Legal orders which contain contact conditions should be considered as essential contact by decision makers. In exceptional circumstances, such as where significant concerns for the welfare of a child arise, (for example a family member testing positive for Covid-19), professionals may intervene in contact plans prior to the legal revision of the contact order. This is set out in the Social Work Scotland and SCRA joint protocol on the management of contact arrangements. However, essential contact may include that which is not included in a legal order.
Essential family contact should be facilitated. There may be situations in which contact has to be suspended for the safety of the child and of others involved in contact arrangements, including family members, carers and social work staff. Other methods of contact may be appropriate in these circumstances, according to the child’s needs and development.
Essential face-to-face contact can take place indoors, including within private dwellings. For example this could include contact for a baby or very young child who requires direct personal care during contact and who may not be able to maintain their relationship without face to face interaction.
The nature and frequency of contact as identified within the child’s plan should relate to the child’s developmental needs. Other considerations which inform decision making include individual and public health safety measures. Further guidance is available within the SWS Contact Framework.
Face to face contact that is deemed essential for the wellbeing of a child must be organised in compliance with infection control advice, so that it does not compromise the health and safety of the child and others. Risk assessments should be completed in accordance with local guidance. Information is available in the SWS Contact Framework. Further relevant measures about managing risk when visiting homes in the community is contained within Coronavirus (COVID-19): safe and ethical social work practice
Decision making should be informed by the views of the child; and by their experience of contact arrangements during the pandemic. The views of family members and carers should be taken in to account. Contact options may include creative use of outdoor meeting spaces, sports fields and recreation areas as well as virtual methods of communication. Those involved should adhere to physical distancing and hygiene measures and ensuring use of face coverings when appropriate. Family members, children and carers should also be supported to ensure they have access to suitable PPE where this is assessed as required. Further information regarding risk management and PPE is contained in Coronavirus (COVID-19): safe and ethical social work practice