Deliveroo riders will be trained to spot signs of child abuse in the latest measure to help identify those at risk who may be hidden due to the coronavirus lockdown.
The NSPCC will provide training for hundreds of riders to help them recognise children at risk of abuse and neglect.
As they deliver takeaway meals straight to people’s homes they are ‘well-placed to spot any emerging safeguarding concerns’, the child protection charity said.
They will also be able to order a sticker to display the NSPCC helpline number on their bags so any adult with concerns knows how to get in contact.
Calls to child abuse helplines have rocketed since the lockdown period began, with risk levels increasing due to the vast amounts of time spent in the family home.
Reports from adults concerned about child abuse have increased by almost a fifth during the lockdown, the NSPCC said.
Its helpline received 2,216 calls about children facing neglect, physical and emotional abuse in the first four weeks of the lockdown.
The idea of Deliveroo getting involved was prompted when a rider contacted the NSPCC earlier this year after becoming worried about a child’s welfare, which led to action being taken.
Peter Wanless, NSPCC chief executive, said: ‘It is essential that we all play our role in helping to keep children and young people safe.
‘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, Deliveroo chief executive, 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.’
Risks to children may have intensified during the pandemic because of an increase in stress among parents or caregivers, increased vulnerability of children to certain types of abuse, such as online abuse, and a reduction in normal protective services, the NSPCC said.
In May, it surveyed 2,061 adults in Britain and found that over a quarter (26%) were not confident they would know where to seek help if they thought a child or young person was being abused or neglected.
The charity has temporarily made the It’s Your Call course free during the pandemic, and has seen its helpline contacted more than 10,000 times with concerns for a child’s welfare.
Deliveroo riders will also deliver hundreds of free meals to NSPCC helpline staff in Belfast and Salford to thank them for keeping children safe during the pandemic.