Coronavirus (COVID-19)

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COVID-19 Safeguarding

COVID-19 Safeguarding

COVID-19: safeguarding in schools, colleges and other providers (Gov.uk)

COVID-19: guidance for the public on mental health and wellbeing (Gov.uk)

COVID-19: guidance on supporting children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing (Gov.uk)

How to look after your mental health and wellbeing during the coronavirus outbreak (Gov.uk)

Safeguarding online

Safeguarding online: online safety in and away from schools

Following the Keeping Children Safe in Education guidance

Keeping Children Safe in Education guidance (KCSIE) is statutory safeguarding guidance that schools should continue to have regard to.

Guidance for having a Designated Safeguarding Lead on site

The optimal scenario for any school or college providing care for children is to have a trained DSL or deputy available on site. It is recognised this may not be possible, and where this is the case there are 2 options to consider:

  • a trained DSL or deputy from the school or college can be available to be contacted via phone or online video - for example working from home
  • sharing trained DSLs or deputies with other schools or colleges (who should be available to be contacted via phone or online video)

Where a trained DSL or deputy is not on site, in addition to one of the above options, the department recommends a senior leader takes responsibility for co-ordinating safeguarding on site. This might include updating and managing access to child protection files, liaising with the offsite DSL (or deputy) and as required liaising with children’s social workers where they require access to children in need and/or to carry out statutory assessments at the school or college.

Whatever the approach taken in individual schools, it is important that all school and college staff and volunteers have access to a trained DSL or deputy and know on any given day who that person is and how to speak to them.

Every school and college will face unique challenges at this time. Where reasonably possible, the DSL (or deputy) should consider these in a child protection context and reflect them in the child protection policy as appropriate.

Annex for the Model Child Protection Policy for use during this period

An annex for the Buckinghamshire Council Model Child Protection Policy has been co-produced between staff from Education, Social Care and headteacher reps; this annex addresses recent guidance set out by the DfE for schools operating under the current restrictions.

It is intended that the policy will need to be personalised by each school and is designed to complement – not replace - the latest versions of Keeping Children Safe in Education, Working Together and your current Child Protection Policy.

Please be aware that this document is designed to work with the model policy issued by Buckinghamshire in September 2019; if you have written your Child Protection Policy using different sources then you will need to ensure that this annex reflects your main policy.

The document is linked from the Safeguarding policies page (login required)

Communicating with parents, carers and pupils remotely

Government guidance safeguarding and remote education during coronavirus (covid-19) states:

Although education is now having to take place remotely, it’s important for schools, teachers and pupils to maintain professional practice as much as possible. When communicating online with parents and pupils, schools should:

  • communicate within school hours as much as possible (or hours agreed with the school to suit the needs of staff)
  • communicate through the school channels approved by the senior leadership team
  • use school email accounts (not personal ones)
  • use school devices over personal devices wherever possible
  • advise teachers not to share personal information

Please also see useful guidance from the NSPCC regarding contacting pupils at home during this period : NSPCC undertaking remote teaching safely, which has a very useful section on lone working with pupils

The Buckinghamshire ESAS team recommends that:

  • Staff should not make their own decisions as to which families they contact; this directive should come from Headteacher and/or senior leadership. 
  • Schools should have a protocol/procedure of what is expected of staff in the form of a temporary add on to the staff code of conduct.  This should incorporate the advice and guidance from the DfE and NSPCC above and must ensure staff are fully aware of what to do if they have concerns during the telephone contact and who they will share this with (e.g. reporting to DSL)
  • Use school devices where-ever possible. However, if staff have to use their own mobile phone, the number must be blocked so that students/parents do not have sight of the personal number.

Risk assessment of SEND/vulnerable pupils

Buckinghamshire Council have developed the below risk assessment for completion for school attendance.  We hope this guidance supports you to determine the risks associated with pupils who are attending settings, but also those who can safely have their needs met at home.

Buckinghamshire Risk Assessment for vulnerable children and those with EHCPs

Buckinghamshire Council Risk Assessment Guidance

This guidance has been written in line with the Government guidance on SEN Risk Assessing, in that it takes the following into account:

  • The potential health risks to the individual from COVID-19, bearing in mind any underlying health conditions. This must be on an individual basis with advice from an appropriate health professional where required
  • The ability of the individual’s parents or home to ensure their health and care needs can be met safely
  • The potential impact to the individual’s wellbeing of changes to routine or the way in which provision is delivered.
  • The risk to individuals who have EHC Plans if some or all elements of their EHC plan cannot be delivered at all, and the risk if they cannot be delivered in the normal manner or in the usual setting
  • Any out of school or college risk or vulnerability, e.g. a young person becoming involved in dangerous behaviour or situations and requiring support from a social worker, including those where being in an educational setting can stop a care placement breakdown.

