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Nuffield Family Justice Observatory briefing on child contact during lockdown


09 June 2020
Nuffield Family Justice Observatory briefing on child contact during lockdown

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the government introduced severe restrictions on face-to-face contact between those not living in the same household, as well as limiting travel outside the home. This introduced significant challenges to allowing children in local authority care, in kinship care, with special guardians, or adopted to spend time face-to-face with their birth families. Government guidance made it clear that the expectation was for family contact plans to continue, but it was understood that contact would have to take place remotely, rather than in person. It was also acknowledged that social workers would have to make decisions on a case by case basis.

The Nuffield Family Justice Observatory has carried out a rapid research project to understand what has been put in place to support virtual contact and how it was working in practice. The key findings are set out here. It found that a number of different factors affected how successful virtual contact was deemed to be: including the age of the children, and the type of relationship they had with their families. Parents generally felt that virtual contact was better than nothing, but especially with young children (under the age of five years), lack of physical contact proved to be a real problem to communication. There were examples of good practice were the focus was on child-friendly activities to keep younger children engaged.

The report included helpful guidance on the factors to consider around contact virtually, and what support needed to be in place for all parties. There were also three main recommendations on the need to assess the impact and consider potential benefits of virtual contact and the importance of following established principles.

The full report can be read here.

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