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Meeting the challenge of COVID-19: Examples of frontline practice in caring for children and young people

Across Scotland many people are continuing to support children, young people, and their families during this time, adapting in order to respond with care and protection where this is needed.

Through the use of creativity, compassion, and communication, we have seen alternative and new ways of working, innovative ideas, and people coming together to help to sustain relationships and offer some stability for young lives during these uncertain times.

Through a diverse range of examples of how people are meeting the challenge of responding to the effects of this public health emergency, we hope to record, reflect on, inform, and inspire others about the impact that these are having in the lives of care experienced children and young people, and all those who work and volunteer across public and voluntary services to support them.

Meeting the Challenge: Young people connecting with each other through digital quiz-nights

Meeting the challenge lightbulb design 70x70.png How the young people at Aberlour came together during lockdown

 

What was the challenge faced by Aberlour?

 

The COVID-19 lockdown has posed many challenges for the young people in residential care at Aberlour, including feelings of isolation and loneliness. The requirement to change and relax some of the formal processes they were used to, and the closing of schools, has led to a lack of structure and some young people have been struggling to cope.

 

What change in practice took place?

 

John*, a care experienced young person, contacted the Rights and Participation Officer to say he was feeling bored and lonely and could he start an online quiz between the eight houses Aberlour runs across Scotland, from the Highlands to southern Scotland. This idea was floated with the adults in all houses and then all the young people were asked if they would like to take part via video conferencing - and the idea took off. John wrote the first quiz entirely on his own, and the prize for the winner was the opportunity to produce the next quiz. As the young people from across the houses became more involved and started to take the lead, other events were suggested and introduced including a talent show, karaoke, and a TikTok dance night. When the school summer holidays officially began, the young people suggested having a ‘show and tell’ event where they would bring a meaningful object along to discuss, to demonstrate how they are coping during lockdown, including talking about their highlights and the struggles. This took place at the end of June.

 

Who was involved in making the change?

 

This initiative continues to be led by the care experienced young people who suggest the ideas, with the residential child care workers and the Rights and Participation Officer working with them to help facilitate and encourage what they want to do. The IT department is involved to ensure connectivity for all those wishing to take part and providing access to the platform.

 

What difference did this change make?

 

A real sense of belonging is growing across the community of young people who are connecting in a way they never have before. When one young person moved houses, the quiz was like a reunion and she stayed on the call afterwards to show her new room to her friends. Staff have reported deeper and stronger relationships with the young people, partly due to the increase in time spent together on the quizzes and events, and partly due to home learning as schools remain closed. These online events have boosted self-esteem and confidence as young people come together to perform in a talent show, or work together on dances. Two young people who felt that they could neither read nor write became confident enough to read the questions at one of the quiz nights. Seeing the adults and children ‘cooried in’ (snuggled) on a Tuesday night ready for the quiz has been described as similar to watching an episode of the television series Gogglebox!

 

More information Andy Finlay, Admissions and Programmes Manager, Aberlour Sycamore Services, andy.finlay@aberlour.org.uk

 

Date: August 2020



Meeting the Challenge: Creating new ways for the care experienced community to connect and be supported during COVID-19

Meeting the challenge lightbulb design 70x70.png How three new digital services were introduced by Who Cares? Scotland for care experienced people across the country

 

What was the challenge faced?

 

As the UK and Scottish Governments started imposing wide-ranging lockdown restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Who Cares? Scotland, a national membership and campaigning charity providing independent advocacy for Care Experienced people, started receiving a number of emails, phone calls and social media messages relating to concerns about increased social isolation, financial hardship, insecure housing tenures, mental health worries, and disconnection from family, friends and other important relationships from many within the community.

 

What change in practice took place?

