Communication from Children’s Services Corporate Director

Communication from Buckinghamshire Children’s Services Corporate Director – Tolis Vouyioukas

Dear Colleague,

Please read attached document (* the content of this document is visible below with link to printable version) as a matter of urgency. In addition to what the document outlines the locality teams will be working closely with their colleagues in the SEND teams. This approach will be reviewed further as and when more guidance and advice becomes available from the DfE and Public Health. I am also speaking with the DfE this afternoon as well as headteacher colleagues once we have the cabinet office announcement on key workers and childcare arrangements and will communicate this to you all as soon as possible. The term used by Gavin Williamson, MP this morning was that schools would be ‘repurposed’ to support vulnerable children as well as support key workers with childcare so that they are able to carry out the very critical duties that are much needed at this time.

The heads of service in each social care locality team will be:

Paulette Thompson-Omenka Amersham  ptomenka@buckscc.gov.uk

Amanda Andrews Wycombe  aandrews@buckscc.gov.uk

Errol Albert Aylesbury  ealbert@buckscc.gov.uk

And for SEND

Hayley Nowley Amersham  haynowley@buckscc.gov.uk

Ian Peters Wycombe  ipeters@buckscc.gov.uk

Christine Preston Aylesbury  cpreston@buckscc.gov.uk

Thank you for all that you do to keep services going for the most vulnerable and please make sure you read all future communications from the Chief Executive of the Council, Rachael Shimmin, myself, Richard Nash and Jo Cassey.

Best wishes.

Tolis Vouyioukas


Children’s Social Care/Service Delivery COVID – 19

19th March 2020

Overview

The current crisis in relation to C-19 is having, and will continue to have a significant impact on the ability of the service to meet its statutory obligations. The combined impact of:

· Families currently receiving a service stating they are self-isolating

· Partner agencies reducing their involvement with children and young people

· Staff within the service self-isolating and/or being in a high risk group and unavailable for work.

In the working days from 16 March 2020 to the end of the working day on 18 March 2020 the number of families self-isolating has risen from less than 10 to 136 at the time of writing. At the same time the number of staff who are unavailable to work has gone from 2% to 18%.

Critically, seeing children and young people in person and at home as set out in statutory guidance is less and less possible. Professionals meetings such as looked after reviews, case conferences and strategy meetings will take place via virtual means, all of which compromise statutory expectations. In addition, given our duty of care to our staff, others in the community and our children and young people we must adhere to public health advice and national government instruction.

Priorities

The most important duties placed on the service to respond to new information in relation to a child’s circumstance, conduct s47 enquiries and take decisive action to keep children safe must continue. The service must also stay in contact with all of its looked after children, those that it supports under child in need plans and also those on child protection plans. However, it will be very difficult, if not impossible, to advance and action plans with children and their families, complete direct work with children or hold professionals meetings that agree new and further activity designed to improve the child or young person’s outcomes.

This, coupled with the latest information that all schools in England will close from Friday 20 March indicates that statutory children’s services must look at how it can ensure that the most vulnerable are protected. Visits to children on open cases, where there are no new high risks or existing high risks will be contacted and seen through virtual means. Face to face visits to families will only take place when the immediate safety of a child is thought to be compromised. In these incidents the risk to staff, the family and the child will be weighed up and considered. It is hoped protective equipment (gloves and masks) will be made available as will the latest public health advice in relation to social distancing and hygiene.

Service Delivery

From Monday 23 March 2020 the service will operate a ‘safe and well’ locality based service. The three main offices; Aylesbury, Wycombe and Amersham will each stay as service delivery points. The MASH will operate as usual. Each locality will focus upon the following:

1. New referrals and new information on open cases that indicate the likelihood of significant harm or actual significant harm will become the highest priority. Responses to these incidents will be the highest priority and may result in home visits being required. These will be risk assessed. It should be noted that vulnerable children should still attend school, which will provide opportunities to see them.

2. Open child protection cases will be managed in the first instance by virtual contact and conversations with young people and their parents and carers. Any indicators of increased risk will be discussed with team managers and decisions made about next steps. Potentially individual incidents will be considered in line with 1 above. Core groups and conferences will be conducted by virtual means. Information sharing and managing risks must continue to be appropriately shared.

3. Open child in need cases will be dealt with in the same way as set out in 2 above.

4. All looked after children will be seen via virtual methods in the first instance. Again, new risks or problems will need to be risked assessed in a similar way as described above. Reviews should continue, but virtually.

5. Care leavers will need frequent and regular contact. They are a high risk group given their isolation, limited funds and ability to stay healthy in the current circumstances. Unlike LAC children they will not have regular contact with a trusted adult. It should be possible to see care leavers in the right circumstances and do this safely and in line with public health advice.

Whilst continuity for families is important, it is probable and expected that the unavailability of allocated workers will mean that workers not known to children, young people and their families will be making contact with them in the ways described above. It will therefore be necessary to suspend for now the concept of teams in each locality (applies to Assessment, Help & Protection and LAC teams only) and staff will either come into work or be available by agreement from home. Available staff will work to the priorities of their particular locality and will receive tasks directly from the managers present. Each locality will have a named Head of Service and minimum of three on site managers to agree each day’s work and tasks based on the points 1 to 5 above.


