At Swan Family, as with all child contact centres, we are committed to facilitating and maintaining contact between children and their families. In light of COVID19 it has required creativity, adaptability and commitment to allow families to maintain some form of contact during this challenging and uncertain time. Since lockdown was enforced, we had been providing a virtual service to our families. Back in July 2020 our Lambeth and Bedford centres welcomed the reintroduction of face to face contacts. Over the next couple of weeks this was expanded across our other 8 contact centres covering Liverpool, Cardiff, Coventry, Croydon and Hackney. Given the reinstatement of face to face we wanted to take a look at what we have done and will be continuing to do to ensure a safe and positive service can be restored.
The introduction of virtual contact was innovative and much welcomed by our families. We spent considerable time planning the sessions and working closely with the families to ensure they were comfortable and competent in using the virtual platform. We received invaluable feedback regarding our efforts in this. We were also able to share experiences across our different centres. This enabled us to compile a list of ideas for interaction such as story times, quizzes, schoolwork, etc to make virtual family time more beneficial and comfortable.
With the reintroduction of face to face, all our contact rooms have been equipped with cleaning packs for staff to use prior, during and after sessions. Hand sanitiser stations have been fitted in all centres. There will be 2 metre rule signage around the centre. Appropriate PPE including masks and gloves if preferred are available in all centres. Portable packs have been produced so that those staff facilitating contacts in the community still have access to appropriate PPE. Health and Safety officers have been appointed and their responsibilities ensure requirements are being met in terms of social distancing being adhered to, families and staff sanitising hands upon entry, temperatures being taken, signing families in and out of the building and regularly wiping surfaces and handles throughout the centres. We have and will continue to effectively plan contact sessions strategically so that they are staggered, ensuring social distancing can be maintained throughout the buildings. All families and foster carers will have an information leaflet detailing any new procedures and expectations. We have met with all staff teams to gather their views on what a face to face service will look like to ensure they feel comfortable and supported during this daunting time.
The contact rooms have been emptied of toys, cushions and play mats to limit contamination. Furniture has been repositioned to ensure social distancing is adhered to. We are asking our Foster Carers/Family members to provide toys where possible. We do have toys that can be made available, but these will need to be sanitised after each interaction. Due to the volume of families we facilitate contacts for it is desirable that the toys are provided. However, we do recognise that this may not always be the case so can have this alternative in place.
Despite the obvious pressures to allow families face to face contact, we are keen to ensure we are still working to the same standards and assessing risk, etc. All our families require a risk assessment to be undertaken prior to resuming face to face. Working collaboratively with the local authorities we are listening to their needs and wishes. Some of our centres are returning immediately to conducting contacts within the centres. Other local authorities have expressed a wish to begin with community-based sessions with the hope to progress to centre, given infection rates continue to be managed.