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The Covid-19 pandemic in childrens services

Sarb Bhambra, principal social worker at Coventry City Council, looks back over the last 12 months, and forward to the next 12 months, in children’s social care.

The term ‘unprecedented times’ is often used.

Looking back it is remarkable how the social work profession has responded, and the learning taken in a complex set of circumstances.

Practitioners required clear guidance and each child needed considering in their own right.

This led to complex discussions around safeguarding risks and a real consideration of the impact of face to face visits not being undertaken for that child and what was realistically achievable online or on the doorstep.

Where this risk assessment considered children could not be seen virtually, this was often complicated when families were self-isolating, particularly when some families can be avoidant.

The ability to connect virtually with colleagues has assisted in reducing isolation and enabling continued connectivity. In Coventry, the work and commitment put in to prioritise children, alongside the usual demands of the job, has been AMAZING!

Alongside these considerations were factors around practitioner safety and access to Personal Protective Equipment was also a squeeze at the start of the pandemic.

Now, such equipment such as hand gels and masks are a way of daily life. This has certainly brought a sense of unity across the board -‘we are in this together’. The challenges the pandemic has brought have built confidence in many practitioners that complex hurdles can be overcome!

There has been a perception that building a relationship is not possible with children and families online, however, part of the learning the sector has taken is that some families find it easier.

Some families have been able to attend meetings virtually, so in a sense, there has been better representation. The online world resonates with children and young people and is one they are comfortable and confident in.

The pandemic has forced advancements in the use of technology, allowing Children’s Services to engage more in this online world – and with positive results for engagement with children and young people!

There is no doubt the pandemic has really changed the way we work! Practitioners have adapted and continue to adapt and respond to emerging situations.

The experience has brought advancements and opportunities to work with children and families in a variety of ways, which in the coming 12 months will provide a variety of options in working with families.

The nature of a pandemic cannot be ignored as it has affected everyone personally in some sense; the next 12 months will not only see trauma-informed practices drawn upon, but these approaches will support the reset and recovery of practitioners and the profession – a key priority for the Principal Social Work network.

This article is part of a wider discussion around children’s social care and the Covid-19 pandemic.

Children’s social care staff from across the UK are being urged to reflect back on a ‘challenging and difficult’ year as a first step to putting lessons into practice.

West Midlands social care professionals from 14 councils have joined forces with Social Care Today for social media events to kick-start a discussion.

On Twitter, the discussion takes place hosted by Social Care Today on April 14 at 1pm to 2pm under the hashtag #sctchildrenschat

On Facebook Live, hosted on the Social Care Today Facebook page on April 14 at 8pm.

Photo Credit – Pixabay

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