Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): child contact services guidance

Published: 15 Jan 2021
Last updated: 15 Jan 2021 - see all updates

Guidance to help child contact centres safely re-open their premises and resume face-to-face services during the coronavirus pandemic.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): child contact services guidance
Scotland’s Strategic Framework

The Coronavirus (COVID-19): Scotland's Strategic Framework came into effect on 2 November 2020. It sets out how we will work to suppress the virus to the lowest possible level and keep it there, while we strive to return to a more normal life for as many people as possible and tackle the four harms we know the virus causes.

This approach provides a more transparent and easily understood framework for managing outbreaks allowing rapid, but proportionate, responses to be taken using a range of measures and options that can be applied locally or nationally, according to evolving patterns of infection and transmission.   

The framework is based on five protection levels consisting of four levels above the Route Map Phase 3 baseline (or ‘Level 0’). They are designed to achieve progressively stronger effects in suppressing the virus and it is possible for areas to move up and down through the levels.

You can get more information on the levels approach from the Strategic Framework and find out the protection level for your area.

Level 0 (baseline) and Level 1

Within these levels, we would expect to see low incidence of the virus with isolated clusters, and low community transmission. Broadly, these levels are the closest we can get to normality, without a vaccine or effective treatment in place, before conditions will allow us to move to Phase 4 of the Route Map. They would be similar to the measures in place during the summer, once we reached Phase 3. The Baseline and Level 1 are designed to be sustainable for longer periods.

Levels 2 and 3

Within Levels 2 and 3, we would expect to see increased incidence of the virus, with multiple clusters and increased community transmission. There would be a graduated series of protective measures to tackle the virus, focusing on key areas of risk – broadly, indoor settings where household mixing takes place with less, or less well-observed, physical distancing and mitigations. The measures would be intended to be in place for relatively short periods, and only for as long as required to get the virus down to a low, sustainable level.

Level 4

Within this level we would expect to see very high or rapidly increasing incidence of the virus, and widespread community transmission which may pose a threat to the NHS to cope. This level may see the introduction of measures close to a return to full lockdown. It is intended that measures would be in place for a short period, to provide a short, sharp response to quickly suppress the virus.

The levels set for each local authority area across Scotland will be reviewed weekly in the light of the evolving situation to decide whether levels should be maintained, increased, or reduced. However, while levels will be reviewed weekly, areas are likely to move between levels less frequently than that. Once set, levels are likely to be in place for two to four weeks at least, to give time for the effect of changes to be observed in data about the virus, and to ensure that the incidence and prevalence of the virus are responding to measures put in place to suppress it.

Support services

Child contact centre services fall within the Support Services category in the levels table, which is included in Annex 1 of the framework.

At Levels 0, 1 and 2 child contact services are permitted to stay open and provide face-to-face contact services, subject to compliance with the measures set out in this guidance.

At Level 3 child contact services are permitted to stay open and provide face-to-face contact services, subject to compliance with the measures set out in this guidance. However, providers should consider providing services online where appropriate. For example, initial intake meetings with families and other administrative work should be done online or by telephone wherever possible. 

At Level 4 there will be a very high incidence of the virus and widespread community transmission. To minimise the risk of spreading the virus, and given the high transmission rate of the new variants,  the Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions and Requirements) (Local Levels) (Scotland) Regulations 2020 have been amended to list child contact centres as one of the types of premises that is required by law to close at Level 4.

The regulations require providers in Level 4 areas to close and suspend face-to-face contact services, other than for the provision of handover services. During this time providers should move their contact services online where possible, or by telephone. 

A handover service is where one parent brings the child to the child contact centre to be collected by the other parent. Handover services can continue at Level 4 (in this context “child” also means “children”), but should be facilitated outdoors wherever possible. If it is necessary for a handover to take place inside the child contact centre, for example to ensure the safety of either the child or one of the parents, providers must ensure that the time indoors is kept to a minimum and that physical distancing is maintained between staff and volunteers and parents and children. 

Where multiple handovers are being facilitated, providers should consider staggering drop off and collection times to ensure physical distancing can be maintained.

Parents and children over 5 years of age should, unless otherwise exempt, wear a face covering during handover where it is being facilitated inside the contact centre.  

If new referrals are made to child contact centre during this period providers should consider conducting intake meetings and initial assessments online or by telephone. Handover services can be facilitated, but providers may need to consider online alternatives for other contact services, where this is possible, or it may be necessary to postpone commencement of the contact sessions until face-to-face services can resume.    


Any suggestions for improvements to this guidance should be sent to: Family_Law_{Justice}

First published: 15 Jan 2021 Last updated: 15 Jan 2021 -