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Children: Protection

Question for Department for Education

UIN HL3748, tabled on 30 April 2020

To ask Her Majesty's Government how they will determine when the relaxation of regulations for supporting vulnerable children should end.

Answered on

14 May 2020

We have taken a number of steps to ensure the safety of vulnerable children during the COVID-19 outbreak, including ensuring that vulnerable children can continue to attend education and childcare settings that are closed to the majority of children.

The vast majority of statutory duties remain unchanged. However, in light of the current pressures COVID-19 is bringing on social care services, and the risk of such pressures increasing, we have reviewed our regulations to allow some temporary and limited flexibility, to enable children's services to continue to support vulnerable children in the most effective and safest way during the outbreak. Our starting point has been to make minimal changes to ensure the safe functioning of children’s social care during COVID-19.

Amendments have been made to provide for extra flexibility in some circumstances, but this should only be used when absolutely necessary, with senior management oversight, and must be consistent with the overarching safeguarding and welfare duties that remain in place. The amendments will remain in place only for so long as needed.

The duties of local authorities and providers to report their decision-making remains the same. Ofsted inspections continue where there are safeguarding concerns, and new Regional Education and Children’s Teams (REACTs) are working around the country to improve our understanding about the risks facing these children.

The REACTs are co-ordinating our work with local authorities, minimising the burden on the sector while we continue to support councils to deliver safe, effective services. Ofsted has redeployed HM Inspectors to provide on-the-ground, practical support to local authorities, and we have refocused the work of intervention commissioners and advisers to target support to local authorities in need.

The department continues working with a wide range of stakeholders and the sector to ensure the right support is available for frontline services during this crisis. The regulatory changes will be kept under continuous review and will expire on 25 September 2020 unless extended.