Information about vulnerable children and safeguarding during the coronavirus pandemic.
What support is available for children and young people in foster care and care leavers?
We expect all children in foster care to continue to be supported to maintain contact with their birth families, and to be able to spend time with their siblings and to access advocacy. It may not be possible, or appropriate, for face-to-face contact to happen and keeping in touch will, for the most part, need to take place remotely.
The Children’s Commissioner for Wales has published a range of advice for care leavers including links to organisations offering support.
Voices from Care has developed a bespoke package of support for care leavers which has been circulated to local authorities. The support offered is intended to support emotional wellbeing by offering virtual social space. It is also providing a range of tailored advice and information and will look to adapt its service as the situation progresses.
Welsh Government has updated its guidance around the St David’s Day Fund advising that local authorities should give priority to care leavers who may be experiencing financial hardship due to income loss, difficulty with tenancy agreements, food and other basic living necessities.
The Adoption and Fostering Association (AFA) Cymru has published advice and guidance for fostering services including in relation to family contact.
What is being done to ensure there are enough social workers for continuity of care for vulnerable children?
The Welsh Government is doing everything possible to ensure continuity of care for vulnerable children in the event that the workforce is significantly affected by COVID-19. This includes, through the government’s emergency legislation, allowing the emergency registration of social workers who have recently left the profession, allowing them to return to practice, as well as exploring with the sector urgently what requirements can be relaxed to free-up social workers’ time without compromising the best interests of vulnerable children.
What is being done to support young people and the workforce in residential settings?
Local authorities are working to ensure they have the necessary workforce to remain open to deliver the vital protection they provide for vulnerable children. Residential and secure children’s homes are working closely with their local authorities on continuity plans for potential staff shortages at the local level and the Welsh Government is looking at options for support to providers should it be required.
We expect all children in residential care to continue to be supported to maintain contact with their birth families and to be able to spend time with their siblings and access to advocacy. It may not be possible, or appropriate, for face-to-face contact to happen and keeping in touch will, for the most part, need to take place remotely.
What guidance is available to children’s social services, to support looked after children, care leavers and childrens safeguarding?
In response to COVID-19, Welsh Government has published operational guidance for children's social services.
What is available for young carers?
A young carer can access a range of online information and advice, or other forms of support. This can be obtained from the local authority and contact details can usually be found on the local authority website. Support may also be accessed via local or national carers’ organisations.
We have published guidance for anyone providing regular care and support to a vulnerable friend or relative. It applies to carers of all ages. There is also a specific section on the help available for young carers.
Where specialist FE establishments make the decision to close or young people are unable to attend college, what assurances can be provided by Welsh Government that their placements will remain funded for their agreed programmes of study?
To ensure young people can continue to be cared for in specialist FE establishments, now and in the future, the Welsh Government has agreed to continue funding until the end of this academic year (July 2020) for those programmes of study already agreed which are disrupted by COVID-19. This funding will be provided even where a young person is not attending due to COVID-19 and even if a specialist FE establishment temporarily closes or reduces its services, in response to the coronavirus outbreak. A review of this arrangement will take place at the end of the current academic year.
What is being done about vulnerable children with underlying health conditions who are being advised to isolate but rely on schools for meals?
Schools should ensure pupils who receive free school meals continue to receive food during the coronavirus pandemic. Guidance for schools on free school meals has been published and includes a range of suggested options for how schools can meet these needs whilst ensuring appropriate social distancing measures are upheld.
If you have any queries about how to access free school meal provision at this time please contact your local authority directly.
For those who are not eligible for free school meals but who have been advised to isolate or struggling at this time many local authorities are offering support and parents/carers should contact their local authority or check their website.
I am anxious and finding things very stressful. What support is available to me?
The Welsh Government is aware that universities in Wales have carried out a range of activities aimed at supporting students’ mental health and wellbeing, supported by funding made available by the Welsh Government to HEFCW. Such support should be extended to students who are living off-campus, as well as those in university halls of residence. Students who are experiencing anxiety and stress may wish to contact their student welfare services at their provider:
How are youth work services supporting vulnerable young people?
Youth work services, in the maintained and the voluntary sector, traditionally support many young people from all backgrounds, abilities and aspirations, including the most vulnerable and marginalised among them, where youth work skills of engagement are particularly recognised and valued. They play a crucial role in supporting a young person’s holistic development through non-formal and informal learning in a variety of settings. In the current crisis, as most physical settings, including youth centres and projects, have closed during lockdown, voluntary and paid professional youth work staff are working in new and developing ways. This includes through online activities, 'digital youth clubs', by supporting frontline responses to COVID-19 and staffing school and hub settings. They are also engaging in outreach working through digital and telephone methods to make contact with young people, respond to their concerns, questions, and requests for assistance, and refer to or broker access to other services where necessary.
