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New government regulations put children in care
under more strain

The ‘Adoption and Children (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020’, not due to expire until 25th September,  make unhelpful temporary changes to the protections given in law to some of the most vulnerable children in the country – those living in care.

The Children’s Commissioner for England is quite right to raise concerns:

The requirement that social workers must visit children living in care, or who are privately fostered, in accordance with strict statutory timescales – within one week when they have gone into care, and every six weeks for the year after that – have been relaxed. Now if they are unable to visit within the timescales they must do so as soon as ‘reasonably practicable’ thereafter. This applies even if the ‘visits’ are done by phone or video call.

Requirements to review plans for children in care to set timescales have been relaxed, meaning that children will not have this opportunity to raise issues about their care and to have this independently scrutinised.

Children’s Homes can now enforce the deprivation of liberty of children if they are showing symptoms of Coronavirus, in accordance with the Coronavirus Act. Guidance for Children’s Homes and Public Health Officers on how this can be enforced, and setting out a clear scheme for how these deprivations will be monitored will be essential to ensure children’s rights are protected.

The independent panels which approve foster carers and adoption placements have become optional, removing a layer of scrutiny for these highly important decisions.

Local Authorities can now approve anyone who meets the requirements as a temporary foster carer, rather than only those who are connected to a child, such as friends or family, as was the case previously.

Independent visits to Children’s Homes no longer have to occur monthly, so long as ‘reasonable endeavours are made’ to do so, and Ofsted inspections no longer need to take place twice a year.

Children can be placed with emergency foster carers – who will be approved as carers, but may for example not be approved to care for the number of children placed with them – for 24 weeks rather than the usual 6 days. Some flexibility if carers fall ill is understandable, but I believe the change to 24 weeks is excessive.

Children can now be placed in a ‘short break’ placement for up to 75 days, rather than the usual 17, with reduced requirements on visits and care plans.

Decisions to place children into care outside their local area with connected foster carers do not need to be approved by a nominated officer – this now also applies to those approved as temporary carers, who may not be connected to the child. 1/5/20