CHILDREN’S social work teams in Liverpool will continue to have regular contact with young people being cared for by private fostering and residential care providers – despite the Government relaxing the law during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Coronavirus Act made changes to the Children Act that have relaxed quality assurance and requirements for monitoring private, non-local authority providers until 25 September at the earliest.
It has removed enforceable, statutory deadlines for visits to young people, care home inspections, case planning and reviews – as well as cancelling the need for fostering and adoption panels to approve carers and hear complaints, and the requirement for a DBS check for carers.
Liverpool City Council has chosen to stick with the previous legal requirements to make sure the most vulnerable young people are getting the support they need and that providers are properly monitored.
After an initial dip in staffing levels in March due to advice around self-isolating for workers with health conditions, attendance in the children’s social work team has subsequently steadily increased, with three quarters currently at work – up from 62 per cent four weeks ago.
Over the past week, teams have:
- Carried out 801 visits to 601 children
- 234 home visits by the Family Support Team
- Carried out 3,000 risk assessments and management plans
In addition, more than a third – 35 per cent – of targeted, vulnerable children are attending the council’s network of school hubs, against a national average of just 5 per cent.
Councillor Barry Kushner, Cabinet member for children’s services, said: “I would like to pay tribute to our staff who are going over and above – even more so than usual – in these unprecedented times, enabling us to continue to provide services for vulnerable young people.
“The Children Act was enacted for the benefit and the protection of children, not services or private agencies. This means the amendments made are to the benefit of agencies and not children.
“By reducing the requirements and quality assurance arrangements for private fostering and residential care agencies to local authorities, the amendment is relaxing the regulatory environment that agencies operate in, and the safeguarding of children.
“My view is that there was no need to relax these regulations and Liverpool will work in accordance with original regulations in the Children Act and will not relax the quality and the safeguarding of children in our care.
“We are maintaining timescales for statutory visits, the fostering panel continues to meet through video conferencing and no foster carer will be approved without a DBS check.
“It is what our young people need to keep them safe.”