Posted 22:00 Friday 03/04/2020
The DfE have this evening issued guidance for Children's Social Care.
The advice which is for local authorities, those who have corporate parenting responsibilities, and local safeguarding partnerships who work together to safeguard and promote the welfare of all children in their area. It will also be of interest to social workers, residential care providers and staff, and those with safeguarding responsibilities. It is to be read alongside and in conjucntion with earlier produced guidance which includes but is not limited to:
The preamble details that: "Everyone involved in promoting the welfare, protection and care of children and young people is working extremely hard in the face of unprecedented challenges to support the most vulnerable during this period. It is a time of severe pressure across society, which we know will present heightened levels of risk for some children and young people, so it is especially important that these children and young people continue to receive the services and support they need. At the same time, we recognise that the challenging context means that local authorities and partners will struggle to meet the full range of statutory duties relating to child protection, safeguarding and care at present.
"This guidance should be used to support local authorities in determining how best to support families and protect vulnerable children in this context. It is underpinned by a set of principles which should inform local decision-making and day to day practice with children and families. It also recognises the approach that many local authorities are already taking."
The Guidance contains sections on: (italics include some detail of sections - information should be read in full directly from the guidance)
Principles Decisions should be made on the basis of being child-centred, risk-based, family focussed, evidence, collaborative and transparent
Supporting the workforce Acknowledges that leaders and wider workforce are able to make decisions in the best interests of those in their area. Expectations that arrangements in place to ensure suffient management oversight. Where there is deviation from standard practice and statutory requirements there should be clear records that capture the rationale and risk assessments.
Children’s social care Activities should be prioritsed in line with the principals detailed in section 1. Judgements over visits should be balanced with risks to C&YP, Families and workforce. * PPE is not listed as a requirement unless any party is symptomatic or diagnosed with COVID-19. PPE when used should meet PHE guidance. * Immediate protection procedures should be used where entry is refused and there is a likelihood of immediate serious harm or risk to life. * Vulnerable Children are expected to attend an educational setting unless there is a health concern which puts them at severe risk. * Multi-Agency Support should continue as far as possible although by alternative means if necessary. Continuity and consistency of support should be ensured where possible. * Multi-agency conferences and joint risk assessments should also go ahead where possible using appropriate communication technology. * Relevant Personal Information can be shared lawfully, this can be without consent if it is to keep a child safe from harm or to protect their well-being. Advice should be gained on information governance where practitioners are concerned.
Alternative provision (AP) Not all settings will remain open. Local arrangements are required to determine the best way to protect vulnerable children in AP. Local Authorities are best placed to determine how to do this. Incuding AP being open where feasible * Where it is not, cases will need to be assessed on case by case basis. * APs asked to be highly vigilent in safeguarding during period of educaitonal closures.
Safeguarding Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel still need to be notified in event of serious incident. Notification requirements remain with Local Authority. Statutory safeguarding partners should follow local protools. * Online notification system reamins active and available 24/7. * Local safeguarding partnerships should make local decisions on how quickly they can undertake rapid reviews. These should be expedited in event of child death or serious injury in context of abuse and neglect and COVID is a strongly related factor and thinking is that other partnerships could learn from this. * In depth practice reviews make not be possible within usual six months. Decisions on initiaiting or publishing reviews shoudl be made to DfE .
Children’s homes and residential settings Considering options to support providers with staffing shortages to operate as safely as possible. OFSTED shoudl still be informed if home is to close. Where there is an impending threat of closure due to staffing shortages these should be highlighted as matter of urgency to commissioning authorities. OFSTED should also be informed and will liase with DfE. * Suitable placements for those entering social care system need to be funded out of moneis announced going to Councils to deal with COVID response. *Local authorites shoudlwhere possible recruit and develop local fostering capacity. *applications for registration to support on capcity issues. * Accomodation should meet needs to the best of their ability given the current context.
Unaccompanied asylum seeking children (UASC) UASC arriving as symptomatic will need to be found placements to facilitate self-isolation. * Those Local Authority which initially collects the child will be responsible for them.
Care leavers Local Authorities shoudl continue to attempt to deliver statutory duties. * IF level of support is to be altered then the most vulnerable shoudl be prioritsed. * Discretionary payments to care leavers out of COVID funding is encouraged. * Personal Advisors are encouraged to use technology to contact young people. * Where face to face meetings are necessary account should be made for social distancing to keep worker and care leaver safe. * Discretion to be made with regards to transition arrangements.
Courts Continued efforts to ensure that family jsutice system continues to operate. * Contact arrangements expected to continue. Spirit of orders to be maintained if face to face contact is not possible safely.
Fostering Foster placements to continue wherever possible even in the event of self isoaltion or illness. * Where foster carer is in a vulnerable group risks should be discussed. Virtual School head to be consulted. * Flexibilites in fostering regulations are being considered which may increase capacity. * Existing fostering regulations allow for the convening of remote panels. * consideration being given to reducing the numbers of required panel members. * Where existing foster carers may be able to offer placements to extra children they should be enabled to do so.
Adoption Introductory meetings should be considered on case by case basis making risk based decision. *Creativity is welcomed in prioritising permanent placements. * Adopters may proceed to stage 2 without health clearance or DBS clearance if they wish but nthese must be completed by end of stage 2. Prospective adoprters do not gain access to IRM. * Requests from adoptive placements in relation to attendance in education shoudl be considered sympathetically if they may stop a placement breakdown. This should be assessed on case by case basis.
Workforce Those returning to social work workforce are eligible for free fast tracked DBS checks. * Local authorites are required to ensure that usual employment checks are undertaken. * Students are not yet going to receive emergency registration but this is being kept under review.
Ofsted Routine inspections suspended. * Urgent inspections where specific concerns raised can go ahead in format of monitoring inspection and without a judgement. * Regulatory role is continuing. * DfE in discussion about how risk and fragility is monitored in absence of routine inspections.