All of New Zealand is at the COVID-19 orange setting. Please read the guidance.

COVID-19: implications for our practice

Page URL: https://practice.orangatamariki.govt.nz/covid-19-implications-for-our-practice/covid-19-protection-framework-traffic-lights/
Printed: 28/06/2022
Printed pages may be out of date. Please check this information is current before using it in your practice.

Last updated: 27/06/2022

Current settings

 All of New Zealand is currently at the orange setting.

Updates to this guidance

Visitors to residences and group homes no longer need to provide evidence of vaccination status but may be asked to undertake a rapid antigen test (RAT).

If there were concerns that whānau or family have been exposed to COVID-19 and they don't want to take a RAT test, you could consider delaying the family group conference, hui ā-whānau or family meeting for 7 days.

For family group conferences, hui ā-whānau and family meetings, proof of vaccination is only needed if an external venue requires it – this includes professionals in attendance.

About the protection framework

Oranga Tamariki has developed a guide to help kaimahi understand how to work within the COVID-19 Protection Framework. The guide contains information and guidance for Oranga Tamariki kaimahi about how we will deliver services safely and effectively for tamariki and rangatahi, and their whānau, family and caregivers within the COVID-19 Protection Framework.

Staff resource: Working in a pandemic environment – Protection Framework (PDF 1 MB)

COVID-19 Protection Framework | covid19.govt.nz

The following information focuses on practice requirements and considerations and does not cover all the information in the guide. Read the full guide to understand our approach across the organisation.

Protection Framework fundamentals

Primary responsibilities and resources to help guide our practice

Under the Protection Framework, we continue to balance our primary responsibilities of:

  • preventing the transmission of COVID-19
  • keeping tamariki and their whānau or family and caregivers safe
  • ensuring the safety of our staff
  • minimising the impacts of COVID-19 by educating and encouraging vaccination.

Key aspects of the Protection Framework for Oranga Tamariki

Oranga Tamariki sites and offices will not require visitors, including whānau or family, to evidence they have been vaccinated. For residences and group homes, visitors operating in a professional capacity no longer need to provide evidence of their vaccine status, or declare their vaccine status. However, these visitors may still be asked to undertake a rapid antigen test (RAT).

This means our approach to health and safety is based on current public health advice, which may at times mean we require physical distancing, face mask use in indoor settings, limited attendees or other hygiene measures to be applied to visitors.

Practice requirements in all settings

In general, we:

  • undertake our full range of our duties and functions relying largely on our usual practice guidance, with some ongoing modifications to ensure the risks of transmission are mitigated
  • where there are COVID-19 considerations that impact practice and changes to previously agreed plans are needed to meet the oranga needs of tamariki and whānau or family (such as whānau or family access if a parent is a Household Close Contact, or safety planning considerations if whānau are required to isolate at home), engage with tamariki, parents, whānau or family and caregivers and, where appropriate, the lawyer for child
  • use a hui ā-whānau or a family meeting to bring people together to understand the range of views, discuss and agree any changes
  • when engaging with whānau, family or caregivers, take time to talk with them about the supports they have available if they, tamariki in their care or a member of their household is required to isolate at home or is COVID-19 positive and is hospitalised – the Readiness Checklist  is a helpful resource:
    COVID-19 Readiness Checklist | covid19.govt.nz (PDF 121 KB)
  • discuss what supports they and tamariki in their care might need at this time and work with those in the community who will be providing community care (remember, decisions regarding Care in the Community will be made by whānau or family and Health providers – we provide support by ensuring the whānau or family have information and assistance to access the care available in their community)
    Care in the community | covid19.govt.nz
  • talk with tamariki, rangatahi and whānau or family about their vaccination status and support them to access information about vaccinations – this may include how to access their Vaccine Pass or COVID-19 Record
    My Vaccine Pass | covid19.govt.nz

    My COVID-19 Record | Ministry of Health
  • undertake person-to-person engagement where it is safe to do so, while recognising that it may be better to use remote practices in some situations
  • take the opportunity to understand how the people we’re engaging with have been impacted by the recent lockdowns and level changes, and explore ways we can provide support or help them access support from others (such as Work and Income)
  • engage with other professionals and community groups to understand any changes in usual processes they may have in place (for example, vaccination status requirements, Family or Youth Court attendance)
  • use the screening tool before undertaking any person-to-person engagement when in the orange or red settings.

Staff resource: Screening tool (DOCX 61 KB)

Staff resource: Vaccinations

Staff resource: COVID-19 health and safety guide (PDF 553 KB)– the health and hygiene must-dos are on page 5

COVID-19 considerations when working with Māori

Whānau will be managing their own response to COVID-19 and their transition between the Protection Framework settings in different ways.

Many will be returning easily to increased socialising and contact with others while some may be fearful or have more vulnerable factors causing them to move more slowly or require support to manage this change.

Given the history of Māori with pandemics and the increased health and socio-economic disparities it is important to practise in mana-enhancing ways as we all progress towards a new type of normality.

Practice for working effectively with Māori during COVID-19

COVID-19 considerations when working with Pacific peoples

Pacific children, young people, their families and those who support them have been particularly vulnerable to the impacts of COVID-19. 

