In these unprecedented times, we need to give consideration to what happens to parents’ contact, if their child is in care. Due to the announcement from the government that all non-essential travel is to be restricted and strict social distancing should be implemented, this raises the question of what contact parents will be able to have with their child.
What we are seeing is that Local Authorities are dealing with contact on a case by case basis. Stoke on Trent City Council have confirmed that all of the contact centres in the Stoke on Trent area have been closed. This means that they are not able to facilitate supervised face to face direct contact with parents or siblings at a contact centre. Staffordshire County Council have been dealing with their cases on a case by case basis and contacting parents directly with proposed plans for contact given the current lockdown situation.
Local authorities have been asked to consider alternative contact arrangements. Methods of contact being considered are:
a) telephone contact
b) FaceTime contact
c) Skype contact
d) WhatsApp call/video call
e) other methods of indirect contact that may be available through social media
The Local Authority and social work teams are acutely aware that the current situation means that parents, children and siblings are not going to be able to have the level of contact that they have previously agreed or has been directed by the court. At this difficult time, we are asking parents to be patient and understand that this situation has not been created by the Local Authority but by the Government who have imposed strict lockdown to protect the public. We would, therefore, ask that parents understand that this is for the safety of them and their children.
We can assure you that we are working closely with the local authorities to try and resolve contact issues as soon as is practicable. We are asking parents to be understanding that their contacts will be reduced. If young children are involved, the length of contact may not be the same because young children may struggle to stay focused for long periods during indirect contact (eg telephone calls). Please be assured that as soon as the Government have informed the country that it is safe to be out in the community again, then contact ought to resume, but also bear in mind that systems and procedures will need to be reinstated and that, therefore, there could be a slight delay.
Whilst this is far from ideal for parents to not have direct contact with their child, the safety of all concerned has to be considered the priority, especially the children.
Please note that the provision for contact also applies to children who are in family placements, subject to ongoing care proceedings.
If you wish to discuss any of these concerns please contact the Care Team at Stoke on:
Alison Collier 01782 339072
Claire Morrey 01782 339073
Stoke Care Team Secretary 01782 339076
Please note, all advice and opinion offered in this article are subject to change in line with the latest government advice.