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Concern regarding the continuation of virtual visits to “looked after children”

21 April 2021

The Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee has published a report raising concerns about an instrument which extends several relaxations to statutory requirements relating to children’s social care.

The Adoption and Children (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2021 (SI 2021/261) extends by six months until 30 September 2021 relaxations including;

  • Allowing social workers to make virtual visits to looked after children via video conference, telephone, or any other electronic means;
  • Virtual visits of residential family centres and virtual interviews with residents and staff to form an opinion on the standard of care provided; and
  • Virtual meetings of children and young people in children’s homes with their families, social workers and others.

The Department for Education (DfE) introduced extensive temporary changes to the statutory requirements that apply to children’s social care in the early stages of the pandemic. While the majority of these changes lapsed in September 2020, a number of them were extended until 31 March 2021 and are now being extended further by this instrument following consultation with key stakeholders.

While the Committee notes that a majority of stakeholders agreed with the need for this further extension, the Committee expressed considerable concern about the length of the extension, and took the view that a three-month extension may have been more appropriate, given the vulnerability of the children affected and the benefits of face-to-face contact, especially over the summer holidays.