 

Having heard the worrying concerns from care experienced people, Who Cares? Scotland took immediate action and introduced three distinctive services available to care experienced people across Scotland. Firstly, a new Helpline was opened. Originally supported with a rota of over 50 members of staff, open seven days a week and available on the phone or through email, this provided emotional and practical support for care experienced people and their kinship and foster carers, including grocery shopping and help with housing issues and financial concerns such as phone top-ups, bills and rent support. At its peak, the helpline staff were taking over 30 calls a day with many lasting over two hours. The range of issues raised were so diverse that it often required liaising with the policy, advocacy and employment teams. As the impact of the public health crisis became more severe and several of the organisation’s events were cancelled, including its Summer Camp, attended by over 100 care experienced people each year, Who Cares? Scotland decided to trial something online instead and came up with the idea for a Digital Festival. Over 30 unique opportunities were developed for young people to engage with and nurture a sense of belonging with the wider care community. It was something the community could look forward to during lockdown and it attracted interest from almost 200 care experienced people from age eight to over 50, from all walks of life. Delivered over three days in May, the festival increased participants’ sense of inclusion and strengthened their relationships with each other. At the same time, through the helpline and the advocacy relationships, the organisation recognised that, at times, emotional and financial support was not enough. Some care experienced people needed additional support. So, at the beginning of May, a new counselling service was made available to connect care experienced people with a qualified counsellor or psychotherapist (of their choice) who was registered with the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy. All therapists specialise in different areas, so, consistent with a trauma-informed approach, each person has a choice in who and what works best for them.

 

Who was involved in making the change?

 

Recognising the devastating impact of Covid-19 and hearing harrowing stories of care experienced people not being able to provide food, pay for electricity and bills, for the first time in its history, the Who Cares? Scotland Board agreed to change their services over the immediate terms to provide a new response. When it was recognised what kind of support would be needed, including that the impact of COVID-19 was having a negative impact on people’s mental health, the organisation worked with the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, Youthlink, Youth Scotland, and national policy makers, third sector organisations, local authorities, independent artists, tutors and therapists in Scotland, to ensure the level of support provided was evidence-led and shaped by good practice.

 

What difference did this change make?

 

Since the lockdown began nearly 800 children, young people, their families and adults have been supported via the helpline and nearly 100 care experienced people have been referred to counselling. While the lasting impact of COVID-19 is still to be evaluated, the Who Cares? Scotland’s experience has suggested that connection, practical support and a counselling service have become a lifeline for many care experienced people struggling in these difficult times. The organisation has further developed its helpline service, which now provides advice on rights, entitlements and emotional support to care experienced people while still serving as a source of connection for the care experienced community.

 

More information Maciej Alexander, Impact Measurement Manager, malexander@whocaresscotland.org

 

Date August 2020

 

Meeting the Challenge: How young people spread kindness and positivity in their community during COVID-19

Meeting the challenge lightbulb design 70x70.pngHow young people at Rossie Young People’s Trust helped their local community to feel more connected during lockdown

 

What was the challenge faced by Rossie Young People’s Trust?


Rossie supports 10-18 year-olds who have been exposed to multiple adverse childhood experiences, through residential care, secure care and specialist intervention services. Like many care providers, the COVID-19 public health emergency meant Rossie’s campus had to make adjustments which had a major impact on young people’s day-to-day lives. This included being unable to do outdoor activities, visit home, or see family and friends face-to-face, and, during school hours and in their free time, only being able to spend time with those they live with, no other young people from the campus. This meant a new way needed to be found to support the young people and provide some positivity during these uncertain times.


What change in practice took place?


Through workshops, young people were given the opportunity to learn more about COVID-19 and how to keep themselves and each other safe. Using questionnaires, staff asked the young people about their thoughts on the impact of lockdown and what could be done to help them through the pandemic. Many of the young people said they would like to contribute to the community initiative ‘Simmer Doon Soup’, in Montrose, Angus, which was giving out kits of soup ingredients and recipes to vulnerable local people in need during lockdown. The young people made ‘compassion bags’ to be given out with the soup kits. These included treats and activities, from home baking to VE Day recipes, ‘cups of tea in a bag’, and wildflower seeds for people to plant. They enclosed information about Mental Health Awareness Week, lockdown poems and Pride posters, and also added small gifts to cheer people up, including crafts such as peg people, stained glass windows, badges, and rainbow bracelets and drawings. These items were decided through discussions between the young people and staff as everyone wanted to ensure the bags had items that would put a smile on people’s faces. Young people freshly baked the goods in their Home Economics kitchen working alongside staff. They may well be some potential ‘Great British Bake Off’ stars of the future! Young people also wrote letters to vulnerable people which were delivered alongside the bags to the local doctor’s surgery, sheltered housing complexes, family and friends, and to the neighbours of Rossie staff who are vulnerable or self-isolating.


Who was involved in making the change?


