Discussion with the Chief Social Worker (Isabelle Trowler) - 25th March

Key Issues:

*Urgent need for national guidance specifically for child and family social workers - which statutory requirements can be relaxed and how?

*Concern over balancing staff and family safety and/or anxiety around social distancing with statutory requirements. Exacerbated substantially by lack of clarity about availability and usage of PPE. Huge differences between local areas and availability.

*High level concern about contact arrangements and conflicting messages. When and how to pursue virtual or face to face contact?

*Request that social workers are prioritised for testing (for virus & antibodies).

*Some LAs are already setting up unregistered children's homes. Others want permission to do so using children's centres etc.

*Most are rag rating every child open to them.

*Most experiencing downturn in demand but expecting this to shift significantly in coming weeks.

*In one area a university has offered to provide self-contained accommodation for vulnerable 16-year olds and care leavers. Great idea.

*Requesting guidance on temporary foster carers and other potential carers - social workers and residential staff taking children home. In one place they have 40 ready adopters across the region who they are approaching to foster instead.

*One LA is retraining staff to work in residential care.

*There are lower numbers of vulnerable children in school than expected – local authorities are working closely with schools to see how this can be managed and several reporting close monitoring. In general no surprise that attendance low with children "feeling special for all the wrong reasons".

*There is a need, for a range of reasons, for fast tracked DBS.

*One person noted that the government could consider providing WiFi to vulnerable families to help them stay in touch with their social workers. There are families that have smart phones but do not have access to Wi-Fi.

*Several suggestions that we draw on international experience of child protection impact - China and Italy.

*Huge variation in workforce capacity. Some London authorities struggling. Others at full capacity able to meet all statutory requirements.

Actions CSW will take forward

*Confirmed she will be taking these points forward and examining them.

*Home Visit Guidance was stressed as critical and she confirmed that the DfE will provide guidance on home visits, it will not be detailed and instead principle based.

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