Hundreds of vulnerable Sheffield teens are at risk due to the coronavirus pandemic
More than 1,500 Sheffield teenagers who are falling through the gaps in the school and social care system are at even greater risk due to the impact of Covid-19, new figures suggest.
Children’s commissioner Anne Longfield warns a ‘lost generation of teens’ could be groomed by gangs and criminals if they cannot be reached.
The commissioner’s analysis identified 1,763 young people aged 13 to 17 in Sheffield who were slipping through the cracks in education and social care provision in 2017-18.
That’s around 58.2 per 1,000 teenagers in the age group – one of the highest proportions in England.
The figure includes children who were bounced around or went missing from the care system, were excluded from or dropped out of school, or had high levels of unauthorised absence.
It also counts those who were not in education, employment or training (NEET) as of December 2017.
These young people are at greater risk of exploitation, poor mental health and domestic violence and addiction in the home due to the coronavirus pandemic, the report says.
This has been compounded by closures of schools, youth services, summer schemes, parks and leisure activities, with those affected in danger of remaining “invisible” after lockdown restrictions ease, it adds.
Across England, around 123,000 teenagers aged 13 to 17 were flagged as falling through the gaps – a rate of 40.0 in 1,000.
Ms Longfield is now calling on the Government, schools, councils, the police and other groups to work together to support these children.
She said: “Many of these children, and I fear many thousands of other vulnerable teenagers, have had very little structure to their lives over the last six months.
“School was often a stretch for them, and I am concerned we are never going to get some of them back into education.
“If we do not act now, this could result in a lost generation of teens – dropping out of school, going under the radar, getting into trouble, and at risk of being groomed by gangs and criminals.”