Arthur Labinjo-Hughes: More vulnerable children to be protected during lockdown school closures

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Emma Tustin was found guilty of the “wicked and evil” murder of Arthur last month, while Thomas Hughes, his father, was convicted of his manslaughter.

When Arthur died, he had more than 130 areas of bruising on his body, which Jonas Hankin QC, the prosecutor, described as “a bruise for every day of lockdown”.

Arthur’s grandparents and uncles tried to raise the alarm to social services on four occasions, but had their concerns dismissed. One of Arthur’s uncles was even threatened with arrest for breaching lockdown rules when he told police he was planning to check up on his nephew.

Tustin and Hughes had decided to move in together when the first lockdown was announced in March 2020 and they went on to spend weeks starving, abusing and attacking the little boy, before he eventually succumbed to an “unsurvivable brain injury” three months later.

Throughout the abuse, Arthur was not at school – where his injuries may have been noticed by teachers – because it had shut down for lockdown, the court was told.

Rise in children reporting abuse during lockdown

The NSPCC has repeatedly warned of the dangers posed to children from abuse during lockdown. The children’s charity said there had been a 23 per cent rise in calls from children to its abuse helpline during the pandemic.

Previously, the DfE’s list of vulnerable children included those who are in care, care leavers, or adopted as well as those with who are living in temporary accommodation or who are young carers.

Officials at the DfE said that in the past, it has been left at the discretion of headteachers to decide which children are classified as vulnerable and therefore eligible for a school place in the event of another lockdown.

They explained that the additional categories are aimed at providing further guidance for heads about what might lead to a child being deemed vulnerable.

The definition of “critical workers”, whose children are also allowed to attend school during a lockdown, remains the same as it was before.

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