Update for schools: 9 April 2020

This updates contains information from Birmingham Children's Trust.

Birmingham Children’s Trust has prepared a short briefing that I wanted to share with you to provide some level of assurance that during these unprecedented times partners are ensuring our most vulnerable children are protected and that we are in contact with them.  We also wanted to share the freephone number for young people, families and professionals, that has gone live today providing an additional way to help vulnerable people get in touch with us at this time. 

Key messages from Birmingham Children’s Trust include:

  • The key message for partners is that our front door remains open, but for children assessed as in significant need or at risk.
  • Our resources, like all partners’, will deplete during this period and we have to work together to ensure no agency is overwhelmed, and no child at risk is ignored or overlooked.
  • The Trust is in frequent and routine dialogue with the Council, centrally and with Education and Skills and the Director of Children’s Services. There is also frequent discussion with partners in Health, Police and other agencies.
  • In line with Governmental guidance, staff have been deployed wherever possible to work from home. The note addresses the key lines of activity for which we are responsible

CASS/MASH

  • We will maintain our ‘front door’ and colleagues should contact us in the usual way if they are concerned about a child.
  • Increasingly, strategy meetings will be held virtually.
  • Initial home visits will be completed. Based on assessed risk, more of the ongoing assessment activity may be done virtually. Partners’ contributions to assessments of need and risk will be critical
  • CASS/MASH will be depleted, and partners need to ensure that their contacts are based on thresholds set out in Right Help Right Time. Partners continue to need to evidence the Early Help they have sought to provide to a family prior to contracting CASS.

Family Support

The Family Support service will continue to support vulnerable families, but as resources reduce, will be increasingly deployed to work with social workers supporting our most vulnerable children in the community: those children in need and with child protection plans. Not all families will therefore receive the same levels or type of support

Social Work: Children in Need, Safeguarding, Children in Care, Disabled Children

Children in these categories are all being risk-assessed so that, as Trust resources are reduced by sickness and self-isolation, we can maintain contact with the most vulnerable, those judged to be at greatest risk. All of these children benefit from multi-agency involvement, through ‘teams around children’, core groups, teams supporting children in care: partners will need to support the Trust in maintaining contact with these children and families

Fostering & Adoption

The Trust will continue to support foster carers and adopters, recognising that increasing numbers will fall ill and/or engage in self-isolation. We will ensure carers get the information and support they need, working closely with the Virtual School for Children in Care, and with the Children in Care Health teams.

Care Leavers, Homeless Young People and Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Young People

Services and support for these young people will be maintained, working with our partners, but again these will be risk-assessed. We are seeking to ensure that vulnerable older young people are adequately supported, practically and emotionally, including in relation to possible financial hardship. Partners all need to be part of the ‘reaching out’ to those most vulnerable, particularly those living alone and/or self-isolating

Youth Offending Service

Increasingly the criminal courts will reduce or cease operation. This will slow the processing of cases, but the service will continue to work with young people in the community to help keep them, and communities, safe. This work will again be risk-assessed so that those in greatest need are seen and supported.

Trust Resource Hub

New Aston House remains open to support delivery of services for the Children’s Trust. This will support families open to the Trust, providing vulnerable families with the necessary resources at a time of hardship. It is a physical location that families can come to, if they absolutely must, to get resources such as cash, nappies and milk, or supermarket vouchers. Full address: New Aston House, Newtown, Alma Street, B19 2RL. The hub has a ‘resources store’ available for families and foster carers. Stocks will include milk, cash (if vouchers are not available), vouchers for supermarkets, electric and gas, food, nappies and will be restocked on a regular basis. The hub will also have access to TOA, the Trust’s officially contracted taxi firm, who will support us by transporting resources to families who are unable to collect.

If a family contacts the Contact Centre to get through to CASS (Children’s Advice and Support Service) seeking support, due to hardship, and they are not open to the Trust, we will signpost them to external providers of resources.

