Safeguarding Children During Coronavirus
The situation with coronavirus is changing daily and we are aware that you may be feeling concerned. We would like to reassure everyone in Camden that robust plans are in place across the partnership to keep vital services running during this period. Our partners will continue to reorganise their workforce in accordance to national guidance, to ensure we remain resilient and flexible to safeguard and support children and their families.
Camden Children and Families Contact Service is a multi-agency team that incorporates the Multi-agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) team and the First Stop Early Help team. The Contact Service is responsible for making decisions on referrals and requests for services to ensure that children and families get the most suitable services and support depending on their level of need. If you are worried about a child or young person please call 020 7974 3317 (out of hours: 020 7974 4444). If you think a child is in immediate danger you should call the police on 999.
Camden Early Help offer to Camden schools and nurseries
Many schools and nurseries are making plans to check in with families who may be vulnerable during periods of COVID closure. To compliment this vital work, and to offer additional support to our schools and nurseries during this difficult time, Camden Family Early Help will be offering a family welfare check-in service. The Camden Early Help Family Check-in will be help with phone calls a week with a family with children aged 0-19. The staff member will check the family is ok and has access to basic needs (food, medicines and supplies). Information on COVID advice from Public Health and NHS will be offered. If the family needs some help, the staff member will connect them to sources of support. The staff member will not do home visits. The family check in is for low-level concerns and needs only. For safeguarding concerns or requests for formal early help support, please contact Children and Families Contact Service at LBCMASHadmin@camden.gov.uk or 0207 974 3317. Please ask parents for their consent to refer them for a welfare check-in and let them know they will be receiving a call or email from Family Early Help. A link to the web form to make a referral to the family check-in service is here. If you have questions, please contact us on 0207 974 4837 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Q. If you have a social worker, what will be different?
- The current situation means that your social worker will not be able to come and visit you face-to-face as regularly as they have in the past. This is to help reduce the spread of the virus between people.
- This doesn’t mean your social worker doesn’t want to see you all. We are all still thinking about your family and working to ensure that you are all safe and happy.
- So for the time being, most of your contact with your social worker will be over the phone and through video chat. Meetings will take place in a similar way and your social worker will always inform you when a meeting is going to take place and how you can take part. They will still come out to do visits if there are things we are really worried about, but the rest of the time we will talk with your family over the phone.
- This means that you should always be able to contact your social worker on their phone or by text, and they will try and respond to you as quickly as possible. If there is something worrying you or you are concerned for your own or someone else’s safety then you should still contact them as soon as possible to talk to them about this.
Q. What will happen next?
- We hope that after a time of people staying indoors and not spending time in big groups the virus will slow down and eventually stop making people sick. When this happens we want life to go back to normal. When the government makes a new decision about what everyone needs to do then we will write again to explain this to you and again make clear how we are going to be working with you.
If you have any more questions please talk to your social worker. If your social worker is not available then you can either speak to their manager or another social worker on 020 7974 3317. We want children and parents to contact their social workers when they need to.
Supporting children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing — guidance for parents and carers
Children or young people may react in different ways according to their age. This guidance provides some practical advice for parents/carers, with information to help support children and young people to cope with stress during this time. There is also specific information for/around:
- Children who are accessing mental health services
- Children with learning disabilities
- Autistic children
- Children with physical health issues
- Children who are young carers
- Money worries.
The document includes where to get further help and advice and has useful links to helplines and websites. There is also an ‘easy-read’ version of this guidance that explains ‘Looking after your feelings and your body’.
Guidance for health professionals: If you work in primary, secondary, community or emergency care, visit www.england.nhs.uk/coronavirus to access the latest updates and guidance on Coronavirus.
Last updated — 26th June 2020
Child Protection Case Conferences — COVID-19 Contingency Plan
Facilitating such conferences (face-to-face) continues not to be possible in the current climate, given the health risks associated with the COVID-19 virus. Consequently, conferences will continue to be held virtually for the time being and every effort will be made to uphold the values of London Child Protection Procedures within these constraints. For the time being, either Skype or Microsoft Teams will be used depending on the specifics of the meeting concerned. From August 2020 onwards, all virtual meetings will be held on Microsoft Teams across the Council.
Since the beginning of virtual working in March, almost all conferences have been completed at the scheduled time. This has only been possible due to the commitment of all concerned across the multi-agency partnership, which has been greatly appreciated. We are now seeking to develop our virtual practice further by encouraging attendees to have their cameras switched on and thinking as broadly as possible about how we can best promote the involvement of the families concerned on a case by case basis. The reason for encouraging the use of cameras is to make the experience closer to that of a face-to-face meeting for all concerned, particularly the family.
We understand that using a camera when working at home can be experienced as intrusive, but this is mitigated by a function in Teams that enables the background to be blurred or to be replaced by an alternative background. Teams can be accessed by clicking on to a link but works best if you download the app in advance. The Teams app can be downloaded here.
Regarding the participation of families, conference chairs will liaise with the family and social worker in advance to think how this can be best achieved in the context of the specific circumstances of the case. It may sometimes be desirable for families to access a computer outside of their home and any assistance that partner agencies may be able to offer in this regard would be appreciated. For instance, there has been a successful example of parents accessing a computer at a nearby school for the duration of the meeting, though we appreciate that this will not always be possible.
In summary, the following approach will be used:
- Conferences will be undertaken virtually using Skype or Teams, though from August only Teams will be used.
- Reports from each agency remains a requirement and should be emailed 48 hours in advance of an initial or pre-birth and five working days in advance of a review.
- The chair will call parents/carers/young people to seek their views and to consider how best to involve the family within the virtual conference.
- At the end of the conference process, the chair will define the content of the harm and safety statement, make a decision as to whether a child protection plan (or other plan) is needed, and draw up an outline plan where required. The chair will ensure that members of the professional network are updated.
These measures will remain in place until further notice.
Safeguarding advice to parents and arranging childcare:
Many parents will need to make decisions about whether to leave their child alone for short or longer periods. Here is the best advice from the NPSCC Home Alone guidance. Parents and carers are responsible for their children and will need to take decisions about childcare. Some parents and carers may become unwell themselves. It is very important that suitable carers are chosen for your children, if close family members are not available. Please ensure that childminders are suitably trained and DBS checked, as well as private tutors or clubs which may be used. Please see advice here.
Private Fostering is a term used when close family members or legal guardians are not used to care for children for more than 28 days. The Children and Family Contact Service can advise on this the safety of this type of placement for children aged until 16 years of age. Find out more here.
Family group conference
As members of a family we all can find ourselves having things to sort out, or be at points in time when decisions need to be made. Whether we are in difficult times, struggling to manage our children or needing support with making plans for our children, Family Group Conference (FGC) can be a useful option. A FGC is free and is an independent meeting organised for you with the family and friends you want to have there. It is a chance for you to take time out from busy family life, to help come up with solutions and a plan to deal with whatever is going on. Due to social distancing regulations, we are now holding our Family Group Conferences online. Click the link below to understand what’s changed.
If school staff have any queries regarding the above contingency plan, then please contact one of the following Heads of Service:
LADO — Child Protection Conferences, Looked After Children Reviews — Sophie Kershaw
020 7974 3828
Looked After Children — Sally Joseph
020 7974 6798
Children in Need — Michelle O’Regan
020 7974 1905
Children and Young People Disability Service — Crina Popa
020 7974 4867
Virtual School — Natalie White
020 7974 2359
These measures will remain in place and may be reviewed in the eventuality of further change, until it is determined that the COVID-19 crisis is over and normal business can be resumed.