In addition, the Meic helpline service has been enhanced in response to COVID-19, and provides useful tips for young people on a range of issues, through videos, resources, articles and direct support from Helpline Adviser Advocates.
To support the sectors response to the pandemic, the Interim Youth Work Board’s Digital Youth Transformation Network has become a point of national co-ordination for sharing information, resources, tools, training and guidance on digital youth work as a response to the restrictions caused by COVID-19. The Network has developed a new information sharing platform which holds valuable resources in one place, to help avoid duplication. In addition, the fortnightly Youth Work Bulletin keeps the sector updated on the latest developments.
What is the Welsh Government doing to support the youth work sector during this time?
The Welsh Government is providing over £10 million to local authorities in 2020-21 through its Youth Support Grant. This includes £3.7 million to prevent youth homelessness and £2.5 million to support mental health and well-being, as well as core funding for youth work and youth engagement and progression through local authority services and in collaboration with their partners. The grant terms and conditions have been revised to include additional flexibilities aimed at recognising and supporting youth work service responses to COVID-19. These changes are intended to preserve the youth work service infrastructure while allowing greater agility for local government and its partners, including through the redeployment of staff and strengthening of digital outreach approaches.
Alongside the Youth Support Grant, local authorities will be actively considering how they spend their Revenue Support Grant funding and other funding streams on youth service activity to support vulnerable young people.
The Welsh Government is also making available funding through the National Voluntary Youth Organisations Grant, which started on 1 April 2020 and will run for two years. National voluntary youth organisations’ agreed objectives under this grant may need to change in light of the current COVID-19 situation, Welsh Government officials will discuss with grant recipients.
The Welsh Government is also co-ordinating the publication of a fortnightly bulletin on behalf of the Interim Youth Work Board. This entails engaging with sector representatives and pulling together their key questions, and finding responses to guide and support the sector during this time. To receive the Youth Work Bulletin sign up here.
What is being done to support young people at risk of homelessness during this time?
We expect local authorities to continue to work across services to address the needs of young people. Welsh Government are continuing to fund Youth Homelessness Coordinators in local authorities as part of the £3.7m youth homelessness allocation in the Youth Support Grant. The coordinators can provide a vital role in helping to coordinate a collective response to support young people at an early point to help prevent homelessness. The innovation fund projects continue to be funded and organisations are finding ways of still engaging and providing a service to young people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.
Shelter Cymru provide an independent housing advice service, funded by Welsh Government that young people can access for support. As well as the advice line there is also a webchat facility and information developed specifically for young people. Shelter Cymru are also working in partnership with Llamau to provide an out of hours service for young people. Welsh Government’s hidden homelessness campaign will continue to run on social media signposting young people to Shelter Cymru for help.
Shelter Cymru and Llamau
Advice line: 0800 495 495
Shelter Cymru: https://sheltercymru.org.uk/
I would like to receive counselling to help support my mental health. Will I be able to access that service now?
Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, local authority counselling services have had to change the way they communicate and deliver support to children and young people. They are continuing to offer support to children and young people remotely, either using telephone-based services or via online provision. Referrals for can be made via your local authority using contact details on the Welsh Government website.
What support is available for children and young people who need support with their mental health?
Many people will find staying at home difficult, but there are lots of ways to help support your own mental health. Encourage young people to talk to tell a trusted adult about how they you are feeling and talk to them about ways you can all support your mental health.
In recognition that many young people are finding the current situation challenging, and to support them during this testing time, we have created an online resource which promotes the numerous digital tools designed specifically to support young people with their own mental health and emotional wellbeing.
The Young Person’s Mental Health Toolkit links young people, aged 11 to 25, from the Hwb to a wide range of online resources that can support young people through the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond. In each of the six sections there are up to ten self-help websites, apps, helplines, and more which support mental health and wellbeing.
The NHS is still here to help you, even though services will be under more pressure than normal, so you should still access support through your GP if you need to. In addition, local authority counselling services, which have traditionally been delivered face-to-face in schools and the community are still available and since the pandemic started have moved support online or via telephone. Referrals can be made via your local authority website. Access to counselling providers is here.