Interim COVID-19 Contingency Briefing

High Risk Situations and Vulnerable Children

The information contained in this briefing is accurate at the time of writing.  In the event of new advice – this guidance will be updated as appropriate.

In the weeks ahead coronavirus will significantly disrupt our work. This child protection contingency briefing offers advice to front line managers and practitioners about how we ensure we effectively manage high risk situations including; Initial Referral Discussions (IRD), Joint investigative Interviews (JII), Undertaking Home Visits and Child Protection Case Conferences, during this time.  Safeguarding children and young people through our child protection procedures must remain a priority.  What we do and when we do it should be consistent with existing practice in the coming weeks.

Priority areas of multi-agency child protection work that may be impacted by COVID-19 include:

Initial Referral Discussion (IRD)

The Initial Referral Discussion (IRD) – remains a key process where there are CP concerns. There is no change to existing practice as a result of COVID-19.

Child Protection Investigations / Home Visits

Where there has been a confirmed case of COVID-19 with a service user, this must be discussed with the relevant individuals from Police, Health and Social Work.  During the course of investigation, normal child protection processes should be followed to ensure that children(s) and their family’s views are taken into account along with robust risk assessments.

Individuals who have been in close contact with a confirmed case of COVID- 19 are also being advised to self-isolate.  It is important to be mindful that if service users are self-isolating and have no symptoms they may still pose a risk to others.  They are self-isolating to allow closer monitoring in order to identify early symptoms, and to enable prompt medical action if required.

If a service user is in self-isolation, Police, Health and Social Care staff should ascertain if they have been exposed to someone who has symptoms or may think they have, prior to any visit.  It may become necessary to defer some home visits and alternative arrangements must be in place to maintain contact (e.g. telephone liaison with partner agencies and families, facetime / skype sessions or any other social media communication with children and so forth).

Where staff undertake home visits, washing hands effectively with soap and water is important in accordance with public health guidance.  This should happen before and after each home visit takes place.

As much as possible during the visit, staff should observe social distancing from other people in the home.  Staff should take care to limit contact with household surfaces and so forth whilst in the home.  Where possible, after washing hands staff should use disposable paper towels to dry hands and place in a waste bin.  Where there is no access to hand gel staff may find it helpful to carry an alternative provision.  Advice on handwashing can be found through NHS 24 online (Opens in a new window or downloads a file).

Occupational Exposure

If a staff member comes into contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19, they should be vigilant for respiratory symptoms during the incubation period which can be up to 14 days and should not come to work if they have a fever or new and persistent cough.  They should seek advice as guided by NHS Scotland and/or their employer.  During this period, symptomatic staff should avoid contact with people in the wider community and self-isolation rules will apply.

In the event that on visiting the family staff become aware of someone within the family presenting with COVID-19 symptoms, they should telephone their manager immediately to advise and should proceed to self-isolate for 14 days.

Staff should not return to the office to report their concern to their manager to ensure appropriate social distancing is maintained.

Joint Investigative Interviews (JII)

The above safeguards should be taken into consideration when looking to arrange JII’s, for example facilitating transport to the JII and conducting interviews.

Prior to arranging a JII there should be a clear discussion with the adults within the family regarding any presenting COVID-19 symptoms and appropriate safeguards should be applied.

Safety planning should be paramount when there is consideration being given to the timing of the JII.  Where there are immediate risks these should be evaluated by relevant individuals from Police, Health and Social Work.

Child Protection Case Conference and the Child Protection Register (CPR)

Whilst there is no legal requirement for the use of Child Protection Registers, Child Protection Case Conferences or Child Protection Plans in Scotland; nevertheless, these are all core components of the formal child protection processes outlined in the National Guidance for Child Protection in Scotland (Opens in a new window or downloads a file) (2014).

It is for this reason our work in protecting children and young people must continue for those at highest risk of harm, abuse or neglect during this difficult time.

When there is a concern that a child (including an unborn baby) or young person is considered to be at risk of significant harm, a multi-agency Child Protection Case Conference is normally arranged by social work, resourced and supported by a core set of partners who know the child and / or their family well.  The Child Protection Case Conference is informed by an investigation of the concern(s).

Child protection investigations must continue to take place with due consideration given to the home visits / discussions with children and families as described above in Item 2.

Essential Considerations

At the time of concluding the investigations and moving to Child Protection Case Conference, the following interim measures should be put in place and considered as follows:

The Chair of the Child Protection Case Conference must scrutinise the invite list to ensure only essential attendance.  As noted in the National Guidance for Child Protection in Scotland (Opens in a new window or downloads a file) (2014).

  • this is Social Work, Police, Health and Education where appropriate – consideration should be given to only one representative from each core agency required to attend.
  • Where agencies are unable to attend conferences, The Chair should give consideration to the use of mobile technology to aid their participation. This may involve a mixture of partners in physical attendance and others joining the meeting through remote technology.
  • If no agencies are physically able to attend conferences, agencies invited to attend the conference must provide reports to aid the Chair in their decision making. The Chair should review individual agency reports and have individual discussions where appropriate to clarify any points.  The Chair must also ensure the views of children, young people, parents and/or carers are pivotal to their decision
  • The Chair of the Child Protection Case Conference (however it convenes during the COVID-19 pandemic) will decide whether to place the child's name on a Child Protection Register based on the level of significant harm.

Where there is a need for Compulsory Measures of Supervision a referral to the Children's Reporter is required (if this has not already been done). Guidance about any subsequent children’s hearing taking place during the COVID-19 outbreak will be available by seeking clarification from the locality Reporter.

Further information is available online from the NHS Inform Website (Opens in a new window or downloads a file).