Children’s services is responsible for safeguarding and protecting the welfare of vulnerable children. These responsibilities continue whilst the Covid-19 outbreak is ongoing but there have been some changes in how children’s services operate.
The government has published detailed guidance and this can be found here.
It is important that the difficult and complex decisions that need to be taken during this period should be made in the spirit of the following principles:
- child-centred – promoting children’s best interests: nothing is more important than children’s welfare; children who need help and protection deserve high quality and effective support as soon as help is identified
- risk-based – prioritising support and resources for children at greatest risk
- family focussed – harnessing the strengths in families and their communities
- evidence informed – ensuring decisions are proportionate and justified
- collaborative – working in partnership with parents and other professionals
- transparent – providing clarity and maintaining professional curiosity about a child’s wellbeing
Are local authorities required to provide advocacy support for looked after children?
The ongoing provision of advocacy for looked-after children is of absolute importance at present and, as such, local authority duties to provide it remain unchanged. In addition, the Always Heard safety net service continues to be fully operational and can be contacted at 0808 800 5792 and the Children’s Commissioner’s Help at Hand service is also available on 0800 528 0731.
What support should local authorities be providing to children who have a social worker?
Multi-agency support should continue, with appropriate flexibility in how this is delivered, for example, via telephone or online support rather than face-to-face meetings, where it is risk-assessed as safe to do so.
Should child protection conferences go ahead?
Multi-agency working is crucial to ensuring the protection of vulnerable children, and multi-agency child protection conferences should therefore go ahead, using video conferencing or conference calling solutions where appropriate.
Contact with family for Looked After Children
A local authority still has a legal duty to maintain reasonable contact between looked after children and their parents and endeavor to promote contact between looked after children and other family members. In the circumstances contact that could place a child at risk, due to COVID-19, could not be considered reasonable. Therefore, it could be the case that indirect forms of contact have to be considered for an interim period such as video calling and telephone.
Making a complaint
Young people and children can continue to make complaints if they are not satisfied with decisions that are being made. Local authorities must continue to follow the timeframes which are set out in law.