Whether we like it or not, Covid-19 (Coronavirus) has been declared a pandemic by the WHO. As I write this the UK government has confirmed we have entered the next phase, Delay. Though not yet in place, there are concerns that ‘social distancing’ will be here soon. We have already seen the suspension of the Premier League and we may yet have prohibitions on large gatherings, closures of schools and colleges or places of work.
Some of you may be wondering why this is a safeguarding issue. To be honest, so was I when it first came up. However, with the real possibility of closures of schools, colleges, day care centres and such, this potentially places lots of vulnerable people at risk of harm and means that vital support for key staff is suspended or postponed.
Over the next couple of days, as we learn more, I’ll be explaining some simple strategic steps we can take, to ensure our staff and service users continue to receive the support they need. Importantly, we need to continue to take the advice from Public Health England and the Government. Panic is not a helpful option here and leaders must do what they can to reassure staff and keep a level head.
One of the first things that springs to mind when considering potential isolation is ‘What can we do remotely or online?
In this article I am going to explore some of the key considerations you need to have when answering this question.
What do you already do?
Many organisations already provide remote working, learning and support for staff, students or service users.
I wholly accept that remote working is not possible for everyone. There are some workers whose work is vital and can only be achieved through working face to face or being in a place of work. We will look at those in a later blog.
Consider what you already do and whether these can be extended to cover any isolation periods. These are exceptional times, if it wouldn’t ordinarily be practice but could be done, would remote working be an option for otherwise office/non office-based staff?
Many of you will already have working from home policies and procedures. These may need to be reconsidered in light of this unprecedented situation. Ask:
- Is it fit for purpose?
- Which staff does it include?
- What does it cover?
- Is there a prohibition on use of certain platforms or software?
- Will these need to be reconsidered?
You will also need to consider what your obligations are under any emergency procedures, safeguarding policies and health and safety policies too.
Next you will need to consider what technology you are using. Many people are considering moving meetings online.
There are lots of free software available, but not all are secure. Do you know if the software you are proposing to use is secure? Can you find out? What do you already have access to? Software such as Microsoft teams is used by many organisations which may be affected by the pandemic. Learn how to use the technology before any closures occur.
Skype is a very popular video chat/conferencing online tool. However, whilst it is easy to use, it is not secure. This means that it leaves you and your staff or service user vulnerable to information being obtained or watched.
I use Zoom for all my webinars, one to one meetings and supervisions. It is secure. It also allows me the opportunity for secure recording which I can share securely with my supervisees or participants.
Software such as Microsoft teams is widely available for many of those potentially affected by the pandemic.
Consider what internet connections are being used (This may be included in your working from home procedures for staff but possibly not for students). Where possible open networks (such as those found in cafes/restaurants/public spaces) are not secure and can leave personal data vulnerable. Use of these connections for meetings should be discouraged. Where this isn’t possible careful consideration will need to be made about what information is shared in the meeting (particularly if these are supervisory meetings).
This should be simple but is often overlooked.
Where are you positioning your laptop or computer? Is it free from personal information or pictures if you are having online meetings using a webcam?
Are you using secure links? Who knows you are having these meetings? Are they being recorded (check your settings!)
Who else is in the home? Can they overhear your conversations? Could they interrupt? Have these conversations with family members and older children.
We are in exceptional times but we should not overlook basic steps to protect ourselves when working remotely.
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The information contained above is provided for information purposes only. The contents of this blog are not intended to amount to advice and you should not rely on any of the contents of this blog. Professional advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from taking any action as a result of the contents of this blog. Safeguarding Practitioners Ltd & Kate Young disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on any of the contents of this blog.