The iSEND Service would recommend that all risk assessments are conducted between the setting, the child/young person’s parents/carers and where appropriate key professionals, and should always be focused around the best interests of the child/young person, with the primary focus being on their safety at this time.  If you require further support with completing this assessment, please do contact your EHC Coordinator in the first instance, or the iSEND area team manager (details below).

The risk assessment is not fixed; it is inevitably impacted by any changes in circumstances, such as staffing or environment and so will require ongoing consideration.

The assessment form is in two parts.

  1. Section 1 – screening to determine if a full risk assessment is required
  2. Section 2 – full risk assessment

Please send a copy of the completed risk assessment form to the child/young person’s parents/carer and to your EHC Coordinator and Area Team Manager (contact details below):

Aylesbury Area Team Manager, Christine Preston: Christine.preston@buckinghamshire.gov.uk

Chiltern and South Bucks Manager, Hayley Nowley: Hayley.nowley@buckinghamshire.gov.uk

Wycombe Area Team Manager, Ian Peters: Ian.peters@buckinghamshire.gov.uk

Ensuring effective safeguarding arrangements for pupils who are attending an alternative school

It will be important for any school or college whose children are attending another setting to do whatever they reasonably can to provide the receiving institution with any relevant welfare and child protection information. This will be especially important where children are vulnerable.

The receiving institution should be aware of the reason why the child is vulnerable and any arrangements in place to support them. As a minimum, the receiving institution should, as appropriate, have access to a vulnerable child’s EHC Plan, Child in Need Plan, Child Protection Plan or, for looked-after children, their Personal Education Plan and know who the child’s social worker (and, for looked-after children, who the responsible VSH is). This should ideally happen before a child arrives and, where that is not possible, as soon as reasonably practicable.

Any exchanges of information will ideally happen at DSL (or deputy) level, and likewise between Special Educational Needs Co-ordinators/named individual with oversight of SEN provision for children with EHC Plans. However, the government has acknowledged this may not always be possible. Where this is the case, senior leaders should take responsibility.

Whilst schools and colleges must continue to have appropriate regard to data protection and GDPR, they do not prevent the sharing of information for the purposes of keeping children safe. Further advice about information sharing can be found at paragraphs 76-83 of Keeping Children Safe in Education, 2019

For looked-after children, any change in school should be led and managed by the Virtual School Headteacher with responsibility for the child.

Safer recruitment checks on staff from a different school

Regarding members of the school or college workforce already engaging in regulated activity and who already have the appropriate DBS check, the government has stated that there is no expectation that a new DBS check should be obtained where that member of the workforce temporarily moves to another school or college to support the care of children. The type of setting on the DBS check, for example a specific category of school, is not a barrier.

The same principle applies if childcare workers move to work temporarily in a school setting. The receiving institution should risk assess as they would for a volunteer.

Whilst the onus remains on schools and colleges to satisfy themselves that someone in their setting has had the required checks, including as required those set out in part 3 of KCSIE, in the above scenario this can be achieved, if the receiving institution chooses to, via seeking assurance from the current employer rather than requiring new checks.

The Council’s guidance is that the ‘receiving’ school should obtain confirmation that all relevant vetting checks have been completed in respect of the “borrowed” teacher/member of staff.

The receiving school, where members of staff will be going to work, should ask the original school to complete a safer recruitment checks assurance letter (example attached below) in respect of the relevant teacher/staff member.

letter-of-assurance-staff COVID-19.docx

The receiving school or college should judge, on a case-by-case basis, the level of safeguarding induction required. In most cases, the existing workforce will already have received appropriate safeguarding training and all they will require is a copy of the receiving setting’s child protection policy, confirmation of local processes and confirmation of DSL arrangements.

See COVID-19: safeguarding in schools, colleges and other providers for more information.

Expectations with regard to the DSL team contacting children on a Child Protection or Child In Need plan

Government guidance states that school and college staff should continue to work with and support children’s social workers to help protect vulnerable children. This will be especially important during the COVID-19 period. COVID-19: safeguarding in schools, colleges and other providers

Social Workers are in contact with children and families who are subject to Child Protection and Children in Need plans. We would ask that wherever possible, schools have a structure in place to also contact their children and families on plans, so that they are supported in this challenging time. 

