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COVID-19 – what happens next for social care professionals?

This week, the government will review the latest measures introduced to try and prevent the spread of COVID-19 and inform us whether the lockdown will be extended or whether some restrictions will be lifted.

While it is unclear at the moment as to what the government will say with some speculation that schools will re-open on a phased basis as early as June, as social care professionals we have a duty to safeguard vulnerable children and support our local authority colleagues on the frontline while taking appropriate safety measures.

WillisPalmer has been raising concerns for weeks about the impact of lockdown measures on vulnerable children and the secondary legislation introduced in April has further compounded our worries.

Frontline social workers have told us that, for now, referrals have decreased. But this is only because schools are only open for the children of key workers and children deemed vulnerable. Yet the Department for Education said last week that just 5 per cent of vulnerable children are in fact present at school, which is somewhat alarming.

What we do know is that when children return to school, which could be as early as a month’s time, there is going to be a huge spike in referrals to children’s services when children are telling friends or teachers what they’ve experienced at home. We are not the only ones to be saying this. The children’s commissioner for England Anne Longfield recently warned about the dangers of vulnerable children falling through gaps in services and policy, adding that lockdown measures have removed most of the usual ways of identifying children at risk.

Jenny Coles, the new president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, used her inaugural speech to highlight her fears over “the pressures being stored up for us and what we might have to tackle, all of which comes on top of severely stretched and woefully under-funded children’s services” as a result of lockdown measures.

While we are unsure what prime minister Boris Johnson will say, it is likely that professionals will be advised to use face masks, particularly on public transport, when they return to work. However, as we know, protective face masks are hard to come by so now could be the opportunity to make your own ready for when you return to work or use public transport.

When wearing a mask:

Cloth face coverings should:-
- fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face
- be secured with ties or ear loops
- include multiple layers of fabric
- allow for breathing without restriction
- be able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape

The World Health Organisation also recommends:

- Before putting on a mask, clean hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
- Cover mouth and nose with mask and make sure there are no gaps between your face and the mask.
- Avoid touching the mask while using it; if you do, clean your hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
- Replace the mask with a new one as soon as it is damp and do not re-use single-use masks.
- To remove the mask: remove it from behind (do not touch the front of mask); discard immediately in a closed bin; clean hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.

This website shows you how you can make a mask.

There are other examples you can use online.

It is also imperative that when we return to work, our prevention regimes continue.

This includes, washing your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water:

- when you get to work or arrive home
- after you blow your nose, cough or sneeze
- before you eat or handle food

In the meantime, at WillisPalmer we have carried out independent social work and psychological assessments entirely remotely without compromising on standards and thus saving time and money.

We will, of course, bring you news of the latest guidance when it is published this week. In the meantime, if you have any concerns or queries, please don’t hesitate to contact us or by calling 01206 878178.

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