Voluntary Action Angus supported Rossie by collecting the young peoples’ compassion bags and delivering these to ‘Simmer Doon Soup’ and Montrose Community Trust to be distributed within the local community. This came about as one of the members of staff, Jan, made contact with Voluntary Action Angus, who then connected her with ‘Simmer Doon Soup’ to begin the initiative. Montrose Community Trust then noticed the work on social media - they were running a similar project and shortly afterwards a partnership was created so both organisations could all work collaboratively to support the local community.


What difference did this change make?


As well as having something to do to take their minds off the pandemic, being able to spread kindness in this way helped young people to feel more connected, and that they were making a difference to others during the lockdown. One of the young people said:


“As a kid at Rossie I think it’s such a lovely idea especially with COVID-19. I loved feeling like I’ve made a difference to someone’s day especially when people are feeling lonely right now. Love A xox”


The vulnerable people that Rossie’s young people wrote to would not otherwise have had any regular human contact during this time, and the letters were so well received - several people have written back and phoned to thank the young people, as well as posting supportive messages on social media sites. Now the young people are being included in plans for a local soup kitchen, which is a community led initiative in partnership with Montrose Community Trust, Simmer Doon Soup and Volunteer Action Angus. Rossie is currently in discussions about the development of this project, and young people will definitely play an active part in ensuring its success.


More information Jan Philip, Throughcare Worker: jan.philip@rossie.org.uk


Date: July 2020

 

Meeting the Challenge: A residential practitioner steps in to provide a temporary home

Meeting the challenge lightbulb design 70x70.pngHow a residential practitioner at Glasgow City Council offered a young person a place to stay so she could take up a new job

 

What was the challenge faced?

 

COVID-19 has caused disruption to many aspects of our daily lives. During the height of the lockdown restrictions, 17 year old Daisy*, who lives at the Monreith Road Care Home for children and young people, secured a new job at an elderly care unit. While she was excited to start, during the induction she found out that a number of residents at the elderly care unit had tested positive for COVID-19, and some had sadly already passed away. It became apparent that working at the unit would be high risk both for her and for the other children and staff at Monreith Road, some of whom had underlying health conditions. A risk assessment was carried out and it was determined that there were two options: either Daisy would have to forgo her new job or she’d need to move into alternative accommodation temporarily; for example her own flat, or a Bed and Breakfast. However, there were concerns that independent living at this stage wouldn’t provide the additional support she needed.

 

What change in practice took place?

 

A Senior Residential Practitioner at Monreith Road, Lesley, stepped in and offered Daisy a temporary stay in her home, which only she lives in at the moment. After getting initial agreement from senior colleagues, an assessment was carried out with Lesley. Daisy was also overjoyed by the offer and made it clear it was her preferred choice. Before she moved in, Lesley adapted her home so the correct PPE was in place so that they could both adhere to Scottish Government guidance. Lesley and Daisy both had a COVID-19 test to ensure neither tested positive for the virus, and have continued to do so regularly. Once Daisy was in and settled, she was able to start her job and benefit from Lesley’s additional support and help in adjusting to her new routine.

 

Who was involved in making the change?

 

A residential practitioner providing a home for a child or young person, albeit temporary, is not usual practice, and decision makers had to be involved and consulted to consider Daisy’s best interests. The Head of Service agreed that the proposed plan could be taken forward. References were provided by other practitioners, a social worker carried out an assessment and a decision-making panel was held with Lesley, Daisy’s link worker, a retired social worker, a team leader, an assistant service manager and a representative from Barnardo's. Although some were concerned about how unusual this situation was, the panel came to unanimous agreement that this would be the best way forward in the circumstances.

 

What difference did this change make?

 

Lesley’s offer of a nurturing home environment and constant support has had a huge impact on Daisy. She was able to settle in her new job quickly and has now passed her probationary period and has a permanent contract in place. She has also started her SVQ2 qualification. With Lesley’s support, she now has a stable routine in place and has also started opening up and talking about her own past. Lesley has received great support from her colleagues, both practically and emotionally. She has been able to adjust her start and finish times when she is supporting the young person and they check in regularly to see how she’s doing.

 

More information Lesley McGlone, Senior Residential Practitioner, Monreith Road Care Home for children and young people.

Email: lesley.mcglone@glasgow.gov.uk


*The young person's name has been changed to protect her privacy.



