During these challenging times, we understand that many carers are concerned about contact arrangements over the Christmas period, especially those of you who are vulnerable or shielding.
We just want to reassure you that your concerns are completely natural and you are not alone. There is guidance from the Government about ‘shielding’ and people who are ‘extremely vulnerable’ to coronavirus which can be accessed here (updated 18th November 2020).
The Government guidance over Christmas says: ‘Children (under-18) whose parents do not live together may be part of both parents’ Christmas bubbles, if their parents choose to form separate bubbles. Nobody else should be in two bubbles. Although the guidance does not mention kinship carers, it is likely to relate to children whose care is shared between kinship carers and parents, or if the parents have overnight contact with their children.
We agree with the principle, in line with Government and Family Court guidance, that where contact arrangements can safely continue then they should. But this does not mean that contact must take place. The decision whether a child is to be move between homes is for the child’s carer to make after a sensible assessment of the circumstances, including the child’s present health, the risk of infection and the presence of any recognised vulnerable individuals in one household or the other.
The most important thing for kinship carers and parents is to try to talk and agree on a way of managing contact during this difficult time. If there is any disagreement between the kinship carers and parents about contact during this time, then advice should be sought from the local authority straight away. This is essential where there is no court order in place giving the kinship carer parental responsibility. Alternatively, family mediation can be sought. You can find your nearest mediation service here.
We also recommend that where contact must be suspended due to the coronavirus, kinship carers and parents try to be creative in using alternative contact methods. These could include, facetime, skype, zoom, WhatsApp, emails, telephone calls or even writing a letter. There are some useful tips for using video chat for family time here.
For more information about contact with birth parents click here.
If you need advice or more information please contact our advice service here.
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