We recommend that you review your CP/CIN cases to determine vulnerability and prioritise resources accordingly.  Please continue to liaise closely with the allocated Social Worker to share intelligence.

Staff safeguarding training

All existing school and college staff will already have had safeguarding training and have read part 1 of KCSIE. The important thing for these staff will be awareness of any new local arrangements so they know what to do if they are worried about a child.

The government has acknowledged that DSL training is very unlikely to take place during this period (although the option of online training can be explored).  For the period COVID-19 measures are in place, a DSL (or deputy) who has been trained will continue to be classed as a trained DSL (or deputy) even if they miss their refresher training.

Changes to Safer Recruitment

It remains essential that people who are unsuitable are not allowed to enter the children’s workforce or gain access to children. If schools and colleges are recruiting new staff, they should continue to follow the relevant safer recruitment processes for their setting, including, as appropriate, relevant sections in Part 3 of KCSIE.

DBS checking

In response to COVID-19, the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) has made temporary changes to its guidance on all DBS checks - basic, standard and enhanced DBS ID checking to minimise the need for face-to-face contact.

Full details about these amendments are detailed below and the link to the guidance is available at:  COVID-19: Changes to DBS ID checking guidelines - GOV.UK

These changes will enable ID to be verified either by video link or through sight of a scanned document.  The applicant will then be required to produce the original documents when they first start their employment or volunteering role. 

Buckinghamshire Council recommends that you retain a log of DBS applications which have been verified using one of these options so that you can arrange to see the original ID and the applicant on their start date.  In addition, please add a note under the ‘Additional Information’ field on the DBS application form to indicate how the ID was verified.  A further note should be added to the DBS application when the original documentation has been seen.

Please ensure that you follow the advice on GOV.UK around checking identity documents for indicators of fraud, which can be found here.

Right to Work Checks

The Home Office has published advice for employers carrying out right to work checks during the coronavirus pandemic.

Right to work checks have been temporarily adjusted due to coronavirus (COVID-19) to make it easier for employers to carry them out.

As of 30 March 2020 the following temporary changes have been made:

  • checks can now be carried out over video calls
  • job applicants and existing workers can send scanned documents or a photo of documents for checks using email or a mobile app, rather than sending originals
  • employers should use the Employer Checking Service if a prospective or existing employee cannot provide any of the accepted documents

Checks continue to be necessary and you must continue to check the prescribed documents listed in right to work checks: an employer’s guide. It remains an offence to knowingly employ anyone who does not have the right to work in the UK.

Because of COVID-19, some individuals may be unable to evidence their right to work. During this period, you must take extra care to ensure no-one is discriminated against as a job applicant or employee because they are unable to show you their documents. For more information, please see the code of practice for employers: avoiding unlawful discrimination while preventing illegal working.

Conducting a right to work check during the temporary COVID-19 measures:

  • Ask the worker to submit a scanned copy or a photo of their original documents via email or using a mobile app
  • Arrange a video call with the worker – ask them to hold up the original documents to the camera and check them against the digital copy of the documents
  • Record the date you made the check and mark it as “adjusted check undertaken on [insert date] due to COVID-19”
  • If the worker has a current Biometric Residence Permit or Biometric Residence Card or status under the EU Settlement Scheme you can use the online right to work checking service while doing a video call - the applicant must give you permission to view their details. Further information on how to carry out online right to work checks is attached.
  • Verified digital copies should continue to be forwarded with new starter paperwork.      

If the job applicant or existing worker cannot show their documents:

  • A check using the Employer Checking Service must be carried out.
  • The applicant’s consent must be obtained in order to contact the Home Office Employer Checking Service.
  • If the person has a right to work, the Employer Checking Service will send a ‘Positive Verification Notice’.  This provides a statutory excuse for 6 months from the date in the notice. 
  • Please contact the Safeguarding in Employment Team via the HR Service Desk for further advice: hrservicedesk@buckinghamshire.gov.uk.

After the COVID-19 measures end:

  • The Home Office will advise in advance when these measures will end and further advice will be provided. After that date, you will be asked to carry out retrospective checks on existing employees who:
  • started working for you during these measures
  • required a follow-up right to work check during these measures You should mark this check: “the individual’s contract commenced on [insert date]. The prescribed right to work check was undertaken on [insert date] due to COVID-19.”
  • The retrospective check must be carried out within 8 weeks of the COVID-19 measures ending.

