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BASW England responds to BBC article on vulnerable children not attending schools

Article included statement from Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield that social workers should be “knocking on doors”

News reports on national data published today from the Department of Education shows that only 5% of children identified as in need or at risk of harm are attending the school places kept open for them during coronavirus lockdown. 

BASW shares widespread concerns that those children who rely particularly on schools for meals, practical and other support will be disproportionately badly affected by the stay at home policy. 

In light of this situation, the Children’s Commissioner in England stated today that social workers should be “knocking on doors”.

BASW rejects this oversimplified soundbite and its connotation that social workers aren’t striving to keep contact with vulnerable children and families while managing pandemic risks to families and themselves with insufficient national guidance and protective resources.

BASW knows that social workers are working tirelessly every day out in communities, on the doorsteps and in schools to safeguard vulnerable children in these unprecedented times. 

This is clearly evidenced from over 1,800 social workers responding to BASW’s COVID-19 survey telling us of their concerns and challenges, as well as how they have speedily and creatively adapted their ways of working to overcome lockdown barriers in order to continue to support children and families.

It is unhelpful to make generalised assumptions that vulnerable children are not being contacted or having direct contact with social workers, family support workers and key workers from other partner organisations including health, education, the police and voluntary sector organisations.

The Government has given a very strong message – stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives. They have a responsibility, along with employers, to ensure all professionals involved in child safeguarding have access to personal protective equipment so they can keep themselves, and the communities they serve, safe. 

A lesson from coronavirus is that the broad ‘public health’ role of social workers and others focused on community support and safety has been missed by government, with resources and protection (for workers and those they are visiting) arriving late or not at all. 

This is the context in which social workers are striving to ensure safety and continuity of support for the families and children they care about.

BASW supports the need for government to interrogate data about home visits and contact by social workers to children in need, children looked after and children with a child protection plan.

We ask for this, however we need to applaud the incredible work that many families (including extended family members are doing) to support vulnerable children during this pandemic.

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