C-19 Service Plan 19 03 20

Important Message from Service Director of Education

Sent on behalf of Joanna Cassey,  Service Director of Education

 

Dear Colleagues

 

I am writing to appraise you of the work we are doing in light of yesterday’s announcement from the government. You will be aware that the announcement focussed on a number of key areas:

 

·       Closure of schools, colleges and EY settings

·       Provision for vulnerable pupils including those with EHCPs, those known to Social Care and children of keyworkers

 

We are working to provide guidance and clarity for you at a time of uncertainty and are currently awaiting further information from the DfE. In order to maintain a partnership approach and provide the right level of support at this critical time we are meeting regularly with the Chairs of PEB, BASH and Special Heads to maintain dialogue, focus on priority areas and cascade information between ourselves.

 

We will continue to update our Schools web page with information as and when it is received. Clearly the details of yesterday’s announcement were unprecedented and we, like yourselves, are processing this to ensure that all pupils and staff are supported through this. This is the focus of all of our work and we will provide updates to schools as we progress with our plans.

 

Please ensure that your governing bodies have sight of all substantive communications from the Local Authority.

18 March – Coronavirus – Important message from Secretary of State for Education Gavin Williamson

GOV.UK

Department for Education

Gavin Williamson, Secretary of State for Education, has asked for this message to be passed to all those who work in the education sector
The government recognises the huge importance of the role you have played in maintaining the education, training and social care of our children and young people during this challenging time. I recognise that you will have the same anxieties as the rest of the country about your health and that of your families. On behalf of the Prime Minister and the entire government, I thank you all for all of your work so far, and your continued support. I am deeply grateful for the civic spirit and dedication of everyone working in education, and I will continue to provide my full support throughout this crisis.

Next steps
It is clear that education and children’s social care settings are increasingly finding it difficult to continue as normal, as illness and self-isolation impacts on staffing levels and pupil attendance. To provide parents, student and staff with the certainty they need we are announcing that schools, colleges and early years settings will be closed to everyone except children of key workers and vulnerable children from Monday, as part of the country’s ongoing response to coronavirus.
Examples of these workers include NHS staff, police and delivery drivers who need to be able to go to work. Vulnerable children include those who have a social worker and those with Education, Health and Care Plans.
A full list of key worker categories will be published by the Cabinet Office tomorrow.
Children who do not fall into these groups should remain at home with appropriate care.
Where schools are unable to provide this reduced provision, local authorities will work with the Department for Education’s regional teams to ensure an alternative option is available.
We are expecting early years providers and sixth form and further education colleges to do the same. We are working with Her Majesty’s Treasury on the financial support required. We are also asking that independent schools and boarding schools follow the same approach.
Where possible, we would encourage settings to stay open for this purpose throughout the Easter holidays.
Many universities and other higher education institutions are already taking necessary steps to keep their staff and students safe and where possible keep providing education. We are confident vice-chancellors are making the right decisions and the Department for Education continues to support them in doing so.

Temporary suspension of Ofsted inspections
Ofsted is to temporarily suspend routine inspections of schools, colleges, early years settings, children’s social care providers and local authorities to reduce the burden on staff who are providing vital services to the nation in response to coronavirus.

Update on assessments and examinations
We can confirm that we will not go ahead with assessments or exams, and that we will not be publishing performance tables for this academic year.
We will work with the sector and Ofqual to ensure children get the qualifications they need.
My Department is working closely with local authorities, representatives of early years, schools and head teachers, regional school commissioners and bodies such as Ofsted and Ofqual about how to deliver this change as effectively as possible.
And we will do whatever is necessary to support local authorities, settings, schools and teachers through the weeks and months ahead.

Free school meal provision
We will give schools the flexibility to provide meals or vouchers to children eligible for free school meals. Some schools are already doing this, and we will reimburse the costs. As soon as possible, we will put in place a national voucher system.

Thank you once again for everything you are doing at this difficult time.
The Rt Hon Gavin Williamson CBE MP
Secretary of State for Education

 

Postponed: BASG Spring Networking and Conference Spotlight on Disadvantaged

Based on the government’s declaration that the Coronavirus (COVID -19) is a public health emergency with increasing concerns, we at Buckinghamshire Association of School Governors have taken the decision to postpone our Spring Networking and Conference Spotlight on Disadvantaged. We feel that this decision is the most sensibly one based on the current unprecedented situation that continues to develop in this country and worldwide.

We will work hard over the next week or two to rearrange a suitable date that works for the National Governance Association and their speaker as well as the venue school, Booker Park Community School and send details out to you once this has been done.

In the meantime, there is no need for you to do anything regarding your booking on Eventbrite. You will be automatically booked onto the new date when announced and can make any changes to your booking preferences then.

Meanwhile keep safe in these uncertain times.