Last updated 23.12.2020 – Please keep checking back here for updated information relating specifically to Northern Ireland. This post will be periodically updated.
NACCC continue to work with the Public Health Agency in Northern Ireland and they are being very helpful. Furthermore, we have also maintained links with the office of the First Minister in order to ensure that guidance written for our members and the children and families of Northern Ireland is correct and up to date.
In Northern Ireland, there are two bodies that oversee child contact to ensure that this is a safe and enjoyable experience for the children and families accessing these services. Some of supported by the Northern Irish Network of Child Contact Centres and others form part of the NACCC Membership.
This webpage provides information, helpful to all, but only specifically relating to those accredited by NACCC. You can check whether your contact centre has NACCC Accreditation and Membership here.
The status of Child Contact Services in Northern Ireland.
Child Contact Centres are open and can continue to be so, pending the completion of an individual risk assessment for each centre. This assessment should consider the risks in your local area and any that are specific to your workforce (age or vulnerabilities of staff / volunteers). You would also need to consider social distancing, PPE, hygiene routines and so on. There is a template on the NACCC website that might assist with this.
Once this is complete it is important to work with your local Health and Social Care Trust to make them aware of the status of your service, to ensure that this is considered appropriate locally and to access any PPE that might be required.
Northern Ireland Lockdown from 26.12.2020
Following an increase in coronavirus (COVID-19) cases, additional restrictions will be introduced for people in Northern Ireland on 26 December. These new restrictions are being put in place to help reduce the spread of coronavirus and to help manage the pressures on our health and social care system. During this time, the single most important action we can all take is to stay at home.NIdirect.gov.uk
It is planned that this lockdown will last for a period of up to 6 weeks, with a review at week 4. Bearing in mind that this is a fluid situation and change is likely, it is advised that you continue to monitor the https://www.nidirect.gov.uk website for updated information.
Some of the restrictions will be in law through regulation, while others will be in guidance. Everyone is legally required to comply with the regulations.
During this lockdown:
- Child contact centres will remain open. They will have risk assessments in place that guide them to be able to do this safely. They will also have additional measures in place that will help them to keep you and your children safe. For more information about the steps your local centre has taken please do make contact with them, we have no doubt that they will be able to alleviate most anxieties you might have.
- Households are not allowed to mix indoors, in private homes. Exemptions are in place to allow children to have contact with parents they do not live with. There are also exemptions for child care and household bubbles.
Children whose parents do not live in the same household can move between homes as normal.NIdirect.gov.uk
- Up to 6 people from no more than 2 households can meet up outdoors, including private gardens. Children under the age of 12 are not included in this total.
- Up to 15 people can meet outdoors, following social distancing guidelines.
- Travel should be avoided, where it cannot be avoided you should avoid public transport. People are permitted to travel for the purpose of attending child contact.
- Face coverings should be worn, in accordance with the rules.
- Formal and informal child care arrangements may continue.
- Hospitality venues must remain closed. Other than those providing take away food, or those on the transport network providing service station facilities.
- Leisure and entertainment facilities must close.
- Outdoor spaces like parks and other places operated by the National Trust may open.
- Community Halls and Libraries may open to offer limited services.
My child does not live with me but there are regular arrangements in place so we can continue to have contact with each other – can these arrangements continue?
Yes – for children who do not live in the same household as their parents and have existing arrangements in place to visit and safely have contact, these arrangements can continue. This could include children in foster care, children’s homes and adoptive placements.
I share parental responsibility for a child with someone I don’t live with – can I still see them?
Where parental responsibility is shared, existing arrangements can continue and the child can move between both parents, and therefore between both parents’ households (and support bubbles where relevant).
I live outside of Northern Ireland but child contact is in Northern Ireland, can I still travel?
The media are reporting a new strand of Covid-19. It seems that this variant is more contagious than previously and that it can spread differently in terms of children and young people. We are committed to the safety of people using child contact centres.
We are recommending that people do not travel to or from Tier 4 areas, for the purpose of using child contact centres if you do not usually live in this area. This guidance will be reviewed regularly, and it is planned that this will be relaxed once more is known. This guidance is not intended for those managing their own contact arrangements outside of a contact centre.