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Coronavirus: safeguarding children with social workers or on the edges of receiving support
Know how to set up a contact plan for pupils with child protection plans, children in need, and pupils who you have safeguarding concerns about if they're not in school. See an example from a school that's already done this work.
31 March 2020 update: We updated this article to reflect the Department for Education's (DfE) clarification that you can offer places to children on the edge of receiving social care support.
Schools are open for vulnerable children
Vulnerable children includes:
- Pupils with child in need plans
- Pupils on child protection plans
- Looked-after children
- Pupils with education, health and care (EHC) plans
You can also offer a place to those "on the edges" of receiving children’s social care support, and may also want to support other children who are vulnerable, where you are able to.
Social workers will work with parents to decide whether their child should go to school. Parents won't be required to take up a school place.
The DfE says if it's at all possible, children who can be safely cared for at home should stay at home.
Here, we focus on pupils with child in need plans or child protection plans, and pupils who you have safeguarding concerns about, who have to self-isolate or who aren't attending school.
6 steps to take now
Get started with the following actions as soon as you can:
- Check you have up-to-date contact details and addresses for pupils
- Get in touch with your local authority (LA) social care team to find out what its recommendations are for different children, having worked with their parents
- Flag any increased concerns about pupil safety during closure or potential self-isolation with your LA social care team
- Double check staff know to follow your child protection procedures as usual if they have any concerns about a child, whether they're in school or not
- If staff are working remotely, make sure they have contact details for your safeguarding team and LA social care team, and can access your recording and reporting systems
- Make sure children and parents know where to go if they need help:
- Give them emergency contact details for your school and safeguarding team (use work phone numbers), and the LA social care team
- Share the number and page for Childline with pupils (0800 1111, https://www.childline.org.uk/). Post it on your website, online learning platform, or print the number and website and give it to pupils
- Make a plan to check in with these children if they're not at school (see expert advice and an example from a school below)
How to make your plan for keeping in contact
Match each child to a level of risk you think they're exposed to at home, as best you can. This will help you focus your attention on the most-in-need children and develop a proportionate contact plan for if they're not in school.
Andrew Hall suggests a system like this:
- Red: pupils who are at most risk of harm or neglect and have the fewest protective factors (e.g. those with a child protection plan)
- Amber: pupils who are at a moderate risk of harm, with some protective factors (e.g. pupils identified as a 'child in need', and those with a social worker)
- Blue: you have some concerns, or the pupil has previously been at 'red' or 'amber' and still needs to be monitored
Then move on to your plan. It should cover:
- How often your school will be in contact with each pupil
- This is likely to be at least once a week, and twice a week for higher-risk pupils
- Decide on a case-by-case basis, depending on the level of risk and any advice you've got from your LA social care team
- Who will be in touch and how
- In person, by phone, or both?
- Whether you'll use online learning platforms to check in with pupils
- For example, daily check-ins with teachers or form tutors
- How you'll record updates on pupils and their needs, and decisions on what you'll do next
- What happens if you can't make contact or need to escalate concerns
- How you'll continue to share information with other agencies
Advice for making contact with pupils
- Make sure to see and speak to pupils
- Speak to them on the doorstep, or see them through a window if they're self-isolating
- Avoid close contact with them (closer than 2 metres for more than 15 minutes), in line with government advice on social distancing
- Avoid staff going to pupils' homes alone. Have 2 members of staff go, ideally including someone with a good relationship with the family
- Follow any policies you have on home visits and lone working, and look at our article on risk assessments for home visits
- Use work phones if possible
- If you need to use personal phones, see how to hide your number on Apple and Android
- Make sure you speak to the child too and not just their parents
Parklands Primary School in Leeds, where more than 40% of pupils are eligible for free school meals, has emergency child protection procedures for school closure. The procedures cover children with child protection plans, children in need, and children in families with financial difficulties.
It plans to follow these procedures if pupils aren't attending school due to self-isolation. Download it below or read the headlines here:
Current child protection concerns (pupils with a child protection plan)
- Visits to pupils' family home twice a week - doorstep contact, all children seen
- Home visits done by 2 staff members
- Phone contact once a week
- School offers food support
- School liaises with all necessary professionals as usual
- Attending any planned review meetings with other agencies, unless advised otherwise
- School uses its safeguarding reporting software to record and report
Vulnerable families (where the pupil is a 'child in need')
- Visits to pupils once a week, doorstep contact, all children seen
- Phone contact once a week
- School offers food support
- School uses its safeguarding software to record and report
Chris Dyson, the headteacher, explained he would take a similar approach for children where there are concerns but they aren't in either of the categories above, to keep an eye on the situation.
Andrew Hall, a safeguarding consultant, and Ann Marie Christian helped us write this article.
Ann Marie Christian is an independent safeguarding consultant, trouble shooter, author and trainer. She provides consultancy for designated safeguarding leads, heads, senior leaders and governors. She has experience in frontline and managerial child protection matters including school improvement, casework and training.
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