Children: Coronavirus

Department for Education written question – answered on 12th May 2020.

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Photo of Alexander Stafford Alexander Stafford Conservative, Rother Valley

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what recent assessment his Department has made of the effect on child welfare of temporary relaxation of regulation relating to children’s social care in response to the covid-19 outbreak.

Photo of Vicky Ford Vicky Ford The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

We have taken a number of steps to ensure the safety of vulnerable children, including ensuring that vulnerable children can continue to attend the education and childcare settings that are closed to the majority of children.

The vast majority of statutory duties remain unchanged. However, in light of the current pressures that the Covid-19 outbreak is bringing on social care services, and the risk of such pressures increasing, we have reviewed our regulations to allow some temporary and limited flexibility – to be used where absolutely necessary – to enable children's services to continue to support vulnerable children in the most effective and safest way during the outbreak.

Our starting point has been to make minimal changes to ensure the safe functioning of children’s social care during the Covid-19 outbreak. The department recently published updated guidance for children’s social care services that covers how the flexibilities provided in regulations should be used. The guidance can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-for-childrens-social-care-services/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-for-local-authorities-on-childrens-social-care#delivery-of-services.

Amendments have been made to provide for extra flexibility in limited circumstances, but this should only be used when absolutely necessary, with senior management oversight and must be consistent with the overarching safeguarding and welfare duties that remain in place. The amendments will remain in place only for as long as they are needed.

Where it becomes necessary to use any of these flexibilities, it is important that this is properly recorded, along with the reasons for doing so. Where it is not necessary to make use of the flexibilities due to the current circumstances, they should not be used.

The department continues working with a wide range of stakeholders and the sector to ensure that the right support is available for frontline services during the crisis. The regulatory changes will be kept under continuous review and will expire on 25 September 2020 unless they are extended.

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