Caritas Luxembourg has appealed for greater support for children from vulnerable families and refugee children in light of the current school closures and period of confinement linked to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.
In a statement issued on Friday, the Luxembourg non-profit association warned that, despite current provisions, children from vulnerable families and other at risk groups will suffer from confinement. Indeed, the current state of emergency caused by the health crisis and the resulting confinement poses challenges to many families who lack the necessary resources.
While Caritas commended current efforts being made in the school system such as the participative approach of parents and teachers and integration efforts in favour of the most vulnerable students and families, the NGO maintained that the danger of a significant deterioration of social structures of all kinds in the minds of children remains immanent. Many children will be affected by this crisis, which poses the danger of emotional neglect among other risks.
Caritas has warned that younger children, especially those in primary education, are in a period of lifelong learning and are likely to adopt inadequate life and experience patterns. In addition, some households are more affected by the crisis than others and confinement has also brought about profound changes in the world of work, the outcome of which is remains uncertain.
The NGO recalled that more than 18% of the population was already living economically at risk of poverty in Luxembourg before the crisis, a development which has only worsened. In addition, children from troubled households require more support than others, especially in the days and weeks to come. Caritas has thus called for the creation of alternatives to temporarily withdraw children's school and social activity from family life. Children are also at risk of over-virtualisation and similar precautions must now be taken to protect these children, maintained the NGO.
Caritas similarly warned that confinement and its implications for adults may lead to an increase in the sexual as well as physical, emotional and psychological abuse of children. These phenomena must thus be observed all the more and the reports followed more specifically during the crisis.
The NGO expressed support for the following specific measures already taken by Luxembourg's authorities: the global and clear-sighted approach of the ministries but also of teachers to accompany children during confinement; the many initiatives of public and private institutions to support parents and children; and the creativity and ingenuity of all collaborators involved in the development and implementation of measures intended to benefit as many of those affected as possible.
Nevertheless, Caritas Luxembourg has called for, and offered its support in, greater provision and preparation in the next two weeks in order to be able to absorb the anticipated loads on parents and children for two weeks of Vakanz doheem, etc., especially since the Easter holidays are part of one month of confinement rather than a period of traditional leave. The NGO has also asked that authorities identify in advance, and within the next 14 days, households that may have exceeded their stress limit and also children of other types of risk, and that they help children from vulnerable families to cope with school tasks after the holidays by providing equipment as well as rooms for individual pupils and their accompaniment in small learning groups.
Moreover, Caritas has called for the employment or deployment of educators and teachers from the Education and Child Care Services (SEA) and from teachers and students temporarily to accompany children in small groups in local communities, as well as making compulsory an education programme with attendance in small groups for disadvantaged or at risk children. The NGO has also appealed for an increased number of counselling and support services and suggested specifically targeting families with questionnaires and a portfolio of clear and simple recommendations, for example on media consumption or conflict management, as well as increasing staff to identify and treat cases of physical, emotional or sexual abuse, children's mental health and domestic violence in general. Caritas also stressed that all children in refugee structures require more attention and more continuity in school and public life than others.