Do not assume every Pacific family will manage COVID-19 the same way. They will have their own strengths, limits and supports and the needs of each family should be specifically assessed on these.

It is important to ensure our engagement is consistent with the family’s pandemic experience and circumstances. Establish how well informed the family and children are about COVID-19 and make sure they have access to the right information in their own language.

Practice for working effectively with Pacific peoples during COVID-19

Pacific resources for COVID-19

Supporting disabled tamariki, whānau or family and caregivers

Practitioners need to be conscious that they will be working or making contact with many disabled people who may have particular vulnerabilities due to the effects of COVID-19 and lockdowns.

We have developed a brief set of prompts for social workers and other practitioners to consider when working with disabled tamariki, parents, whānau and caregivers:

  • ask about their experiences over this time
  • think about removing your face mask if someone is hearing impaired – be very clear about physical distancing rules
  • be aware that some disabled people have exemptions from wearing a face mask and don’t assume they are being non-compliant
  • some disabled people may have increased anxiety because of isolation, lack of routine and a decrease in external supports – social workers and others need to be conscious of this and the possible impact on someone’s behaviour or presentation.  

If you have any queries or concerns, contact your Regional Disability Advisor. There is also useful information on the following websites:   

People First NZ

COVID-19 information for disabled people | Office for Disability Issues

Whānau or family access where there are concerns about COVID-19

While we have COVID-19 in the community, we need to ensure that access between tamariki in care or custody and their whānau or family continues as planned and agreed, only postponing where there are specific COVID-related risks that cannot be safely managed (such as attendees being unwell, having symptoms of COVID-19, self-isolating or waiting for the results of a COVID-19 test).

If there are COVID-related concerns, use our screening tool before face-to-face engagement. If access attendees answer yes to any questions in the screening tool, discuss whether access can:

  • shift to taking place remotely (consider what worked well during previous Alert Level lockdowns)
  • be postponed until a negative COVID-19 test result has been received.

Consider how long face-to-face access should be postponed for. If there were concerns that whānau or family had been exposed to COVID-19, discuss delaying until they have returned a negative test. If whānau or family do not want to be tested, consider the risk factors and whether a 7-day period would provide reassurance around whether or not they have COVID-19 – if whānau or family choose to be tested during that period and return a negative result, then the timeframe can be reconsidered.

If you are considering postponing or cancelling access and time allows, bring whānau, family and tamariki together by remote hui ā-whānau to discuss alternatives. At a minimum before cancelling or postponing access, ensure you have engaged with family, whānau, tamariki and caregivers so that everyone knows why the access can’t go ahead and what the plan is for when face-to-face access can happen. Keep the lawyer for child informed about any changes to access arrangements.

Parents, family, whānau, hapū, iwi and caregivers may have different views about face-to-face access with vaccinated and unvaccinated people. We respect these views and discuss how they may impact on access between tamariki and their parents, whānau or family. If tamariki, whānau, family and/or the caregiver have raised concerns about face-to-face access, talk with them about the concerns they have and seek ways to resolve their concerns.  

Clearly record in CYRAS your engagement, decision-making and rationale if you have postponed or cancelled access.

Specific areas of practice

Caregivers

Provision assessment for urgent placements (PDF 123 KB)

Care and protection and youth justice residences

Managing new entries to youth justice residences (PDF 218 KB)

Family group conferences, hui ā-whānau and family meetings

Most family group conferences, hui ā-whānau and family meetings can be held in person. Planning and preparation are critical to support effective participation and reduce any COVID-19 risks. When engaging with participants we need to be prepared to take extra time to understand their concerns, explain carefully how a family group conference, hui ā-whānau or family meeting can be held safely in person, talk through how they could most effectively participate and consider how the hui or meeting is best configured for each family group or whānau.

Consider how the hui process can give effect to tikanga and manaakitanga practices.

In addition to usual policy and guidance, there are COVID-19 specific considerations during convening and preparing for family group conferences (note that these are relevant for hui ā-whānau and family meetings):

  • Understand any requirements specific to the venue (for example, Oranga Tamariki office, marae, church or community venue) as it may limit the number of attendees. If the external venue only allows vaccinated people, this may impact on whānau participation so an alternative might need to be explored.
  • Ensure whānau and other attendees are aware that Oranga Tamariki cannot say whether everyone present is vaccinated.
  • Discuss with whānau if they have preferences around maintaining physical distancing from professionals or those who are not within their whānau.
  • Some individuals and whānau may express a preference to attend the family group conference either in person or remotely. We should respect and where possible give effect to these views.
  • We need to consider how the impacts of COVID-19 affect the willingness and ability for whānau Māori to attend and participate in kanohi ki te kanohi hui. The kaupapa or purpose of the hui may cause additional stress at an already challenging time. Continue to engage and involve as many whānau as possible, considering the impacts of COVID-19 on them individually and collectively. This may mean we need to hui with maternal and paternal whānau members separately and then bring these perspectives together.
  • Talk with whānau, family and others about the requirement for our screening tool, which is to be completed on the day of the family group conference, hui ā-whānau or family meeting, when in orange or red settings.
  • If whānau, family and victim participants are travelling to or from a region in a different setting, take the time to explain the specific considerations before the family group conference, family meeting or hui-ā-whānau.
  • If, for any reason, individuals and whānau or family express a preference to attend remotely, talk with them about how we can support them to do this.
  • If anyone appears to be ill (for example, coughing or sneezing) on arrival or during the conference or provides information that suggests that other COVID-19 risk factors may be present, we must politely ask them to leave and consider whether we need to adjourn the family group conference or hui or whether it can safely proceed with their participation by remote means. It is not appropriate to continue holding a person-to-person meeting where there is a risk to the health and safety of anyone on site. If we have had to adjourn the family group conference for these reasons, we should follow up quickly to discuss arrangements to reconvene a family group conference by remote means or in person.

