The effects of COVID-19 on everyone in our society have been well reported. However, there remain sections of our communities - vulnerable children, young people and families - whose voices are not heard and who are not seen. Working alongside partners, we're launching See, Hear, Respond.

The Coronavirus lockdown has seen many of these children and young people become at an increased risk of abuse and exploitation in family environments and out in the wider community, experience high levels of  social isolation, anxiety, trauma and other mental health and wellbeing issues, as well as slipping through the cracks in the school system. 

This has meant that children are isolated with their families, facing growing financial, mental and emotional pressure and are being cut off from their usual support systems. At the same time, domestic abuse has been rising, with the charity Refuge reporting that visits to its website have increased tenfold in the past two weeks, and calls to its helpline up by 66% in the past three weeks.

To reach these vulnerable children and young people who are at risk due to COVID-19, as part of the £7 million relief fund provided by the Department for Education we’re launching the See, Hear, Respond charity partnership on June 15th. There will be tailored support for children and families, to help reduce levels of harm. This will include online and digital support, face-to-face interventions using social distancing measures and PPE, and wider targeted work with children who will need help reintegrating back into school.

Support for the program

Children and Families Minister Vicky Ford said, “We all have a collective responsibility to protect children and young people who face challenges in their home lives, or who may not have the same support network keeping them safe outside of school or college as their peers. Many of them may be at additional risk from abuse, neglect or exploitation during these unprecedented times.

“By working with charities directly supporting these young people on the front line, we can expand their reach to provide a much wider safety net to those in need of mental health support, counselling or protection from people trying to exploit them, as well as helping to get them safely back into education.”

Safeguarding Minister Victoria Atkins said:

“As a government, we have acted decisively and adapted our response to prevent the exploitation of vulnerable children during this pandemic. I’m delighted we can provide further funding to frontline charities so those most at risk can get the help they need.”​​​​​

See, Hear, Respond will provide support online to children and families who are struggling, street-based youth work to identify and support children at risk of harm outside of the home, including exploitation, and help vulnerable children to successfully reintegrate back into school or college if they have not been attending during the pandemic. 

The programme will focus on finding and reaching out to children around the country who are experiencing negative impacts on their health and wellbeing, as well as those at risk of harm.

This funding will provide:

  •  Access to an online support package to children and families ensuring they have readily available, accessible and interactive information;
  • Online and telephone referral service by trained professionals who can source further help and support from charity workers within the partnership;
  • Online counselling or therapy for those experiencing high levels of anxiety, trauma or other mental health issues that can be safely addressed through digital means;
  • Youth interventions and face-to-face crisis support, particularly for those at risk of or experiencing various forms of exploitation, including criminal exploitation

By supporting local authorities, schools, police forces, healthcare professionals and other vital services, See, Hear, Respond will focus on supporting children experiencing potentially disastrous impacts on their health and well-being, and those at risk of harm.

This partnership follows the Government’s Hidden Harms Summit, which outlined a programme of support for people who are at risk from domestic violence, abuse and exploitation, including children.

This initiative is open to all children where there are concerns for their safety and wellbeing and who are not being seen by statutory agencies. In particular we will be focused on the following groups:

  • Under 5s, with a focus on under 2s
  • Those with SEND who have other associated harms such as exploitation
  • Children out of the home at risk of criminal and sexual exploitation – working in outreach detached settings
  • BAME children – offering culturally sensitive and responsive services to reach families and communities that have been disproportionately impacted by Covid 19
  • Young carers

How we'll help

From June 15th, See, Hear, Respond will be available online and over the phone and will see the partnership of charities providing:​​​​

  • Access to digital support packages and information that is accessible and interactive;
  • Local telephone helplines that will assess callers needs to find further help and support from charity workers, or other services in operation;
  • Online counselling or therapy for those going through high levels of anxiety, trauma or other mental health issues that can be safely addressed through digital means;
  • Detached youth interventions and face-to-face crisis support, especially for those either at risk of, or experiencing, exploitation;
  • Identification of children who would most benefit from extra support to make sure they can reintegrate into school in September. 

Barnardo’s Chief Executive Javed Khan said “The coronavirus pandemic means vulnerable children and young people are increasingly hidden from services, and by working closely with the Department for Education and a wide range of national and local charities, we will provide a vital lifeline to those at risk of harm. Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures, and we have formed this partnership because vulnerable children now face challenges that are too complex for any single organisation to solve alone. “

Through this unique project, we aim to reach hundreds of thousands of children who have been hidden from services, either face to face or with digital tools. By stepping in early we will improve their long-term outcomes and maximise their chance of a positive future.

Javed Khan

Barnardo's Chief Executive

Harun Khan, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, said:

“The pandemic has clearly exposed deep inequalities in our society, with  many groups disproportionately impacted and needing extra support. Children in particular are at risk of being left behind and their needs not met. We’re pleased to be supporting Barnardo’s and the Department for Education to ensure every child that is at risk and needs additional support receives this, particularly those in marginalised groups which may fall through the net. It is imperative we all work together to make sure no child is left behind.”​​​​​​


We will be approaching national, regional and local partner organisations in the coming weeks to work with us on delivering this service across England. If your organisation is interested in working with us, please contact your Regional Coordinator on:

North: [email protected]

Central: [email protected]

South West: [email protected]

South East: [email protected]

London: [email protected]

For national applications, or applications across more than one region, please contact [email protected]

What we do

  • Supporting young people

    We offer practical and emotional support so that young people can enter adulthood with the confidence they need to achieve their full potential.

  • Protecting children

    We support children and young people who have been abused and help them feel safe again, and reach out to children at risk of harm, giving them the support they need.

  • Helping families

    We provide a range of services to help and support families across the UK, working with organisations and professionals so that children get the best start in life.