Concern raised over the continuation of virtual visits to looked after children
Parliamentary body publishes a report raising concerns about plans to extend several relaxations to statutory requirements relating to children’s social care.
The Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee has today (21 April) published a report raising concerns about plans to extend some relaxations introduced last year as part of emergency coronavirus legislation.
The Adoption and Children (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2021 (SI 2021/261) extends by six months until 30 September 2021 relaxations including:
- Allowing social workers to make virtual visits to looked after children via video conference, telephone, or any other electronic means;
- Virtual visits of residential family centres and virtual interviews with residents and staff to form an opinion on the standard of care provided; and
- Virtual meetings of children and young people in children’s homes with their families, social workers and others.
The Department for Education (DfE) introduced extensive temporary changes to the statutory requirements that apply to children’s social care in the early stages of the pandemic.
While the majority of these changes lapsed in September 2020, a number of them were extended until 31 March 2021 and are now being extended further by this instrument following consultation with key stakeholders.
In the consultation, respondents said that the flexibilities should only be used “where necessary and in a proportionate, risk assessed way to meet the needs of children, young people and their families”, the Government said.
A number of responses, however, raised concerns that the current departmental guidance, specifically on the use of virtual visits, was not sufficiently robust and did not include enough detail.
While the Committee notes that a majority of stakeholders agreed with the need for this further extension, the Committee expressed considerable concern about the length of the extension, and took the view that a three-month extension may have been more appropriate, given the vulnerability of the children affected and the benefits of face-to-face contact, especially over the summer holidays.
In the consultation response, the Government said it was “clear that these flexibilities will only remain in place for as long as they are needed and there currently are no plans to extend them beyond 30 September 2021.”
“Their use will continue to be monitored and they will be reviewed in line with the Government roadmap to recovery.”
Read the Secondary Legislation Committees concerns in full:
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