The coronavirus pandemic has brought to light how vulnerable large amounts of children across the UK are in their own homes. With schools closing as lockdown began, and everyone urged to stay at home, existing domestic problems only grew worse, and now we are beginning to see the significant impact that has had as we start to pick up the pieces.
The Children’s Commission estimated in 2019 that there are 2.3 million vulnerable children in the UK. To put this in perspective, this could be 6 children in a class of 30. The vast majority are either unknown to services or receive little support. When lockdown came, a huge number of children were trapped in their homes; for many this meant losing vital support from the outside world. School for many was a lifeline, providing children with a safe space, a hot meal, and staff who took care of them and nurtured them. Without it, they might have been left hungry, cold, lonely, or for the most vulnerable, terrified of a danger which could take their life.
These are problems which already existed, and we knew about well before the pandemic. But they have only grown worse. One issue we are seeing more and more of is people struggling to feed their families while keeping a roof over their head, in the face of unemployment and loss of incomes. And there are so many more problems we cannot even imagine. It is heart-breaking to see the world so in pain and despair.
We as a nation need to be asking what must our response be? As ever, the Bible gives us the answer. Jesus tells us in Matthew 25 to feed the hungry, pour drinks for the thirsty, invite in the stranger, clothe the naked and visit the prisoner. We see Jesus doing this throughout his time on earth, seeking out the most marginalised and inviting them to know him. God calls us to care for those without and give out of our prosperity. We serve a God who is the very definition of love, kindness, and justice, and we seek to grow more like Him. This is the best arena to enact that transformation, by sharing those qualities with everyone we possibly can.
The bottom line is that we need to love our communities. We need to get to know our neighbours, colleagues, classmates, and reach out to them. We need to offer support and help them to access charities, support networks, and government support. We need to return to community, to come alongside people to do life together. We need to create better environments for a child to grow up supported, loved and cared for. And we need that support system to be consistent, one that will not disappear even in a pandemic. A group of people who fight for the success of one child, and continually show up for them, will have the greatest impact. And that model will feed into a culture characterised by community and love for our neighbour. That is a world worth fighting for!