It’s important your agency stays up-to-date with the latest health and education advice concerning COVID-19 and incorporates it into casework practice.
Each agency is responsible for seeking its own legal advice and determining its own policy and procedures in the best interests of the health and welfare of children, young people, carers, volunteers and staff.
You should also review policies and procedures to make sure they align with the current advice available from:
- NSW Health, including changes to any public health orders, and
- NSW Education, including changes to school operations and student attendance.
Your agency is also responsible for promptly and effectively communicating changes to policies and procedures with all those affected. This includes any changes or increases to restrictions from health and education authorities, especially when it comes to attending school.
Casework and monitoring placements
Your agency must make sure it has regular contact with all the children and young people it has placed and the adults caring for them. You must deal with each case based on its own circumstances. General casework, monitoring placements and work health and safety requirements should consider the following information.
Visits must apply current health advice such as hygiene procedures, social distancing, quarantining and home isolation.
During periods when health authorities permit visits to carers' homes, your agency should provide clear assurances to carers, children and young people and casework staff about home visit procedures, particularly when they involve vulnerable people. These must be based on current health advice from the Australian Government Department of Health and NSW Health.
The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic may mean agency staff can’t enter a placement where a child or young person in statutory out-of-home care is living. The agency should also consider how to manage placements in cases wher a child, young person, carer or household member is infected. If the impact means you can’t complete home visits, carer assessments and authorisations, carer reviews or home safety inspections, you should contact our Accreditation and Monitoring Team.
Face-to-face family time
Cancelling face-to-face family time due to the COVID-19 pandemic may contribute to a feeling of social isolation for children and young people in statutory out-of-home care. This could even cause psychological distress for children, young people and their birth families.
Your agency should always consider how to arrange and facilitate face-to-face family time taking into consideration what is legal and safe. This is particularly crucial for children and young people with a case plan goal of restoration because increasing the frequency and duration of face-to-face family time is critical to the restoration process.
If you decide to suspend or cancel face-to-face family time due to the COVID-19 pandemic, you should clearly document the rationale for doing so. We will review your decision.
Consider ways that home visits can occur while maintaining hygiene procedures and social distancing, such as holding visits in the yard or local park.
Supplement home visit monitoring and support with more telephone calls or video chats with the child or young person and their carers. Agencies will need to consider how additional monitoring methods such as these, will be captured as a record.