Orange setting considerations

  • No limits on the number of family group conference attendees.
  • Kai and drinks can be provided. As attendees are likely to be a mix of vaccinated and non-vaccinated people, consider whether individual portions would provide additional reassurance for whānau. People serving or handling kai must wear a face mask.
  • Physical distancing is encouraged. However, once in the family group conference room, discuss with whānau as they may have preferences to maintain distancing between themselves and non-whānau or members of other households.
  • Use of face masks is required within Oranga Tamariki offices and may be required by other venues.
  • When family group conferences, hui or meetings are held away from our offices, we need to be aware of and explain to whānau and participants if the location has Vaccine Pass or face covering requirements.

Red setting considerations

  • No limits on the number of family group conference attendees (note that a 200-person limit still applies in indoor settings).
  • Kai and drinks can be provided. As attendees are likely to be a mix of vaccinated and non-vaccinated people, consider whether individual portions would provide additional reassurance for whānau. People serving or handling kai must wear a face mask.
  • Physical distancing is encouraged. However, once in the family group conference room, discuss with whānau as they may have preferences to maintain distancing between themselves and non-whānau or members of other households.
  • Use of face masks is required within Oranga Tamariki offices and may be required by other venues.
  • When family group conferences, hui or meetings are held away from our offices, we need to be aware of and explain to whānau and participants if the location has Vaccine Pass or face covering requirements.

Talking to tamariki, whānau or family and caregivers about the COVID-19 vaccine

Talking to tamariki, whānau or family and caregivers about the COVID-19 vaccine

Recording

Generally we return to recording using our usual practice (this includes casenotes, All About Me plans and caregiver support plans). However, if we have made a decision specifically in response to a COVID-19 consideration or where COVID-19 Protection Framework requirements have required a variation on our best practice approach, we should enter a casenote using a manual header COVID-19 – specific requirements.

In all our work

In all settings, we need to ensure the oranga of everyone we are engaging with by:

  • understanding:
    • individuals, whānau or family, caregivers and communities will continue to experience anxiety at different levels
    • how individuals, family, whānau, hapū, iwi, caregivers and communities are protecting themselves, and working respectfully with them to accommodate their preferences while keeping tamariki safe
  • ensuring:
    • plans are regularly reviewed and updated with whānau or family, using hui ā-whānau or family hui
    • tamariki, family, whānau, hapū, iwi and caregivers are informed, especially when settings change.

When engaging in person

Our approach is to maintain the safety of those we are engaging with directly, their wider whānau or family and community and our own safety.

Firstly, consider whether in-person engagement is required.

When we engage in person, we talk with whānau or family before person-to-person engagement about any concerns they have and find solutions to reassure tamariki, whānau and family if they are anxious about us visiting, including:

  • the wearing of face masks by everyone
  • reassurance about our vaccination status or being prepared for how we will respond if we are asked about our vaccination status.

Screening tool

When we are working in the community, we always use the screening tool in the Protection Framework orange and red settings and may use it when in green.

We explain:

  • we are using this tool to keep everyone safe
  • where the information will be stored
  • if the answer to any of the questions is yes, how we will proceed with the meeting or visit.

If we need to engage in person where COVID-19 is suspected or confirmed, personal protective equipment (PPE) is required.

Staff resource: COVID-19 Health and safety guide (PDF 553 KB)

If COVID-19 is suspected or confirmed

We refer to the detailed guidance in the health and safety guide to inform our planning.

Staff resource: COVID-19 health and safety guide (PDF 553 KB)

Vaccination

Our current position on vaccinations, and which roles are covered by mandates, can be found on Te Pae.

Staff resource: COVID-19 vaccinations 

Vaccine Pass

While the mandated use of the Vaccine Pass is no longer a requirement in most settings, it may still be requested in a limited number of situations. Ensure that you have your Vaccine Pass loaded on to your work phone.

COVID-19 vaccination status certificates | covid19.govt.nz

We may still be asked to support tamariki and rangatahi to load their Vaccine Pass onto their mobile phone, request a paper pass or access their COVID-19 Record.

Talk with tamariki, rangatahi and their whānau or family or caregiver about having a copy of the tamariki Vaccine Pass held on their file and offer to laminate a copy for them.