Meeting the Challenge: Involving young people in COVID-19 Route Mapping

Meeting the challenge lightbulb design 70x70.pngHow the Good Shepherd Centre involved young people on their Covid-19 Route Mapping

 

What was the challenge faced by the Good Shepherd Centre?

The COVID-19 lockdown changed the day to day lives of young people at Good Shepherd Centre (GSC), a secure close support and semi-independent living service for vulnerable young people. Just as for everyone in Scotland it meant many restrictions, so fewer freedoms and choices than usual within the context of secured and close support care. To keep everyone safe in their care houses and school GSC introduced physical distancing and smaller learning groups. This meant young people not being able to spend time with friends from other houses on campus, the school day was shortened and there were additional pressures from living and learning alongside the same group of young people for an extended period of time.


What change in practice took place?


As always, the GSC team were determined to listen to and learn from young people in their care. During May and June, like all children’s services, GSC managers had to keep pace with the continual national guidance and COVID-19 updates. They recognised that young people may be feeling powerless and found ways to both inform young people and help them make sense of Scotland’s Route Map, Through and Out of the COVID-19 Crisis. Staff worked alongside young people to develop a survey about the negative and ‘silver linings’ aspects of the COVID-19 situation for them and followed this up with a second survey about what was most important to young people for Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the Route Map. The majority of the young people took part. Key things young people wanted to see happen as quickly as possible were in person family visits to the centre, and being able to have a haircut and they had ideas about how this could happen safely. The feedback was fully taken on board and incorporated into GSC’s own Route Map, including arrangements for outdoor family visits in the gardens and sports pitch, and the safe re-opening of the on-site hair salon.


Who was involved in making the change?


GSC staff worked alongside the Pupil Council to develop the initial survey about COVID-19 impact and invited all young people to take part. There was a very high completion rate, because the young people involved as Pupil Council representatives encouraged their peers to have their say. The School managers, Education and Care teams all worked together; as they have done throughout the lockdown, to plan, risk assess, and practically prepare for family visits and the salon re-opening. Engaging and accessible information was developed including information leaflets and films. These were produced collaboratively with young people and remotely edited by the film-maker who works with GSC.


What difference did this change make?


By involving young people closely in developing the GSC Route Map, there have been some really important opportunities for learning and developing understanding. Conversations have reflected on lockdown, public health, social and physical distancing and the impact of what is happening in the world. This is important to help young people make sense of what’s happening outside of the GSC environment for their own families and the wider community. Most importantly, young people have had a sense of agency and influence in shaping GSC’s own Route Map which has an impact on how they live and learn at this time.


More information

Find out more about the GSC Route Map approach and Covid-19 Resilience from: Alison Gough, Director alison.gough@goodshepherdcentre.org.uk Kenny Collins, Head of Education Kenny.collins@goodshepherdcentre.org.uk

 

Date: July 2020



Meeting the Challenge: Using technology to increase participation in care planning during COVID-19

Meeting the challenge lightbulb design 70x70.png How local authorities have moved care planning online and increased participation from carers and young people

 

What was the challenge faced by CELCIS and local authorities?


The government lockdown restrictions in response to the COVID-19 public health emergency meant that the regular physical face-to-face meetings which are part of care planning, permanence planning, and decision-making for infants, children and young people, could no longer take place. There was an important recognition that stopping meetings altogether would risk longer periods of waiting and uncertainty for children in care and so that would not be acceptable. Many of the local authorities and agency partners involved in the Permanence and Care Excellence (PACE) programme with CELCIS – a quality improvement programme aimed at ensuring children have a settled, safe and permanent place to live as quickly as possible – recognised that changes in the usual practice would need to be made quickly to adapt to these new circumstances.


What change in practice took place?


In place of physical, face-to-face meetings, telephone and digital technology has been used to ensure the continued participation and engagement of children, families, carers and agencies. Some local authorities have been able to implement this new way of working quickly and effectively, meaning no formal reviews of children’s care plans or approval panels have been cancelled. In another local authority area, there were concerns that, for example, adoption panels using telephone conferencing for the approval of prospective adopters could be unnecessarily daunting for the prospective adopters themselves. By testing different techniques and approaches, and collecting feedback from all participants at pre-meetings and debrief meetings, a new process was identified to help prospective adopters feel more at ease with communicating with the panel virtually. Now, this area sends prospective adopters an introductory video, a biography and a photograph of each panel member in advance of the online video conference to ensure they feel informed and supported.


