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Terri White returns to Derbyshire for BBC investigation into covid’s ‘ghost children’

BBC Radio 5 Live has announced a new podcast series which explores how lockdown exposed cracks in the system designed to protect vulnerable children.

Hosted by journalist and former Empire editor Terri White – herself a survivor of child abuse – the series was developed in response to the murder of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes’ in 2020, at a time when almost 100,000 children dropped off England’s school registers in lockdown, according to the Centre for Social Justice.

Unravelled follows Terri as she goes back to her hometown of Chesterfield after receiving a letter from the primary school teacher who helped her through her own traumatic childhood.

Driven by the ghosts of her past, Terri sets out to find out why so many children are still missing from education, with some enduring the same kind of upbringing she survived.

White said: “The shock and devastation of Arthur’s murder has stayed with us all. No child should ever have to suffer in the way that he did. My safe place was always school. It was a place of protection and sanctuary, a place where I mattered, where all kids do. So I was shocked and concerned by the statistics on ‘ghost children’. Up to 100,000 kids who’ve just fallen out of the education system. How many of these kids are now at risk? Is the system failing them? And if so, why? And perhaps most vitally, what can be done to keep them safe?”

Over the course of six months, Terri looks at her own social services records, reconnects with her old teacher and heads to Barrow to meet Caroline, a primary school head who goes out of her way to get children back into education. Terri also speaks to experts and those on the frontline of child protection including social workers, the Children’s Commissioner and senior figures within safeguarding and children’s services.

The podcast series is produced by Sophie Donnelly and Dan Maudsley and edited by Anna Stewart. It was commissioned by Richard Maddock for BBC Radio 5 Live and BBC Sounds. Unravelled will be available to hear on BBC Sounds and on BBC 5 Live from Monday 20 March.

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