Pharmacists are being urged to look out for signs of child abuse going on at home, amid fears that vulnerable children have been suffering under the radar since lockdown. 

The Children’s Society and National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) have launched a campaign to raise awareness of the signs of child physical and sexual abuse and neglect. 

The organisations have sent out an informational poster, asking people to ‘know, look, act’, to 400 health settings, businesses and public services across the country, which they are hoping will be shared within networks. 

The signs to look out for include:

  • Guarded behaviour around particular individuals  
  • Sudden changes in behaviour  
  • Bruises, burns, bite marks or fractures  
  • Children appearing withdrawn, anxious or frightened 
  • Hearing or seeing shouting and violence towards a child  
  • Children seen carrying or using drugs  
  • Children being late or arriving home late in different cars  
  • Unaccompanied children visiting a house where only adults live. 

The Children’s Society said it fears that child abuse is going undetected during the Covid-19 crisis because children are spending more time at home, making them less visible to professionals such as health workers and teachers as well as the general public. 

Children may also be increasingly vulnerable to exploitation at other homes, for instance, where they are groomed by organised criminals to deal drugs in ‘trap houses’. 

‘It’s a real worry that horrific child abuse and exploitation, which might be picked up on quickly in ordinary times could be going under the radar right now,’ The Children’s Society national prevention programme manager James Simmonds-Read said.

‘If something doesn’t feel right, it might not be and by speaking out you could help a child escape a really dangerous, traumatic situation.’ 

The campaign urges people to ‘stay curious, look beyond the obvious and report any concerns to a safeguarding lead and to contact police on 101 or 999 in an emergency. They can also call the children’s charity the NSPCC on 0808 800 500 for advice or guidance.