Full details on the Home Office guidance on right to work checks can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-right-to-work-checks 

For further information, queries and support, please contact the HR Safeguarding in Employment Team via the HR Service Desk at: hrservicedesk@buckinghamshire.gov.uk

Additional information on Volunteers

  • Where schools and colleges are utilising volunteers, they should continue to follow the checking and risk assessment process as set out in paragraphs 167 to 172 of KCSIE.
  • Under no circumstances should a volunteer who has not been checked be left unsupervised or allowed to work in regulated activity.
  • Where new staff are recruited, or new volunteers enter the school or college, they should continue to be provided with a safeguarding induction. An up to date child protection policy will support this process as will Part 1 of KCSIE.

Should you have any queries, please contact the Safeguarding in Employment Team via the HR Service Desk: hrservicedesk@buckscc.gov.uk

Single Central Record

Whilst acknowledging the challenge of the current environment, it is essential from a safeguarding perspective that any school or college is aware, on any given day, which staff/volunteers will be in the school or college, and that appropriate checks have been carried out, especially for anyone engaging in regulated activity. As such, schools and colleges must continue to keep the single central record (SCR) up to date as outlined in paragraphs 148 to 156 in KCSIE. The SCR can, if a school or college chooses, provide the means to log everyone that will be working or volunteering in a school or college on any given day, including any staff who may be on loan from other institutions. The SCR can also, if a school or college chooses, be used to log details of any risk assessments carried out on volunteers and staff on loan from elsewhere.

Schools and colleges must continue to follow their legal duty to refer to the DBS anyone who has harmed or poses a risk of harm to a child or vulnerable adult. Full details can be found at paragraph 163 of KCSIE.

Schools and colleges should continue to consider and make referrals to the Teaching Regulation Agency (TRA) as per paragraph 166 of KCSIE and the TRA’s Teacher misconduct advice for making a referral. During the COVID-19 period all referrals should be made by emailing Misconduct.Teacher@education.gov.uk. All referrals received by the TRA will continue to be considered. Where referrals on serious safeguarding matters are received and it is deemed that there is a public interest in doing so consideration will be given as to whether an interim prohibition order (IPO) should be put in place. The TRA will continue to progress all cases but will not schedule any hearings at the current time.

Making welfare checks on Looked After Children

The Virtual School team will start making regular welfare phone calls to all our children and foster carers.  They will also be keeping in contact with all schools too, with an equal focus on the out of county children where we don’t have the same information about local arrangements.

The team will check what is happening with each child’s education, but also ensure foster carers are managing and have the support they need with learning and managing the on-going challenges. They will feedback any concerns we have with our social care colleagues.

The Virtual School team will continue to hold as many PEPs as possible (by skype) and deliver on our statutory duties, also deliver on line tutoring where needed.

Keeping pupils safe online over this period

It is important to consider online safety for both pupils attending school, and those working from home. The government has provided the following advice:

Online safety in schools and colleges

It will be more important than ever that schools and colleges provide a safe environment, including online. Schools and colleges should continue to ensure that appropriate filters and monitoring systems (read guidance on what “appropriate” looks like) are in place to protect children when they are online on the school or college’s IT systems or recommended resources. Schools and colleges should consider who in their institution has the technical knowledge to maintain safe IT arrangements. Schools and colleges should also consider what their contingency arrangements are if their IT staff become unavailable.

The UK Council for Internet Safety provides information to help governing boards and proprietors assure themselves that any new arrangements continue to effectively safeguard children online.

The UK Safer Internet Centre’s professional online safety helpline also provides support for the children’s workforce with any online safety issues they face.

Online safety away from schools and colleges

The government have produced Safeguarding and remote education during coronavirus (COVID-19) to help schools and teachers support pupils’ education at home during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

This contains:

  • Guidance on teaching online safely
  • Resources for teachers, parents and carers
  • Information on Reporting concerns
  • Advice on communicating with pupils, parents and carers
  • Guidance on virtual lessons and streaming
  • Guidance on providing pastoral care remotely
  • Guidance on personal data and GDPR

It should be read alongside Coronavirus (COVID-19): safeguarding in schools, colleges and other providers.

Andrew Hall (Specialist Safeguarding Consultant) has produced this video to support schools with the latest government advice

Shoutout.org  produces  free weekly resources on media literacy, helping young people stay resilient against misinformation and disinformation.  This week’s topic is 5G conspiracy theory & how to debunk it.

Shoutout covid-19

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