The government has issued new guidance on children’s social care which is relevant for kinship carers whose children have a social worker. This includes kinship foster carers, some special guardians, and children on child protection plans or child in need plans.
The Government understands that coronavirus will put a lot of pressure on children’s services across the country, which means that they might not be able to do everything they were doing before the virus. To make sure families are supported and children are protected, children’s services have to work to the following principles:
- The work children’s services do has to be focused on the needs of the children they support. This includes children in kinship foster and many children in special guardianship and kinship care families.
- If it gets too hard for children’s services to keep supporting everyone in the way they were before the virus, then support will be prioritised to children at the highest risk. It is likely this will include many children in kinship care, kinship foster care, and special guardianship families.
- Where support is reduced, families should not just be abandoned and professionals should work with families to try to make sure they get support from other places, such as family or friends or community groups.
- Children’s services should be able to explain the reasons why they feel it is safe to reduce support to some families.
- Children’s services should only make decisions to change the support families receive after talking to the children and carers first where possible.
- Children’s services should continue to be concerned about the safety and welfare of all children in their areas, including children in kinship care, kinship foster care, and special guardianship families.
What will children’s services be doing during the coronavirus pandemic?
Where possible children’s services’ departments will keep providing support to families, whilst taking into account all the different social distancing and social shielding guidelines. You can find details about this here.
However, some children’s services departments will need to limit some of their services. If your support has been reduced and this is causing you difficulties, please contact Grandparents Plus and we will offer you advice and support.
Will social workers still be doing visits?
Social workers will still need to be in contact with children and families who need support, or where there are worries about the safety of the children. This does not always have to be face-to-face and it might be possible to do it via a video call, but there will be times when they have to see children in person.
If a social worker does need to visit they will need to do things to protect themselves and the families they are visiting from getting coronavirus.
Before the visit the social worker will usually call you to ask if anyone in the household has any of the symptoms of coronavirus. If no one in the family has symptoms then they can visit without wearing masks and gloves as long as they remain two meters from everyone in the home. Some workers might choose to wear masks and gloves to be extra safe and this is okay.
If anyone in the home is showing symptoms of coronavirus then the social worker will need to decide whether the visit is urgent, whether it can be done in another way such as video call, or whether it can wait until everyone is better or stopped self-isolating. If the visit does take place, the social worker will wear masks, gloves, and other protective equipment.
Can I refuse to let a social worker into my home?
It can be worrying having people visit your home at the moment. It is natural to worry they might increase the risk of catching coronavirus. However, social workers should follow guidelines that mean the risk to themselves and the families they are working with is very small.
Social workers should only be visiting families and children where there is an absolute need to. If a social worker wants to visit your home you can ask them why a face to face visit is necessary. If the social worker is worried about the safety of your children, in most cases they should tell you this. Where social workers are worried about the safety of your children Grandparents Plus recommends that you work with them.
You can refuse to allow social workers into your home but they could return with either a court order or the Police which would mean you would have to allow them in. If you are unsure please contact Grandparents Plus for advice.
Some social workers might try to use different ways of seeing you and your children, such as talking through a window. If you are in agreement with this then it is okay. But if you do not want this to happen, maybe because you do not want other people nearby to know your children have a social worker, you can refuse and ask them to think of another way of working with you and your family.
Can children’s services reduce support to families?
Children’s services should continue to support families where they can. It is likely many families will need more support because of coronavirus. The way support is offered is likely to change. Any support will most likely be by telephone or video chat rather than face to face.
If children’s services do reduce your support they need to be able to explain why. You are entitled to challenge this if you need to, please contact us for advice on this.
It is not expected that coronavirus will mean a reduction in financial support for those who get this already. Grandparents Plus would not support any reduction in financial support for families at the current time. It is likely families will need additional financial support and this should be discussed with your children’s social worker.
If your children do not have a social worker please contact your local authority directly or contact us for support. Our advice team can advise you about what benefits you might be entitled to and any grants which may be available to apply for.
If children’s services held meetings about my children, will they still go ahead?
If there were meetings planned for your children then it is possible they will go ahead. Some meetings like looked-after children reviews for children living with kinship foster carers, and child protection conferences, where there are concerns about the safety of children, will continue to take place. Most of these will be done virtually either by telephone or video chat. Everyone who is looking after a child that will be discussed at one of these meetings should be involved in some way. A meeting should not go ahead with an attempt being made to involve parents and carers. If carers choose not to be involved in one of these meetings then it will go ahead without them. Children who are old enough should also be involved in the meetings in some way.
Other meetings such as child in need meetings etc. should still go ahead where possible. However, some might not if the pressure on children’s services gets worse. If you are worried that a meeting is not going ahead and you think that it should then contact your children’s social worker or Grandparents Plus for advice.
What happens if I get ill?
If carers get ill it is felt that where possible they should continue to care for their children. This gives the children security which is important for them. If you or anyone you live with are showing signs of coronavirus, you should follow NHS guidelines which you can find here. If this happens you may be able to get support with shopping and other errands. Look out for community support groups, speak to your Grandparents Plus project worker if you have one, or get in touch with us if you can’t find local support.
If you become so ill that you are unable to care for the children then please contact your local authority immediately and follow their advice. If you do not agree with the advice you are given contact us for support.
Can my children go to school, or do they have to go to school?
Many vulnerable children, including those who have a social worker and many who are in special guardianship and kinship families, are entitled to continue to go to school unless they have a health condition that makes them more vulnerable to coronavirus.
However, it is usually the choice of the carer whether the children should go to school or not. If a carer is in a vulnerable group for coronavirus then it may be they might not want to send their children to school. Please talk to the school or your children’s social worker about this.
Where social workers are worried about the safety of children they might request the children keep going to school. This is so that their safety can be checked regularly. Grandparents Plus would recommend carers follow advice of social workers on this, however please contact us for support if this is a problem for your family.
Some schools are not open; if this is the case then we would expect children in the vulnerable group to be offered a different school to go to. If this has not happened then speak to your school, your children’s social worker, or Grandparents Plus.
My children’s case is in Court, is this affected?
At the moment this seems to be being dealt with on a case-by-case basis. Please contact us if you have any concerns about your children’s court case.
What should happen in relation to contact between the children and their parents?
If children’s services are involved in the contact arrangements it is likely face-to-face contact will be suspended and other ways of keeping in touch will need to happen. Please see our separate advice on contact here.