When I was a social worker, I worked with many parents who wanted to make progress and achieve a better life for themselves and their children. I also worked with some who didn't, and have dealt with some imaginative excuses to deny me access. Today, we have a new one - "I'm self isolating" or "I'm socially distancing".
The current government measures and advice are necessary to reduce the spread and impact of the coronavirus. However, the impact of these measures on already vulnerable children are massive. Problems such as poor mental health, substance misuse and domestic violence do not go away during this period, indeed they are only likely to be made worse due to the pressure everyone is under. External supports to vulnerable children, for instance school, have been withdrawn, increasing vulnerabilities. Within this context, there is anecdotal evidence from a recent survey conducted by the British Association of Social Workers that frontline social work staff are being denied entry to households where child protection concerns exist, on the basis that these families are self isolating.
The impact of recent Government legislation to address the impact of the coronavirus pandemic should also be deeply concerning for social work professionals. The apparent acceptance within this that, because of the current crisis, statutory obligations on the part of local authorities do not need to be met, is a very worrying development and is likely to increase the risk and reduce protection for vulnerable children.
At this time of global crisis, we cannot forget our over-riding duty to protect children from harm. All frontline social work staff, along with health staff, must have personal protective equipment and where necessary, access to testing, so they can continue to carry out their jobs and ensure children are safe. You can't protect children via Skype.