Jane Dunne shares her experience running a Problem Solving Court under COVID-19.
What are you doing to adapt to social distancing in your FDAC?
All interventions are delivered remotely as all of our offices are closed, except one. Meetings, formulation and Intervention Planning Meetings (IPMS) are being held using Microsoft Teams and with parents joining by phone.
Coventry children’s services are being creative and using Skype for Business to set up contact for parents and using WhatsApp to conduct virtual home visits, while being mindful about not sharing any confidential information online. Children’s social workers are using an app called Mind of My Own to help children communicate their wishes and feelings with their social worker. Narcotics Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous are being wonderful. They are running online groups and using the Breaking Free app.
It is really hard to build the therapeutic relationship necessary to support parents virtually, but we are making an effort to adapt parent’s intervention plans to remote working.
What are remote court hearings like to participate in?
So far, remote hearings have been very tough – some parents have not been represented at removal hearings. We are really aware of practical issues around sharing information due to safeguarding pressures; it is impossible to know if children or domestically abusive partners are in the room. Overhearing court hearings could be harmful to children, or put the parent participating in danger, if sensitive information is overheard.
What are parents in care proceedings finding difficult during the pandemic?
There are lots which is challenging to parents at this time.
Many parents do not have the technology or Wi-Fi needed to transfer into online treatment, and generally online living. This automatically reduces their contact with the outside world and peer support, making them very isolated.
It also limits their contact with children who are not in their care. As contact centres are shut, many parents who are separated from their children are unable to have contact. As the Local Authority has instructed that Zoom and WhatsApp is not safe, parents can often only have telephone contact – which is very stressful and upsetting for children and parents alike. If children are too young to speak, or non-verbal, this essentially means they don’t have any contact at all.
It is a real test of parents to be able to maintain abstinence in isolation under these emotional strains.
What are your fears during this time?
We are aware of the issues with drug supply in the local community and we have concerns about more dangerous synthetic drugs entering the market amidst a decline in the availability of other substances. This could lead to drug-related deaths.
For more detailed information on how FDACs are responding to Covid-19, the
Centre for Justice Innovation have produce a practice briefing which summaries
innovations and challenges these problem-solving family courts are facing during the