Who was involved in making the change?


The PACE delivery team within CELCIS supported some local authority teams that are already part of the PACE Programme to apply quality improvement methodology to new, innovative ways of working. Areas worked to use evidence and data they could readily collect to further develop changes in practice, with the aim of ensuring key feedback from children, families, carers and practitioners was captured.


What difference did this change make?


One local authority noted that the use of video conferencing for one decision making panel had resulting in a 100% attendance rate from carers, as opposed to an average of a 33% attendance rate when meetings took place face-to-face. Full participation in physical meetings has been challenging in the past for a number of reasons, including geographical constraints (long travel times and public transport limitations), which have also impacted on family-friendly working practices. The gathering of this data, further evidenced by positive feedback from participants, has led this local authority to determine that meetings are more effective and inclusive in this format and so this approach will now continue post-COVID-19. One young person noted that they felt able to attend the review meeting of their plan for the first time as they felt more comfortable doing this by telephone, and with the support of a trusted professional, rather than attending face to face. This was another new development: although children and young people have always had the option to give their views before a review of their care plan, they now have the option to share their views and participate during the review via telephone, rather than attending in person, which can often feel daunting. This local authority is now strongly considering how they could continue to offer participation via telephone and video conferencing to enable children and young people to participate fully in these crucial meetings about their care plans.



Date: July 2020



Meeting the Challenge: COVID-19 and supporting care leavers

Meeting the challenge lightbulb design 70x70.png How Dundee City Council increased contact with their young care leavers whilst keeping them safe

 

What was the challenge faced by the Throughcare and Aftercare Team at Dundee City Council?


Normally the team is based in Dundee City Centre, so much of the work involves face-to-face meetings with young care leavers and those transitioning from care to independence. Soon after lockdown in Scotland was announced it became apparent that the team could not provide the level of service that the young people needed and deserved entirely through phone calls or online. Some young people said they were really missing human interaction. The team worried about the potential for deteriorating mental health, increasing substance misuse, domestic abuse, financial difficulties and increased risk-taking behaviours. The team wanted to find the best way to increase contact while keeping young people and staff safe.

 

What change in practice took place?


The lockdown changed and restricted the structure and routine which many care experienced people value in their daily lives; whether through further education, work or access to services. It was noted that for some this led to sleep disruption, changes in peer groups, lack of routine and other unsettling changes. The Throughcare and Aftercare team began receiving calls and social media messages more often in the late afternoon and evening. In order to support the young people when they were accessing the team, the working hours of the Duty Line were extended to 9am–9pm Monday to Friday and weekend afternoons. This was promoted on social media. The team delivered food parcels, supermarket vouchers, sanitary and contraceptive products, and money for gas and electricity directly to young people rather than other services doing so. Staff went with young people on socially distanced walks to encourage the government-advised one hour a day of physical exercise and offer direct interaction while discussing plans and support.


Who was involved in making the change?


The Throughcare and Aftercare Team has listened to the young people throughout lockdown and responded to their needs. The team worked within the Council to lead on this support for care leavers and develop stronger working relationships with other teams and services. In crisis situations, resources and information have been shared more efficiently to respond quicker. Also a multi-agency group was formed in response to an escalation in adolescent substance misuse under lockdown. Representatives from the Children & Families Service, substance misuse services, antisocial behaviour team and supported accommodation in the group aim to build a current and accurate picture of substance misuse trends and keep relevant teams educated and informed so practice can change in line with need.

 

What difference did this change make?


By finding new ways to support care leavers in Dundee, the team has provided stability during a period of great uncertainty. Maintaining safe but necessary face-to-face contact has been so important to the young people. As well as providing a listening ear, the team has been able to identify crisis and help young people stop risk behaviours escalating. The young people have responded particularly well to the socially distanced walks and said they enjoy getting out for exercise. Many said it was easier to talk about things that are affecting them rather than in the usual office setting which can be more intense. The team is keen to build on this learning.

 

More information


Ailsa Deasley, Team Manager, Throughcare and Aftercare Team, Dundee City Council. Telephone: 01382 438657, Email: movingon.team@dundeecity.gov.uk


Date: June 2020


Meeting the Challenge: Exam assessment in the time of COVID-19

Meeting the challenge lightbulb design 70x70.png How Edinburgh's Quality Improvement Team is helping teachers to assess care experienced young people's work

 

What was the challenge faced by City of Edinburgh Council?

