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Social workers are key workers / critical workers

The government has announced social workers are included in definition of essential frontline key workers in the context of this pandemic as set out in the Guidance for schools, childcare providers, colleges and local authorities in England on maintaining educational provision. 

Social workers continue to play a critical and evolving role in responding to the pandemic and work with and support some of the most vulnerable children, families and vulnerable adults in our communities. Our professional regulatory standards and legal responsibilities also include public protection, safeguarding children and adults and promoting best interests and human rights.

None of us work in professional isolation, there is a co-dependency and intrinsic partnership between public sector services including health, social care, education and many other organisations in the delivery of key and essential services.

It is right that social workers have the same key worker status as other public professions. However, we know that the workforce is having to deal with conflicting priorities - juggling their personal life, carer and parental responsibilities , their own health and safely and fulfilling their professional duties for the people they serve.  We will continue to develop guidance and lobby for appropriate protections for social workers throughout this period.

Educational provision for vulnerable children during this period is vital.  Social Work Departments / Children’s Services and schools, the Government and other agencies will need to work closely together to ensure vulnerable children are identified, are in school and are supported in this new setting teaching and, where appropriate, social work professionals.  However, this will need to be responsive to pandemic risks of keeping schools open and alternatives for at risk children should be considered.

The increase in co-ordinated and joined up in delivery of services amongst health, social care and other partners and professionals is impressive and necessary. We need to keep hearing your experiences, concerns and good practice through out ongoing survey and we will be publishing guidance, advice and good practice. Please also look out for our webinars and other online forums for support and information which are on our events page of the website.

Coronavirus: Social Workers and Schools - Briefing 


Schools will close across England, Scotland, Wales from Friday 20 March 2020 and in Northern Ireland from 23 March. It is not known when they will re-open. All public exams (e.g. SATs, GCSEs, A Levels) have been cancelled. This is due to the Coronavirus.

From Monday 23 March schools will be ‘re-purposed’. They will no longer offer the national curriculum. Instead they will provide ‘safe places’, for the children of key workers and vulnerable children.

This service will operate both in term time and through school holidays.

Key workers (now termed ‘critical workers’) are workers who are ‘Parents whose work is critical to the COVID-19 response’. The function of providing a ‘safe place’ for the children of key workers is to allow key workers to continue to work.

Schools are uniquely positioned to give support to vulnerable children. Vulnerable children include ‘children in need’, children ‘who are looked after’, children who are carers and children with a disability.

It seems possible that schools may ‘pool’ – that is one school provides the services while other neighbouring schools remain closed. This may have to occur because of reduced numbers of teachers due to Coronavirus.

At the time of writing no detailed guidance has been issued to schools on how these changes will be implemented. It seems likely that these changes will take time to implement and embed.


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Further information