Safety is on everyone’s minds right now with the coronavirus pandemic affecting nearly every country in the world. People are mindful of ways to prevent the spread of the virus, how to protect themselves from catching it, and handwashing, social distancing and face masks are becoming our ‘new normal’.

But the lockdown has left people vulnerable to different challenges, as stresses and strains in confined households bubble up and cracks in relationships and mental health begin to show. Couple with that problems of people staying away from accident and emergency departments, lack of face-to-face dental appointments and a drop in the number of people visiting their GP, and we begin to see new threats emerging.

For adults, lockdown is frustrating but understandable, however for children, many of whom are too young to even comprehend what a virus is, it is putting them at increased risk. Vulnerable children are spending more time in potentially abusive situations; poverty is predicted to increase as the shutdown in the economy hits incomes, and many households have become an ‘accident waiting to happen’.

So what can we do to protect our children and keep them (and everyone else) as safe as possible at this time? Luckily, the organisers of the annual Child Safety Week, the Child Accident Prevention Trust (CAPT) have some answers.

Usually, Child Safety Week which runs from the 1 – 7 June, focuses on preventing common accidents inside and outside the home; things such as burns and scalds, drowning, car/cycle and fire safety to name a few. This year, however, the focus is on helping parents and families navigate the safest way through lockdown, when children are spending more time at home with busy parents trying to work and supervise children at the same time.

CAPT have produced a very helpful Parent’s Pack which is downloadable for free from their website to tackle the most common problems, and safety advice for lockdown which you can send out to parents. They’re both full of good advice and safety tips, and we have summarised some tips below to raise awareness in the hope of reducing the number of preventable accidents and saving lives. They also have some activities such as colouring items and competitions too. Use your social media channels to raise awareness as well.

Did you know?

  • Accidental injury is the second biggest killer of children in the UK
  • Childhood accidents cost the NHS over £275 million a year
  • Children from the poorest families are 13 times more likely to die in accidents and more likely to be admitted to hospital with accidental injuries [CAPT website]
  1. Keep dangerous items out of harm’s way. Lock all dangerous items in cupboards that little hands cannot get into or store them in places that children can’t reach. This includes small lithium batteries (can be lethal if swallowed) and cleaning/ decorating fluids and other household items.
  2. Do not leave your child unattended even for a short period of time. Children can injure themselves in a few seconds if your back is turned and risks are present, so be mindful of dangers, ALWAYS.
  3. Understand that children are not adults. Children cannot see the risks for themselves; what you know to be a cleaning fluid may look like an enticing drink to a child.
  4. Minimise everyday risks in your house. Ensure that you have protective locks on windows and cupboards and take every precaution to remove hot pans, kettles and scalding coffee cups!
  5. Be aware of stairs. Stairs need stair gates top and bottom.
  6. Be careful outside. Being outside is encouraged now as lockdown eases, but don’t ease up on your attention or risk analysis in your excitement to get outside – roads, ponds and parks are a significant risk to children. We all want children to have fun and take a reasonable amount of risk since that is part of growing up, but there’s a fine line between
    letting children experience a healthy amount of risk and being negligent, so be alert at all times.
  7. Watch out with water. Never leave even a small amount of water unattended as children can drown in only a few centimetres. This means paddling pools, baths, ponds and containers that might fill with rainwater.
  8. Prevention is better than cure. Check and regularly test all fire alarms and keep exits clear. Remember also to teach children what to do if the alarm sounds as they will not know unless you tell them.
  9. Continue to be vigilant against coronavirus. Keep following the rules on self-isolation for everyone in your household if you or others develop symptoms. The symptoms of Covid-19 are a new persistent cough and a fever (high temperature). Loss of taste and smell have recently been added to the list too. And always call emergency services or visit A&E if you need to.
  10. Remember mental health. The safety of our mental health is as important as our physical safety so look out for signs of anxiety and stress in children. his can often be seen in changes in behaviour since younger children especially cannot articulate their fears and so behaviour becomes their form of communication. See the Young Minds webpage on mental health in younger children for more information on the mental health of under 5s.

Top tips to keep your children safe

If you are opening your settings from 1st June, be prepared to make changes to the way you operate to protect your staff and the children and families you serve. You may want to do a risk-assessment and follow a checklist of things to help tackle the virus. Government advice on reopening settings is given in the article, “Actions for early years and childcare providers during the coronavirus outbreak”, updated to include advice on reopening settings on May 15.

These are only a few of the valuable tips and advice on the CAPT website and we highly recommend that you visit their website to access more of their resources. After all, you can never be too careful when it comes to the lives of those we love.

The most common accidents in the home include:

  • Burns and scalds
  • Poisoning
  • Choking
  • Suffocation
  • Drowning
  • Electrocution
  • Falls
  • Strangling

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