 

There is an existing need to maximise and raise the attainment of care experienced young people in senior phase within the City of Edinburgh Council education area, while the COVID-19 public health emergency has seen a model of certification based on teacher assessments of level of achievement put in place instead of the 2020 exams. The official statistics show that the number of care experienced young people put forward for qualifications at SCQF5 and above, and their results, are much lower than that of their peers. The local Quality Improvement Team hope to establish if this is based on teachers having lower expectations of these students and if, as recent research shows , there is any evidence of an ‘unconscious bias’.

 

What change in practice took place?


The Quality Improvement Team is acutely aware that due to the COVID-19 public health emergency, qualifications in senior phase this year, and possibly next year, are now dependent on teachers submitting estimated grades based on the evidence available to them. The team is currently analysing data from the last three academic years to compare estimated grades against the final grades that were attained for all pupils, in order to set a benchmark, and then for care experienced pupils to see if there is a noticeable difference for this cohort. From that analysis they will look to see if this could be attributed to unconscious bias based on expectations, individual relationships, and teachers’ perceptions of care experienced young people and their circumstances.

 

Who was involved in making the change?


The Council’s Quality Improvement Education Officer is currently analysing the data with the Quality Improvement Manager for secondary schools, and they are working with ‘Hub for Success’ , an Edinburgh-based service working across HE and FE institutions to support young people with care experience to get in, stay in or return to education. The results of the analysis will determine the change needed and the approach this will take.

 

What difference did this change make?


If the data analysis indicates that teachers may have lower expectations of care experienced young people and are not expecting care experienced children to attain at a certain level, then the team have a greater understanding of a root cause. This intelligence will help to inform what the authority, in partnership with and inspired by the Hub for Success, could do to change the perspectives and approaches of secondary school teachers. If, on the other hand, the data shows that there isn’t evidence of bias, a different approach can be taken to work with teachers and young people to improve grades and offer additional support.

  

More information

Lorraine Moore, Hub for Success. Email: L.Moore@napier.ac.uk Website: hubforsuccess.org


Date: June 2020


Meeting the Challenge: Technology steps in to keep relationships going during COVID-19

Meeting the challenge lightbulb design 70x70.png How Kibble, a specialist provider of services for young people facing adversity, is using technology to sustain relationships

 

What was the challenge faced by Kibble?


During the COVID-19 public health emergency, government lockdown restrictions meant physical, face-to-face meetings could no longer take place at Kibble, the specialist provider of services for young people facing adversity or trauma, therefore impacting visits from young people's families, social workers, advocates, and other important meetings. Kibble therefore sought ways to ensure children and young people retained vital contact with their families, social workers, and advocates, as well as identifying ways to support remote meetings including: Looked After Children's reviews, Children's Hearings, Foster Panel Assessments, and staff operational meetings. Given the importance of face-to-face meetings, Kibble needed to try and retain this, by using virtual means, as far as could be possible. It was essential to identify ways to retain safety and structure for their young people while reducing transmission of the virus.

 

What change in practice took place?


Prior to the lockdown restrictions being imposed, family, social work visits, and other important meetings could take place in person, however, under the new guidance Kibble needed to find alternative solutions. By beginning to use video technology and providing each care house with a dedicated smart phone with access to Skype, WhatsApp, and FaceTime, new arrangements were quickly put into place. Calls were co-ordinated by staff using an agreed phone list to ensure safeguarding. Across Kibble, employees were given access to Microsoft Teams and Skype, allowing both internal and external meetings to take place virtually. For the fostering services, video technology was used for foster carer recruitment to conduct assessments, virtual home visits, and Skills-to-Care Training. Their HR team was also able to conduct staff recruitment to fill essential roles using video technology. Using video Looked After Children Reviews and Children's Hearings went ahead as planned.

 

Who was involved in making the change?


With this already such an important channel for their age group, the children and young people naturally adapted to the use of video calls in order to speak to their families. Families, social workers, and children's rights advocates were kept informed through posters outlining simple instructions on this new way to contact their child, with each really welcoming this approach. As video use was growing across organisations, partners and stakeholders embraced this method and regular meetings were held with others across the sector including the Scottish Government, Care Inspectorate, and The Children's Panel. The Kibble Board was able to retain regular contact with senior managers, keeping them updated on progress while visits were not possible. Collectively, everyone across the organisation embraced the technology and this started to become the 'new norm'.

