A key priority right across the HSC, in conjunction with a range of partners, is ensuring that safe, accessible and quality services are available to support and protect older people, carers, children, and vulnerable members of society, whilst being very mindful of the risks associated with the spread of COVID-19.
Trusts will continue to carry out risk-assessments, prioritise urgent and emergency care, including child and adult safeguarding, as well as starting to put plans in place for a phased reopening of a range of services, including adult social care, children’s services, mental health, learning disability, and community services.
Across adult social care services there will be an important balance to be struck between protecting those who may be particularly vulnerable from Covid-19 and recognising the impacts this could have on their general health and wellbeing.
The large majority of care homes have not had a COVID-19 outbreak and a key priority will be ensuring that this remains the case while considering how steps can be taken to facilitate engagement with families.
Services such as respite, day care and domiciliary care will need to operate differently than usual to manage infection control risks. Across adult social care there will need to be a separation into groups of service users to try to minimise infection control risks, ongoing use of PPE and other mechanisms to minimise risks.
This will include Trusts continuing to support unpaid carers, providing PPE when needed, and ensuring they have the support they need to continue providing care. Sector specific guidance has been issued providing more details on the approaches to be adopted.
Rebuilding planning is underway across the keys areas of children’s services. This will align with the Executive’s 5-stage plan and will be guided by up-to-date medical and scientific evidence.
Regulations which provided flexibility in relation to the provision of services to looked after children during the pandemic came into operation on 7 May and, subject to flexibility continuing to be required, will expire on 7 November 2020.
In addition, procedural changes have been implemented in children’s services to take account of public health measures put in place to prevent the spread of infection. In many cases, this has promoted innovative service responses.
A COVID-19 Childcare Support Scheme has been established to meet the childcare needs of key workers and to sustain large parts of the childcare sector forced to close as a result of reduced demand for childcare.
Members of the public are urged to contact Health and Social Care Trust Gateway Services or the NPSCC helpline on 08088005000, if they have concerns about a child not being safe or receiving the care they need.
Any concerns that a child is in immediate danger should be referred to the PSNI via 999 without delay.
During these difficult times, families are facing different pressures. There is a range of support available in the community, including through Family Support Hubs which are continuing to support families in a number of creative and innovative ways.
For further information visit the Family Support NI website.