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Children suffer most in the Coronavirus lockdown

22nd May 2020
Children suffer most in the Coronavirus lockdown

(Credit: George Hodan/Commons)

Javed Khan

The Coronavirus pandemic has changed almost every aspect of our lives, and Muslims around the world have been marking Ramadan like no other.

We’re breaking the fast with close family, but there are no big gatherings or charity Ifṭār, and we can’t go to the mosque for Tarāweeh prayers.

But on top of all this, there’s something even more serious going on.
It’s now well understood that in the UK, like in many other countries around the world, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities have been especially hard hit by Covid-19.

It’s now clear that people in our communities are more likely to become critically ill with the virus, and sadly to lose their lives. But our communities are also more vulnerable to many of the social consequences.

When I think back to my childhood, I can’t imagine how my family would have managed during this crisis. For my parents, who had come to the UK from Kashmir and who couldn’t read or write in any language, this would have been a very worrying time. My father, who was a shop floor labourer, would most likely have lost his job by now.

Muslim and other minority families are more likely to live in crowded accommodation, making lockdown even harder, especially for children.

Parents across the UK are desperately trying to do the best they can, but homeschooling can be challenging, especially for those without the skills, resources and confidence to teach their children.

It’s even harder if you’re struggling to afford enough food to feed the family because your pay has been reduced, or your job is at risk. It’s harder again if you’re worried about seriously ill parents, aunties and uncles, and especially if you’re grieving for loved ones.

With families facing increasing emotional and financial pressures, we know a growing number of children are at risk of harm – isolated from the support systems they usually rely on. Yet at the same time, these children are less likely to be identified and referred for support.

In a recent survey, 45 per cent of Barnardo’s frontline workers said that referrals to our services have fallen since lockdown — and referrals to statutory services have fallen too — meaning vulnerable children are left suffering in silence. With most children not in school, a whole tier of support has vanished, and vulnerable children are suffering.

Despite the lockdown, Barnardo’s continues to support those who need us most. We have more than 500 workers delivering face to face support for children with disabilities, children in the care system and young people who would otherwise be homeless.

While many of our buildings have had to close, our doors remain open, and we’ve found new and innovative ways of adapting our services to cope in the current crisis. We’ve moved the majority of our services online or we’re in contact with our children, young people and families by phone, video conference and messaging apps, so they still have the support they need.

An example of Barnardo’s vital services is Cygnet in Bradford, which provides a lifeline of specialist support to parents of children with autism and other special needs.

Nearly half of families using the service are from South Asian Muslim backgrounds, with Barnardo’s workers running sessions in Urdu to help cater to the needs of the local community.

One of the key issues identified by the service is the stigma and misunderstanding of autism spectrum disorder, which is common in the community. The Urdu sessions give parents and carers accurate information, while also offering support and guidance.

Even during the lockdown, these families aren’t alone – our workers are just a phone call away during this uniquely difficult time.

Like many charities, Barnardo’s is now facing a perfect storm, with our income decimated overnight while demand for our support grows daily. This means we are more reliant on support from the community than ever before.

So, as we mark Eid al-Fitr, I’m appealing to anyone in a position to donate their ṣadaqāh (voluntary charity) to support Barnardo’s at this critical time.

We are also able to collect Zakat donations, after working hard to ensure our policy, procedures and projects fulfil its principles and requirements and having them independently verified by an Islamic scholar and legal Zakat specialist.

All Zakat donations will go directly to our service supporting Syrian refugees arriving in the UK.

Eid Mubarak from my family to yours.

Javed Khan, Barnardo’s, Chief Executive

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