 

What difference did this change make?


Embracing video technology has been a lifeline for Kibble for several reasons. Firstly, it enabled children to retain regular contact with their families when physical, face-to-face visits were not possible. This was incredibly important for the young people's wellbeing and helped reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation. Video technology supported Kibble to remain fully operational, enabling foster carer recruitment to proceed as well as assessments and training but by virtual means. Without this method, Kibble would not have been able to support important Looked After Children Reviews, Children's Hearings, foster carer assessments, and staff recruitment. The use of video technology also enabled support services to assist staff to work remotely, allowing daily progress meetings to take place. Following the lifting of lockdown restrictions, Kibble will continue to make use of video technology alongside physical, face-to-face meetings to enhance and streamline communications across the organisation.

 

More information


Steven Warner, Quality Improvement Manager, Kibble. Telephone: 0141 889 0044, Email: Steven.warner@kibble.org


Date: June 2020


Meeting the Challenge: Online learning for care experienced pupils during COVID-19

Meeting the challenge lightbulb design 70x70.pngHow City of Aberdeen Council ensured young people had the equipment and connectivity to continue to learn 

 

What was the challenge faced by City of Aberdeen Council?


Even before the lockdown was announced in Scotland, the Virtual School Head Teacher for City of Aberdeen Council recognised, having conducted an earlier survey across schools, that there would be a requirement for digital provision for Looked After Children including the need for connectivity. Chromebooks had already been purchased and were available for distribution. She could see that from information held in the Child's Plan for some children and young people and having spoken to colleagues in social work, that under lockdown, care would need to be taken when thinking about the use of digital devices and online learning. Once it was understood what the new learning environment could look like for the next few weeks, maybe months, ahead, the Virtual School Head Teacher, with the support of social work colleagues surveyed foster carers and parents of children looked after at home to gauge what digital and practical support may be needed to ensure the children and young people could access their learning and parents/carers felt confident to support them.

 

What change in practice took place?


A digital learning hub for the local authority education area was established to provide guidance for all pupils, parents, and carers on how to engage in online learning and how to set up equipment for face-to-face meetings with teachers and peers. Meanwhile, the Digital Lead Education Officer working closely with the Virtual School Head Teacher also looked specifically at how the service could best support learning for both the educational needs and wellbeing of all care experienced children and young people in schools. The Virtual School helpline was established at the very start of lockdown and provided a point of contact for parents, carers, and professionals to access support which included being able to speak to a central officer who could take them step by step through the process of setting up equipment and getting online. The Virtual School Head Teacher became the key link between families and the Digital Lead Officer. Social work colleagues were also able to submit request forms for digital devices or connectivity for any care experienced child or young person they support. For this local authority, a number of care experienced children and young people are accommodated and educated outside the city, so it was important for the Virtual School Head Teacher, to make sure that no matter where they were, no matter what school they attended, they could be provided with the equipment to be able to access their learning remotely.


Who was involved in making the change?


Working together, the Digital Lead officer and the Virtual School Head Teacher worked with pupils, teachers, social workers, parents and carers to identify needs and make sure care experienced pupils were not at a disadvantage from their peers due to lack of digital access. Telecoms partners were contacted before lockdown and EE provided all connectivity solutions in the form of dongles and increased data allowance at minimal costs.


What difference did this change make?


It was important that as far as possible in these unprecedented circumstances, that learning and teaching could continue with as little disruption as possible. In Aberdeen, pupils have continued their relationships with their peers and their teachers, both through online learning and through classroom chats. Across the local authority over 92% of all pupils are accessing and engaging in learning every week. Face-to-face contact has been maintained through video calls and a few care experienced young people who had previously been struggling to engage and participate in education, have built stronger relationships with their teachers through this period with online learning now forming part of their plan. At the start of lockdown, not all teachers felt confident with delivering lessons online, however, they have all now fully embraced this, acquiring new skills that will change how teaching is delivered in Aberdeen going forward.


More information


Larissa Gordon, Virtual School Headteacher, Aberdeen City Council. Telephone: 01224 523580, Email: lagordon@aberdeencity.gov.uk

 

Date: June 2020


 

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