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.