Vulnerable children report: 15 May 2020

This is the second report from the Scottish Government with SOLACE and other partners, on the impact of COVID-19 and the lockdown on children and families, and on the ways that services for children have responded. It identifies critical issues for services for children going forward.

Annexe A: Examples of practice

  • In Aberdeen, care-experienced young people and their families who are finding the lack of face to face contact and social isolation difficult during lockdown are being encouraged to use the Mind of My Own app to stay in touch with their social work professional.
  • Multi-agency guidance has been issued in Aberdeenshire, reinforcing how the named person role and Team around the Child continues to operate during the crisis. There has been clear messaging that the GIRFEC practice model continues to be followed, but from different places and with more activity taking place virtually.
  • Working alongside social work teams in other partnerships, Aberlour family support workers are assisting with joint visits to families' home where there are child protection concerns and contributing to social work assessments.
  • Across Argyll & Bute, community organisations are reaching out to their communities, using virtual meetings, texting and phone calls. Where there is a concern for a child, groups are engaging with the team around the child, with communication and support often taking place online. Some organisations are offering online coffee mornings for parents; others are organising deliveries and food parcels over this large, rural area.
  • Barnardo's services continue to work alongside other partners across the country. In Edinburgh, the service at Oxgangs became the first operational hub for vulnerable children (known as Hub at Home). Jointly co-ordinated by Barnardo's, and the Social Work Service, it provides recreational and emotional support to children and young people known to be at risk.
  • Children 1st held an online workshop with Dr Suzanne Zeedyk to look at what the organisation has learned since the start of the pandemic. They named the session "Why Being There is Enough", to highlight that the feedback from parents, carers and children about the value of practical and emotional support in person, on the phone, online and through various other means.
  • Children's Hearings Scotland and partners are now holding virtual hearings and, whilst overall numbers of weekly hearings remain lower than pre-crisis, the most urgent and time-critical proceedings have been preserved. More than 750 volunteers have been trained in how to participate and manage virtual hearings, and over 1000 hearings have been held. Operational challenges remain, as does the challenge of digital inclusion, but this has demonstrated that such processes can operate at least partially online, which may improve experiences for children and young people in the future
  • All education establishments in Clackmannanshire have identified children and young people who will require additional learning support and have established systems to check in with children, young people and their families on a weekly basis. Strive+C is Clackmannanshire Council's integrated response to concerns about food, finance and housing, and education hubs have direct links to the service. An Intensive Hub Support Team is being established to provide enhanced support to some children, including therapeutic interventions, family support and one-to-one activities.
  • In Dumfries & Galloway, a dedicated helpline has been established, and calls are filtered to partner agencies for follow-up support. This central co-ordination is avoiding duplicated effort.
  • In East Ayrshire, the Request for Assistance process continues to be used to access support for a child, including a place at a hub. The Health and Social Care website provides the single point of contact details, and a 3rd sector directory of support is being created. Health and Social Work staff can use rooms in the hubs for meetings with families.
  • In East Renfrewshire, a coordinated approach is being maintained for child planning, despite the challenges. The hubs have engaged with active schools and music teachers to broaden their activities, and used social media to promote this. A weekly Health & Wellbeing update is circulated via schools and also on social media. The youth Intensive Support Service is holding a daily video group call to young people to check in, offer support and provide opportunities for young people to network and support each other.
  • The City of Edinburgh Council and 3rd sector have established a Task Force in response to the impact of Covid-19. The purpose of the task force is coordinate shared efforts and resources to support vulnerable children and their families. Partners will share information and develop new ways of working together to help mitigate the effects of poverty and social isolation in these difficult times. The aim is to avoid duplication and to build supportive networks for children and families that are directed in the most meaningful and helpful way.
  • Edinburgh has also been tracking and comparing current referral rates and child concern reports with those weeks prior to COVID-19 and the same week a year ago. This has assisted in illustrating the 'demand' changes since lockdown, and they are seeing an increase in both referrals and actions taken as a result of the rise in demand/concern. This is providing reassurance that they are getting closer to the children who may be particularly vulnerable.
  • Every child on the child protection register in Fife has been offered a place in the education hubs, and community hubs (which may be virtual) are ensuring a joined-up approach in localities around wider issues, including access to food and offering a housing service.
  • In Glasgow, 33,000 children and young people are receiving a free school meal provision of a supermarket voucher. The provision was established quickly in order to support vulnerable children and is in addition to the support provided through education or early years hubs.
  • The majority of the 2,666 children in Highland with multi-agency plans are contacted by school staff, and in the last week more than 99% were contacted. Where it has been difficult to make contact, Head Teachers have been creative in engaging with families, and have also worked with Police, health visitors and social care staff to ensure a child is safe.
  • Home-Start has also moved to support families via digital technology, and groups are keen to sustain the digital service after this crisis, as they believe this is more accessible and removes barriers around stigma. Groups have distributed activity packs, meals and food supplies, electric and gas cards, as well as money directly to families. They also expect demand to increase, and say that their capacity to respond will be dependent on the investment of good community based services that can work in partnership with statutory bodies.
  • Clear protocols are supporting the identification of families in Inverclyde who would benefit from a visit from Barnardo's outreach workers or community learning staff to discuss the local hub offer. Any concerns arising from these contacts with families are being shared with education and social work for appropriate follow up.
  • The Midlothian partnership has developed guidance for professionals to provide clarity and support during the pandemic. This sets out which agency is responsible for each group of children and young people and describes the expectations around making contact. It also outlines the gatekeeping process for those who are deemed vulnerable, and a weekly meeting takes place with a multiagency group of professional to identify supports, the hub being only one option within a menu of services.
  • In North Ayrshire, a multi-agency forum meets weekly to allocate support to children and families at risk. The meetings consider applications, using a risk and resilience matrix and assessment process based on the GIRFEC National Practice model.
  • In Perth & Kinross, schools have provided information on the support for vulnerable children through a survey which asks about collaboration with partners to review plans. The authority is confirming the number of children and young people for whom plans have to be reviewed, and asking if there is any further support that schools might require of partner agencies.
  • Relationships Scotland are working to offer provision through video conferencing and by telephone, and up to a third of counselling clients are already taking up online provision. They are anticipating a surge in demand across their services.
  • Scotland's anti-bullying service 'respectme' has developed on-line anti-bullying resources, recognising that young people are spending more time on line during the COVID-19 pandemic, including user-friendly resources for parents and carers to support them in preventing, identifying and managing this problem.
  • The Scottish Borders Youth network has broadened the scope of its activity, to reach out to more young people. Working through social media platforms, the network engages with many young people on a daily basis, including activities and crafts, and promoting general wellbeing.
  • In Shetland, all children with a child's plan are contacted twice a week. New guidance is being prepared by young people, to reassure parents and children that the named person service remains available. While managers recognise that it has become more challenging to review and maintain child's plans, they have introduced flexible approaches to child's plan meetings.
  • Community groups in South Lanarkshire are combining online and telephone assistance with practical activity such as shopping and prescription collection, and the provision of hot meals. Voluntary Action South Lanarkshire is linking with the Council's Community Engagement Teams in each locality, to operate a "Wellbeing Helpline".
  • Team around the Child meetings are taking place virtually in Stirling, where clear guidance was issued early to staff about supporting children during the crisis. Advice has also been provided to parents with a Freephone line, and use of the Mind of My Own app for children.



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