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Two young girls play together
Two young girls play together

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Sector must come together to ensure children's safety during covid-19 outbreak

Specialist Advisor for Children and Young People Gary Palmer looks at the safeguarding challenges thrown up by the covid-19 outbreak and calls for the physical activity and sport sector to work together to ensure all children are safe.

For many young people, schools, sports clubs and youth clubs are places they go to learn, to play and to have fun with their friends in a safe and nurturing environment.

But the covid-19 outbreak has seen schools closed, except for the children of key workers, and sports clubs and groups unable to meet due to government restrictions.

When confined to their homes, children, like adults, may struggle. A loss of routine or social isolation may, in some cases, lead to poor mental health.

A study by YoungMinds of young people with a history of mental health needs found that more than 80% saw their conditions deteriorate since the covid-19 outbreak.

Fortunately, there are charities and organisations that can offer support.

London Youth have curated and launched a #StayInWorkOut activity calendar and resource pack. Their message here is clear: that sport and physical activity is a key player for young Londoners physical and mental wellbeing.

We have a collection of charities listed on our website providing similar opportunities and while this is not an exhaustive list, those included can provide guidance and support for young people.

In addition, your GP and school can provide additional guidance on services that may be available local to your area of the capital.

While for many the cancellation of training and matches will have been disappointing, for the most vulnerable young people, the effects could be devastating.

Teachers, youth workers and community volunteers such as sports coaches are often the first to spot signs of abuse, neglect or isolation. They are our eyes and ears.

It is also possible that already busy agencies operating with reduced staff levels due to the outbreak will be having their focus pulled in many different directions.

That means the sector must make it easy and simple for adults or children to find the support they need at this difficult time.

We must all work together to protect the most vulnerable and our covid-19 safeguarding page has a few key contacts which may be useful.

For young people with a disability, for example, it can be extremely difficult to complete the digital physical activities that are shared online and on social media.

These difficulties may only add to existing feelings of isolation and loneliness.

It’s why partners like Disability Sports Coach (DSC) are implementing weekly activities and campaigns to try and keep young disabled people active and engaged.

What 2019 London Sport Awards winners DSC do so well, like many others, is address the challenge of staying active through the lens of the young people they work with.

The sector, now more than ever, must stay engaged with young people and understand their motivations and behaviours to be active in a way that suits them.

Only then can we ensure they are all safe and well. 

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London Sport aims to ensure Londoners live happier, healthier lives through sport and physical activity

About London Sport

London Sport aims to ensure more Londoners live happier, healthier lives through sport and physical activity. Supported by the Mayor of London and Sport England, our target is to get Londoners more physically active.

For more information on London Sport, visit www.londonsport.org

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