Staff across adults’ and children’s services are included in a government list of key workers whose children can continue to attend school during closures caused by the coronavirus crisis, due to start today.
The guidance on who qualifies as a ‘critical worker’, which was published overnight by the Department for Education, does not include an exhaustive list of job titles.
But it makes specific provision for “social workers, care workers, and other frontline health and social care staff including volunteers”.
It makes a separate mention of social workers who work with children.
‘One parent’ rule
The document also references support and specialist staff required to maintain the UK’s health and social care sector, and people working as part of the health and social care supply chain.
Staff responsible for “key public services” are also on the list, which includes those “essential to the running of charities”.
As well as the health workers who will be at the sharp end of caring for those who fall critically ill during the anticipated spike in coronavirus infections, the government includes a range of other crucial occupations on its list of key workers. These include police and security staff, transport operatives, people involved in the production and sale of food, government administrative workers and those employed in utilities, communication and financial services.
The guidance confirms that, contrary to rumours circulating on social media yesterday, only one of a child’s parents need be a key worker in order to qualify for them to continue to attend school during the Covid-19 outbreak.
But it adds that if children can be kept safely at home, they should be, to minimise the spread of the virus.
The closures due to start today cover children at registered childcare providers, including nurseries and childminders, primary and secondary schools – including independent schools – and further education colleges.
‘Vulnerable’ children expectation
Besides social work and social care staff, the guidance also issues more detail about ‘vulnerable’ children for whom school provision is expected to continue.
The definition includes all children supported by social care, including those on child in need and child protection plans, looked-after children, children with disabilities, and children with education, health and care plans.
The plan has drawn a range of criticism, including around its potential for heightening stigma experienced by children, and for putting the health of foster and kinship carers at risk.
The DfE guidance also says that for children who currently get free school meals, a national voucher system will be put in place “as soon as possible”. In the meantime it says the government will reimburse schools who continue to provide meals or vouchers for children.