The charity has warned that children are more vulnerable during the coronavirus pandemic, which, in forcing the widespread closure of schools and GP practices, has made it harder for authorities to identify neglect or violence.
Amid an increased reliance on takeaway services during the nationwide lockdown, NSPCC said Deliveroo’s riders were well-placed to spot any emerging safeguarding concerns.
Free training from the charity’s ‘It’s Your Call’ course will be provided while riders will also promote the NSPCC Helpline number with a sticker on their delivery bags.
The charity added that it has expanded its helpline to respond to the 10,000 “welfare contacts”, including calls and emails, it had received since the start of lockdown in March.
Peter Wanless, chief executive of NSPCC, said it was “essential that we all play our role in helping to keep children and young people safe.”
He added: “Riders and other workers visiting people’s home during the pandemic have the unique opportunity to see or hear things that others may not. Therefore, it is important that they feel confident in knowing what to do if they are concerned about a child.
“It’s fantastic of Deliveroo to take this positive step with us – together we believe everyone can play a part in keeping children safe.”
Will Shu, the CEO of Deliveroo, said: “We are so proud of the vital role Deliveroo riders are carrying out during the Covid-19 crisis. As key workers, riders are at the heart of local communities and will be able to play an important role to help keep children safe.”
Last month, a NSPCC report found that the conditions created by Covid-19 have increased the prevalence of emotional stressors and vulnerabilities within children’s lives, at a time when the usual protective services and support have been weakened.
In May, the NSPCC surveyed over 2,000 adults in Britain and found that over a quarter (26 per cent) were not confident they would know where to seek help if they thought a child or young person was being abused or neglected.
Anna Edmundson, the NSPCC’s head of policy and public affairs, said children were the “hidden victims of the crisis”.
“They have been exposed to increased risks of abuse while having limited access to those who can keep them safe because so much of life has been behind closed doors,” she said.
“Abusers have also been grasping an unprecedented opportunity to target children online since tech firms have had to scale back on moderators and young people have been spending more time on the internet, with many feeling increasingly isolated and lonely.”
A separate report from the Childhood Trust warned last month that children are developing serious mental health conditions, including post-traumatic stress, because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Issues of social isolation, hunger and anxiety about the health of loved ones are putting children at risk, the report said. It added that limited internet access was further hindering those from a disadvantaged background.
Former home secretary Sajid Javid also warned in June of a “surge” in cases of child abuse, as he announced a new “no holds barred” inquiry into child sex abuse with the Centre for Social Justice think tank.
He added that the lockdown has created a “perfect storm” for those children isolated with their abusers.
The idea of a partnership between Deliveroo and NSPCC was first developed when, earlier this year, a rider contacted the charity after becoming worried for a child’s welfare. Action was subsequently taken to ensure the child’s safety.
Although the lockdown is easing, allowing children to return to school or other spaces away from home, many are continuing to remain at home – cut off from the support of wider networks and authorities trained in tackling abuse.
Deliveroo drivers such as Abdelziz Abdou, who said he was “really proud” to play his part in identifying “signs of danger”, are set to receive their training in the coming weeks and months.
“I will also be displaying the NSPCC Helpline number while out riding and hope that this will encourage people to call up and speak to a trained professional,” Mr Abdou added. “This is a really important partnership and I am pleased to show my support for the NSPCC and all their hard work to keep children safe.”
The NSPCC Helpline is available for advice and support on 0808 800 5000 or via email@example.com.