Skip to content

Update for colleagues from Jo Olsson – 4th June

As we move into the next phase of coronavirus (COVID-19), we want to give colleagues a clear overview of the current situation and our plan moving forward. The following is the latest update from Jo Olsson, Devon County Council’s Chief Officer for Children’s Services and Chair of the Devon SCP Executive Group. 

Dear colleagues,

This is my third message on behalf of the Devon Safeguarding Children Partnership.

I’d like to start by saying a very big thank you to school leaders and staff and everyone who helped get our schools ready for re-opening. Your hard work is very much appreciated, and it’s great to see more children returning to their classrooms. For disadvantaged children, the return to school couldn’t be more important; all the evidence shows that their education and life chances will suffer most out of school. We are one of the top performing Local Authorities in the country in the number of disadvantaged children attending school and in the safeguarding support for those not yet attending.

At the beginning of May, we said we wanted vulnerable children to be in school, noting the special arrangements for children who attend special schools.

On the 29th May:

  • 37% of children subject of a protection plan were in school (previously 36%)
  • 24% children in need plan were in school (previously 22%)
  • 23% of children in care were in school (previously 21%)

Most of our most vulnerable children are still not spending time with trusted adults outside of the family. Please keep up the good work of encouraging school attendance for vulnerable children.

This week, we’ve seen more families take up the offer of classes for their children in Devon’s primary school. At the start of the week 185 schools across Devon offered parents access to Reception, Year 1 or Year 6. There has also been a big increase in the children of key workers attending classes – up nearly a third on last month and, as more businesses return to work form 15th June, we can expect this to go higher. Top priority for places continues to be for vulnerable children and the children of key workers.

While there will be many challenges ahead, rest assured that we will continue to support schools to make the right decisions for children. Please continue to access the Devon County Council website for the latest information and updates about schools.

Of course, it’s not just educational settings where we are beginning to take careful steps towards a return to face-to-face services. With the partial lifting of lockdown measures Health Visitors will now be recommencing face-to-face contacts for new births across Devon.

The convening of a multi-agency Improvement Partnership following the Ofsted ILACS inspection was suspended as we instituted our pandemic incident management response. Our commissioner, Eleanor Brazil, is now in place and the first meeting of the Improvement Partnership takes place later in June. Eleanor will report on progress to the DfE in September. Meanwhile the Devon SCP Executive will continue to focus on the needs and experiences of children and families in Devon. We have to adapt to living with coronavirus (COVID-19) in the community as we ease out of lockdown, prepare for an anticipated demand surge and potentially a second wave of infection.

Devon has been designated as one of 11 Beacon Councils to lead local outbreak management planning. Working with the national Test and Trace Service, we will be able to focus on individual communities and places – for example, care homes or schools – putting in place the support needed to effectively manage local outbreaks.

Finally, I encourage everyone to continue to consider the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) on children’s health and wellbeing. The impact of this pandemic will likely last for some considerable time. As restrictions are eased it is important that we all keep in our mind the experiences of this period for children, young people and families. Be curious, ask questions and keep a supportive dialogue open to help children transition as smoothly as possible into life after lockdown. You can find a range of health and wellbeing advice and information on our website.

Please let me know if there is anything you need from the partnership to help you in your work.

With very best wishes,
Jo Olsson
Chief Officer for Children’s Services (Devon County Council)
Chair of the Devon SCP Executive Group