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Special Needs Pupils ‘Took Own Lives’ In Kent Amid Covid-19 Pandemic

July 15, 2020

Five children with special educational needs have taken their own lives in Kent since the Covid-19 pandemic began, the county council has confirmed.

It said the deaths should be considered among the “wider health implications” of coronavirus.

The “break in routine” caused by the pandemic “will have had an impact”, said cabinet member for children’s services Sue Chandler.

She said each death was a “tragedy,” but the “numbers are thankfully low”.

Children with special needs plans were among those invited to continue attending school throughout lockdown.

Sarah Hammond, the council’s director of children’s services, told the Guardian: “We worked really, really hard to get parents to send their children in, but we never got above 10%”

She said two or three deaths would normally be expected each year.

‘Disruption to care’

The National Child Mortality Database said there were 25 likely child suicides during the first 56 days of lockdown.

It said the causes were not clear but “restriction to education and other activities, disruption to care and support services, tensions at home and isolation appeared to be contributing factors”.

The children who died in Kent were aged between 13 and 17 and had special needs including autism spectrum disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Tania Tirraoro, a mother of two boys with autism, said lockdown had meant services disabled children relied on had been “stripped away for many, if not most”.

Ms Tirraoro, co-founder of the Special Needs Jungle website, said schools must be given the resources come September to support mental health and that during the summer “local areas must ensure easy access to mental health youth counsellors is urgently ramped up”.

Ms Chandler said the council always focussed on mental health and there had been “intense intervention” to make sure children with “similar characteristics” were being helped.

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