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Harrow charity urges government to do more after revealing the hidden impact of lockdown

Children and young people have been the victims of domestic abuse, gang crime, digital exclusion and have experienced serious mental heath issues as a result of lockdown in the UK.  

John Lyon’s Charity urges the Government to do more to help. 

Back in April 2020, at the height of lockdown, John Lyon’s Charity was one of the first organisations to sign up to the ‘We stand with the sector statement’ confirming our flexible approach to supporting civil society groups affected by the Coronavirus outbreak. Soon after, John Lyon’s Charity pledged half a million pounds of emergency funding to groups and communities in need to the London Community Response Fund (LCRF) coordinated by London Funders.

Since April 2020, over £560,000 has been awarded to 54 organisations working with children and young people in the Charity’s Beneficial Area who have been most severely affected by the global pandemic. 

Grants have supported organisations with practical support like the provision of food, mobile phones and other digital devices as well as helping organisations adapt their services so that they can continue to deliver their work safely and efficiently to as many young people as possible.

Harrow charity urges government to do more after revealing the hidden impact of lockdown Harrow Online

John Lyon’s Charity has now ring-fenced another half a million pounds of emergency funding to the London Community Response Fund.  

So what has prompted this decision?

Many of the organisations which John Lyon’s Charity helps in urban areas, such as Brent, Harrow and Ealing, have provided harrowing stories of children and young people who have suffered appalling levels of domestic abuse in the home, recruitment into gangs, the inability to learn online due to lack of home-based computers and laptops, and the escalation of new or existing mental health issues. 

It is clear from the Charity’s research that lockdown has magnified pre-existing issues and presented organisations with a raft of new problems to deal with.

Dr. Lynne Guyton, CEO at John Lyon’s Charity said: “After speaking with multiple charitable organisations that we fund, we have been shocked to hear about the many cases of domestic abuse involving sibling attacks, an increase in mental health problems, knife crime and digital exclusion. These issues were always a problem but they have been exacerbated by the impact of Covid-19.

“We, as a funding organisation are trying to do all we can, which is why we have pledged an additional £500k to LCRF. These small organisations that we support have to survive. If they don’t, the impact on the children and young people who desperately need their support and guidance will be immense”.

On 8th April, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, announced a £750m financial support package for charities hit by the coronavirus crisis. This decision followed pressure from a number of charities and umbrella organisations. 

However, the government has faced criticism over the slow pace at which the urgently needed funds have been distributed with the biggest concern that it’s going to larger organisations rather than grassroots organisations who are at risk of bankruptcy.

John Lyon’s Charity has compiled statements from a number of organisations who, in the face of unprecedented problems, are working hard to deliver their services to vulnerable children and young people.

Their aims are to help alleviate the problems of abuse, crime and exclusion, which have been highlighted and to provide positive activities for young people, whose lives have been very bleak this year.

Yusuf Deerow, Chair, Somali Youth Development Resource Centre (SYDRC) said: “What Covid-19 has affectively done is highlight the deprivation and structural inequality that was always there and all it’s done is basically aggravated it”.  

Louise Bartlett-Pestell, Director of Programming at Arts Depot said: “I think particularly young people with disabilities, who rely on a lot of support in their educational situations or community support groups, that support has had to change or taken away completely and it’s really worrying”. 

Donna John, Executive Director, Ignite Trust said: “every time there is another young person who gets stabbed or killed…for every young person who is dying is one person too many”.

Rashid Iqbal, Chief Executive Officer of The Winchester Project said the Government needs to “invest in social infrastructure for the long term because that then includes things like childcare, youth clubs, afterschool clubs or things outside of formal schooling education. Value them, they do amazing work, value youth clubs, it’s sometimes the only place a person feels they belong”. 

John Lyon’s Charity is calling on the Government to do the following:  

1. To provide greater clarity on the distribution of the £750m funding pot for the voluntary sector announced in April. Most organisations do not know when it’s coming or how much will be given. This clarity is needed now, without delay.

2. Listen to the voluntary sector and pay attention to all charities, big and SMALL. Big is not always best and from our experience it’s often the small community led organisations that can have the biggest impact

3. A support package for the Early Years Sector to provide specialist support for families in line with support already offered to schools. The Government needs to recognise the importance of early years on child development and long-term life chances.

John Lyon’s Charity promises to do all it can to ensure children and young people receive the support they need through the groups it funds. But the government needs to sit up and ensure the promised funding of £750m is being distributed quickly and to the neediest organisations. More needs to be done. A lot more.

To hear more about the emergency funding opportunity, please visit www.jlc.london.