Report of Strategic Director, Children, Adults and Families
Committee received a report on the actions taken by Children’s Social Care Service in response to Covid 19, in particular the response to managing safeguarding and supporting vulnerable children.
It was acknowledged that the majority of work within the service involves face to face meetings with families. Therefore, there was an immediate need to look at alternative arrangements whilst ensuring children and young people were kept safe. It was noted that there were some national changes to allow more flexibility to deliver service differently. These changes however are due to end on 25 September 2020 so officers are monitoring the situation going forward.
Committee was provided with Risk Assessments that were carried out for Children’s Homes in the Borough. It was confirmed that respite care at Grove House was maintained, albeit on a reduced capacity, however other local authorities had to close their short term care completely.
It was also noted that there was a reduction in the number of court cases that could be heard, along with an increase in applications to court.
Trackers were put in place to enable the service to monitor those at highest risk, establish who had to been seen in their home settings and which meetings could be held virtually.
A number of staff from other services were redeployed into Care Homes to support staffing levels and a number of those have gone on to apply for permanent roles there.
Links were made to national and regional groups which allowed a close eye to be kept on how services could be delivered differently and a lot was learnt from other areas with larger staff shortages.
It was noted that strong links continued between Children’s Social Care and Education Services which worked well in terms of safeguarding issues and concerns.
It was noted that as the Borough moves out of lockdown some usual services have been delivered face to face, for example Family Time with birth families.
Committee was advised that there has been a significant increase in the number of Looked After Children and an overall increase of Child Protection Plans in place. LAC data shows that this is due to the speed that the service is able to move children out of care given the impact of the pandemic.
It was questioned whether Covid has impacted on children in terms of attachment issues and not being able to see birth families. It was confirmed that a number of surveys have been held around this and there has been a mixed response, for example some teenagers welcomed a more natural communication i.e. through technology – texting, phoning. It was also noted that a lot of work has been carried out around the emotional health and wellbeing of younger children and services are being developed to address that. It was acknowledged that some family time is directed by the Court and some young people actually welcomed the reduction in contact. In cases like these individual Plans are being looked at in terms of future family time.
It was questioned as to what arrangements were put in place for monitoring Care Leavers during Covid. It was confirmed that Care Leavers continued to be supported by the Leaving Care Team which remained fully functional throughout Covid. Virtual Forums were held and surveys carried out and positive feedback was received from the young people. It was noted that the Care Leavers offer has not changed massively except for the virtual platform instead.
It was suggested that the wearing of masks should be included in the risk assessments for Social Workers travelling in cars. It was confirmed that the risk assessments are updated weekly so there is a likelihood that has already changed and assurance was given that this would be changed if not.
Committee questioned whether there had been an increase of referrals in relation to domestic violence, following the big campaign at the start of Covid, and whether this effected the number of children and young people in care. It was confirmed that the number of referrals actually reduced initially for children, this is linked to education colleagues being the biggest referrers, however there was a significant increase in the number of adults referred to the domestic abuse service. Two new staff have been appointed into the service to work with perpetrators of domestic abuse to look at the impact on families. It was noted that the service is planning for a surge in referrals when schools return and there is increased capacity within the team to deal with this.
It was questioned as to the staffing levels throughout Covid. It was confirmed that there was a lot of preparation undertaken in case of reduced staffing levels, however at the early stage the service was not impacted and it is only in more recent weeks that staff levels are being affected. An advert for Social Worker posts has gone out which has received a good response, shortlisting will be carried out next week and it is anticipated that those appointments will resolve any immediate problems.
RESOLVED - That Committee noted the contents of the report.