Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): looked after children and young people - family contact

Published: 15 Dec 2020
Last updated: 15 Jan 2021 - see all updates

Guidance for managers, social workers and social care providers arranging contact between looked after and accommodated children and young people and their families in both local authority premises, community settings and in some circumstances, a private dwelling.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): looked after children and young people - family contact


Due to the rising number of infections and increased transmissibility risks, the First Minister made an announcement to Parliament to further tighten restrictions in Level 4 areas, and which came into effect on  5 January 2021.

To minimise the risk of spreading the virus, people must stay at home as much as possible.  By law, in a level 4 area, people can only leave their home (or garden) for an essential purpose.  Coronavirus (Covid-19): Stay at Home guidance provides further detail.  Some Islands in Scotland are level 3 and the restrictions for this level are therefore applicable.

Scotland has a system of protection levels. These set out measures that can be applied nationally or locally depending on the prevalence of the virus across Scotland. This approach is set out in Coronavirus (COVID-19): Scotland’s strategic framework. Find information about the protection level for your area.

Where considerations are being made about face to face family contact for children and young people, the guiding principle is that this should proceed where it is considered essential to a child’s safety and wellbeing, and planned in accordance with principles set out below. When face to face family contact is considered essential and therefore permissible, preventing transmission depends on everyone involved in the plan following all relevant infection control advice,  all of the time.

This guidance should be read in conjunction with the approach for home visiting in Coronavirus (COVID-19): safe and ethical social work practice. In addition, the collaborative document published by Social Work Scotland, SWS Contact Framework, sets out the principles and framework within which decision makers can consider each child’s individual needs and circumstances in the context of public health measures.

During the COVID-19 pandemic we know there are many ways in which social work professionals have continued to support people without the need for face-to-face contact. It is essential to balance the need to protect, support and supervise, with the need to avoid causing harm by spread of infection. All direct contact should be risk assessed and planned in advance, taking account of local guidance and the public health guidance. More information about Coronavirus (COVID-19) is available from NHS Inform and from the Scottish Government.

At the outset of the pandemic, the Lord President of the Court of Session made it clear that children must be assisted to continue to have contact with parents/ carers living in different households and all arrangements should continue, where it is safe to do so. All children, including those who are looked after, are entitled to the same rights and protections, irrespective of where they live.

First published: 15 Dec 2020 Last updated: 15 Jan 2021 -