17 February, 2021
The Coronavirus (Covid-19) global pandemic is non-discriminatory and has affected every single person all over the world in varying ways.
Unsurprisingly, when the national lockdown came into force in England in March 2020, the country stood still and the majority of workers, students and children had to adapt to a more virtual way of life. Nearly all organisations had been put under pressure when Covid-19 hit and continue to be so. The care system was not excluded from this pressure. Ofsted found that pressures on the care system have been amplified by the pandemic.
For those children who are protected by social care services, the lockdown restrictions which have been enforced in fluctuating degrees since March 2020, do not mean that the services provided by the Local Authority such as contact with their birth parents and siblings, should cease.
Coronavirus (Covid-19): guidance for children's social care services, February 2021, has confirmed that contact for children who are in care is the same as it was pre-pandemic. Therefore, it is face-to-face contact which should be the first option before virtual contact.
"The use of virtual visits should be the exception and can be used as a result of public health advice or when it is not reasonably practicable to have a face-to-face visit otherwise for a reason relating to the incidence or transmission of coronavirus".
Whether contact between a child and family members permits a face-to-face session will be assessed on a case by case basis however it is unreasonable for face-to-face contact to not be suggested whilst in the national lockdown. There may be reasons where a contact session would have to be conducted virtually over video or audio call, such as if a household member has displayed symptoms of Covid-19, local lockdown restrictions or self-isolation.
When assessing whether or not a contact session should be completed virtually or face-to-face, it shall be the nominated officer who makes this decision and will consider:
Children's mental health has been affected more dramatically over the past year due to the restrictions and many children have felt isolated. Being away from parents and siblings can be very hard for the children and therefore it is important regular contact should be maintained.
For more information contact Shirley Wignall in our Family/Divorce department via email or phone on 01254 580 000. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.