No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF)

  • The Trust’s position is that we will continue to provide services to families that have NRPF status and this absolutely includes victims of domestic abuse.
  • Arrangements were put in place (early last week) for our NRPF families to be paid earlier than usual to ensure that they received their subsistence allowance. Families were contacted and advised that payment would be given up until end of April.
  • In addition to this we also made arrangements with the relevant Bank to have sufficient cash to pay out. We have changed some of our giro payments to cash for families who have informed us of difficulties with these arrangements, for e.g., health reasons.
  • We appreciate the government advice that was issued yesterday, which came after plans had been put in place with our families.
  • The Trust has been and are looking at pre-payment cards as an alternative to Giros and we will of course keep you updated either via direct email or through the migration forum. As a Trust we are continually exploring ways how we can meet the needs of our most vulnerable families at this difficult time and are considering all options. We are of course constantly reviewing our position, particularly in light of the new guidance.
  • Families with NRPF but leave to remain should be entitled to furlough/job retention scheme or statutory sick pay. The only people that are not entitled to this are self-employed people and people earning less than £118 per week. I doubt many NRPF families would be self-employed but if they are we may have to support these as their only option would be to apply for Universal credit which they obviously are not entitled to.
  • Statutory sick pay can be paid for people who cannot work due to coronavirus so for example people who are having to self-isolate and therefore cannot work. This is not for jobs where the place has shut down only when they should be working but cannot due to isolation. For example if you are working in a shop or as a delivery person but cannot due to getting symptoms or because you are a high risk/ vulnerable person. They will receive £94.25 per week for this. Here is the link about stat sick pay https://www.gov.uk/statutory-sick-pay/what-youll-get   
  • If they are off work because their work place has closed down and therefore cannot work then they are entitled to furlough payment. However with this both the employer and employee need to agree to this. The employer will pay 80% of their wage. Anyone is entitled to this as long as they have a UK bank account and have been on payroll since 28th February 2020. However as stated the employed needs to agree to this and apply for this on the employee’s behalf. Here is the link about furlough/ job retention scheme https://www.gov.uk/guidance/check-if-you-could-be-covered-by-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme    

Freephone number

  • Due to Coronavirus (Covid-19) we are in unprecedented times and therefore we need to think differently about how we support our vulnerable families.  Due to the closure of city council buildings and the fact that social workers and family support workers may not always be contactable we have set up a FREEPHONE line to provide vulnerable families or partner agencies a point of contact if they cannot contact the allocated worker during normal working hours.
  • The Freephone will operate Monday to Friday outside of the Emergency Duty Team (EDT) hours.
    • Monday to Friday - 8.45am to 5.15pm
    • Friday – 8.45am to 4.15pm
  • The Freephone service will be made up of Trust social work staff volunteers on a rota basis initially.  Families can ring if they need to get hold of their Trust worker or they need advice or support.  
  • The Freephone call taker will operate a duty system and answer calls from families or professionals. Primarily the role of the call handler will be to link the family or professional back in with their worker or someone from their worker’s team.
  • The Freephone Service is NOT an alternative to CASS and professionals wishing to make referrals or seek advice should follow the normal process via CASS.
  • The freephone number to call is 08081 962 288 .  Families or professionals should continue to contact EDT on 0121 675 4806 during normal City Council office hours.

Support to SEN families

  • Information about the support available to families of children with SEN has been posted on the BCC website at www.birmingham.gov.uk/localoffer 
  • This includes support available through the Parent Link helpline, Advisory Teachers and Educational Psychology.

Local Welfare Provision

  • Citizens who find themselves in a short term crisis and need help to buy food or essentials (including utilities) can apply for short term help by visiting https://www.birmingham.gov.uk/lwp and completing the online application form. The pre-paid cards will then be sent out in the post.
  • In light of the impact COVID-19 is having on the economy, Birmingham City Council has written to residents to  ensure they are fully aware of all of the financial support which is being made available through the Government if they are self-employed or a worker for businesses that have been impacted.
  • The Children’s Trust is continually exploring ways how we can meet the needs of our most vulnerable families at this difficult time and are considering all options. We are of course constantly reviewing our position, particularly in light of the new guidance.

Domestic Abuse - Regional/National Arrangements

We are aware there are concerns about Domestic Abuse and we are working with the Police and Crime Commissioners office and Community Safety colleagues from other Local Authorities in West Midlands and will be launching a Domestic Abuse campaign shortly.


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