A message from Antser Group CEO, Richard Dooner: As a group we provide vital online, virtual and direct services to our clients. Many of which can continue without significant disruption, some of which have had to be adapted and others that will be on hold for the safety of our colleagues and families. We have communicated directly with all partners to explain the impact on each of our services and the steps we are taking to keep everyone safe.
Our broad, group approach is as below, but measures specifically in relation to Carter Brown services are as follows:
As of 25th March Carter Brown staff members will be working from home however Carter Brown will remain fully operational in terms of new enquiries, case management and quality assurance and we will continue to communicate with you and support parties with referred, ongoing and new assessments. It is paramount that the services we collectively provide are maintained as we support some of society’s most vulnerable at a critical part of the process.
In terms of assessments, based on the information being provided by the Ministry of Justice who plan for family courts to keep operating and the Government’s identification of key workers, due to the nature of the assessments we complete within child protection, it is our view that our assessors are deemed as key workers and should continue with assessments as far as possible, taking on board the advice given to key workers in terms of their own self-protection.
This is of course at the discretion of the assessor, taking into account their own personal circumstances, the personal circumstances of the family/individuals you are assessing, the circumstances of the case itself and the need for your assessment for the court/local authority to make important decisions about the care of children and support for families. We continue to recommend that any assessments being completed are done via video or telephone, wherever possible to reduce the amount of contact we have.
We do however recognise that there will be circumstances where the assessor absolutely needs to visit an individual/family in person – if this is the case, and they are able to do so, all necessary precautions in line with the Government advice, but not limited to:
- Contact clients to check their health and whether they are showing or have been in contact with anyone who is symptomatic (a fever and/OR a new, continuous cough).
- Book the appointment to take place in a suitable location – i.e. the solicitor’s office, make arrangements for this to be spacious so that you can maintain a distance of at least 2 metres from the client.
- Do a further check 24 hours before the appointment and where possible just before the appointment to ensure it is still safe to proceed.
- Take recommended health precautions – washing hands thoroughly on entering the building and regularly thereafter. Avoid touching your face, especially eyes, nose and mouth. Regular fluid intake. Wear protective garments such as gloves and face masks. Remain a safe distance from the client.
If assessments are impacted we will be in contact with the parties to inform them of the same and have requested that our assessors make any adaptions, if possible, which can be made in order for to address the questions via video calling, prior to ceasing any work on the case or extending timescales. Reports will also include a caveat explaining the same in this scenario.
If the assessor has considered all factors and does not believe it is possible or beneficial to progress the assessment via video calling, we will be in contact with the respective client fully detailing the reasons why. In this scenario an alternative timescale of X amount of weeks following the end of the lockdown will be offered to the parties as an alternative.
As a group, services will continue to support all clients. As an organisation with secure, flexible working arrangements already in place for the majority of staff, we will be able to support home working and the government’s recommendation to stay at home, with little or no disruption to our service. In the case of illness, our experienced teams are trained to work across a range of functions and services therefore we are confident that this will not present an issue to our service delivery.
For those whose roles are essential to our frontline service and are unable to work from home, we have implemented plans and provided support and guidance to ensure their health and wellbeing whilst at work, and appropriate cover in case of future stay at home restrictions.
We regularly promote the government advice on staying safe including self-isolating if any symptoms show; avoiding unnecessary travel on public transport and enclosed crowds; as well as regular, effective hand washing and disinfecting of workspaces and equipment.
We have a senior team responsible for monitoring the situation, and our policies and procedure are reviewed on a daily basis to ensure we are as responsive as possible to this changing situation.
I trust this reassures you that we are taking every step possible to maintain business as usual, with safety as the highest priority, so we are able to continue to support you and your teams with our services. The health and wellbeing of our workforce is extremely important to us during this challenging time, but we are dedicated to providing our quality service to ensure the needs of vulnerable children and adults can continue to be met.
Should the situation change in any way, we will update you on our plans.