaganda to get patents to send children to school so they can back to work. Why don't you just bring back evacuation and send all the children away to the country so we can work ? Not one address from the PM to our children in all of this. Shame on you

MyDogPatch Wed 03-Jun-20 18:26:44

No...I'm out.

Yolande7 Wed 03-Jun-20 18:50:50

"As Home Secretary, I work across government and policing to help ensure vulnerable children are protected from abuse."

How do you reconcile this statement with the fact that your government has recently introduced emergency legislation to relax local authorities' statutory duties to vulnerable children in England until at least September?

The Children's Commissioner as well as many reputable charities and organisations have raised serious concerns about these changes, eg.: www.childrenscommissioner.gov.uk/2020/04/30/statement-on-changes-to-regulations-affecting-childrens-social-care/

www.thefosteringnetwork.org.uk/news/2020/response-new-childrens-social-care-regulations-in-england-0

www.communitycare.co.uk/2020/04/24/charity-blasts-legislation-relaxing-duties-to-children-in-care-under-coronavirus-as-destroying-safeguards/

When I read about these changes, I am getting the feeling that for some vulnerable children the internet is currently the safest place to be.

BlackberryCane Wed 03-Jun-20 19:08:04

Message deleted by MNHQ. Here's a link to our Talk Guidelines.

guanciale Wed 03-Jun-20 19:09:16

"i am sorry if the children feel they are vulnerable"

BlackberryCane Wed 03-Jun-20 19:11:37

guanciale

"i am sorry if the children feel they are vulnerable"

Lmao.

@BojanaMumsnet was this guest post the Home Secretary's suggestion or MNs, out of interest? Who approached who?

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