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100,000 ‘ghost children’ are at risk of abuse following Covid lockdown, MP warns

100,000 ‘ghost children’ are at risk of abuse after failing to return to school following Covid lockdown, MP warns

  • Robert Halfon is the chairman of the House of Commons education committee
  • Said 100,000 pupils were ‘lost in the system’ and vulnerable to cruelty at home
  • Is set to be investigation failings leading to death of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes 


Tens of thousands of ‘ghost children’ are at risk of abuse after failing to return to school following the lockdowns, a senior MP warned yesterday.

Robert Halfon, chairman of the Commons education committee, said 100,000 pupils were ‘lost in the system’ and therefore vulnerable to cruelty at home.

His warning came as Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi confirmed there will be an investigation into the failings leading to the death of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, six. 

The boy’s stepmother, Emma Tustin, was jailed last week for at least 29 years for his murder, while his father, Thomas Hughes, was sentenced to 21 years for manslaughter.

Tens of thousands of ‘ghost children’ are at risk of abuse after failing to return to school following the lockdowns, senior MP Robert Halfon warned yesterday. Above: Murdered six-year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes

It emerged in court that Arthur was seen by social workers during the first national lockdown just two months before his death in Solihull, West Midlands, in June last year. But they concluded there were ‘no safeguarding concerns’ and closed the file.

Mr Halfon told MPs yesterday: ‘There are 100,000 what I call the ghost children, who are lost in the system and who haven’t returned to school for the most time, who are subject to potential safeguarding hazards, county lines gangs, online harm and, of course, awful domestic abuse.’ 

Mr Halfon asked Mr Zahawi to make a ‘real effort to work with the local authorities, to work with the schools and the regional commissioners to make sure that those 100,000 children who are mostly not in school are returned to school and are being watched by those authorities when they need to be watched’.

Mr Zahawi replied: ‘It is a concerning issue and it is a focus for my department.’

Mr Halfon told MPs yesterday: 'There are 100,000 what I call the ghost children, who are lost in the system and who haven't returned to school for the most time, who are subject to potential safeguarding hazards, county lines gangs, online harm and, of course, awful domestic abuse

Mr Halfon told MPs yesterday: ‘There are 100,000 what I call the ghost children, who are lost in the system and who haven’t returned to school for the most time, who are subject to potential safeguarding hazards, county lines gangs, online harm and, of course, awful domestic abuse

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