By Conal McGarrity
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Looked After Children – New Guidelines for Contact During Covid-19

We have just received new guidance from the Director of Social Care & Children, Marie Roulston in relation to contact during these unprecedented times.

The Director has advised of the current arrangements adopted by all Trusts in relation to face to face supervised and facilitated contact with children subject to Interim Care Orders and Care Orders and their familiesAll such direct contact is suspended.  This decision comes from concerns regarding the impact of COVID-19 for all staff and families in such contact situations. It aims at limiting the social interactions between groups of people at this time, promotes social distancing, and hence preventing the spread of the disease.

The Director states that ‘ The Children (NI) Order 1995 Article 3 states the welfare of the child is paramount and when we consider the welfare checklist in these specific circumstances, we fully endorse our duty of care to keep children and families safe as far as possible. Unfortunately, due to the public health emergency and guidance from the Public Health Authority we have no alternative but to suspend all face to face supervised and facilitated contact between children subject of Interim Care Orders and Care Orders and their parents and families.  This decision will remain subject to ongoing review in accordance with the guidance received from the Public Health Authority. ‘

A review of the situation will take place on 20th April 2020 by the Assistant Directors of Children’s Services and updates provided thereafter to you by your social worker.

What Does This Mean Going Forward?

In short indirect contact is promoted in the interim period with social workers liaising with carers to agree how to facilitate.  In the case of unsupervised contact, the same rule applies for the interim period with indirect contact to be encouraged.

What does indirect contact look like? The child’s social worker will liaise directly with each family to consider whether you could suitably use Skype, Face time, Video calls, Zoom, Letters, Calls and any other agreed form of indirect contact.

The family placement social worker will be the key link in liaising in all circumstances to set the appropriate measures in place.

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