Coronavirus (Covid-19) - support for fostering services

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We know that these are unsettling, unprecedented and challenging times for everyone - not least those involved in caring for and supporting children in foster care. We are extremely grateful to all those involved in fostering who provide support and stability to children and young people in foster care and we will do our utmost to play our part in this.

Across the UK government guidance is changing to respond to the pandemic, rather than reflect the changes on our website, we are linking to the latest country guidance that details government restrictions for England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Guidance on local restrictions is contained within each of these links. This page lists useful resources, helplines and advice and is being regularly updated. There is a similar page for foster carers.

How The Fostering Network can help

  • During this time of uncertainty due to coronavirus, all our helplines will remain open as usual for any fostering-related queries, including those which arise as a result of coronavirus.
  • Please let your foster carer members know that they can also make use of our stress support service and legal helpline. They can also join our online community for peer support.
  • Our practice staff across the UK are working with fostering services to advise on best practice in these unprecedented times, and we will keep responding to the needs of our members via our website, helplines and staff.
  • We are liaising with other organisations, including statutory bodies, across the UK to enable consistency of advice to fostering services, and to ensure the needs of our foster carer and fostering service members are being fed in to national decision making.
 
 

Useful practice information

We are pulling together useful practice information and best practice for fostering services, please check back to this page regularly as we add new information.

 

Country specific information

England 

Relevant government guidance

The Adoption and Children (Coronavirus) (Amendment) (No2) Regulations 2020

We have created a briefing paper for fostering services that covers the changes that will remain in force after the first amendments expire (25 September 2020), the savings provisions and notes on the relevant guidance. 

Read the briefing

Briefings on Covid-19 restrictions and the fostering role 

Rule of six and the three-tier system 

The rule of six and three-tier Covid local alert level system was re-introduced across England on 2 December 2020 following the national lockdown. The following briefing aims to provide clarity on the rule of six and the three-tier system in relation to the fostering role.

Read the briefing

Ofsted (England)

Assurance visits

Due to coronavirus, Ofsted suspended all routine inspections in March 2020. As part of a phased return to routine inspection, they are carrying out assurance visits (starting 1 September 2020) to as many settings that are inspected under the social care common inspection framework (SCCIF) as possible during the current inspection year (which ends on 31 March 2021).

They will prioritise visits based on the most recent inspection judgements, other information they hold about the provider, the amount of time since the last inspection and whether the provider is newly registered and therefore has not yet been inspected.

Independent fostering agencies: visit documents – this link takes you to the letter that Ofsted sends to independent fostering agencies giving notice of assurance visits and asking for particular information.

Updates 

Ofsted is providing a regular rolling update here.

There are also regular coronavirus updates from Yvette Stanley, Ofsted's National Director, Social Care the latest can be read here:

Guidance for young care leavers

Visit Become's website for advice about coronavirus

The Department for Education, along with other government departments, has produced a series of guidance documents and factsheets to support young care leavers (aged 16 to 25) during the pandemic, which can be found on the care leaver covenant webpage

Other helplines and advice

Northern Ireland 

Relevant government guidance 

The Children’s Social Care (Coronavirus) (Temporary Modification of Children’s Social Care) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020 

The Regulations were made in response to the COVID19 pandemic and were put in place for an initial period of 6 months. On 30 October 2020, a Statutory Rule was made to extend the Regulations’ period of operation for a further six months, until 7 May 2021. It remains the case that the Regulations may be revoked at an earlier stage if possible.

The Regulations amend a series of other regulations and put in place emergency arrangements, the bulk of which relate to children in care to enable Health and Social Care Trusts to continue to work more flexibly to safeguard and protect looked after children and young people. The Department of Health considers that this legislation is necessary as it anticipates increased demands on children's services. The Department has issued guidance to accompany the regulations. The guidance explains that the overarching aim of the regulations is to provide the Trusts, voluntary adoption agencies and independent providers of children's homes with flexibility to operate during Covid-19. 

Summary of the changes to the fostering regulations: 

  • Amends legislation to permit the approval of foster carers to proceed even if a full Enhanced Disclosure Certificate is still outstanding (subject to safeguards i.e. confirmation from Access NI.)
  • The requirement to undertake reviews of foster parents and their household within 12 months is removed.  Instead, guidance outlines an expectation that reviews will take place as soon as practicable
  • The maximum duration of an emergency placement of a child with an approved foster carer is extended from 24 hours to 14 days (so as to allow for self-isolation).
  • The maximum duration of an immediate placement of a child with a relative or friend of the child before approval of the placement is required is extended from 12 weeks to 20 weeks.
  • The pool of individuals with whom a child can be placed in an immediate foster care placement is extended to include approved prospective adopters and registered childminders, in addition to relatives and friends of the child.
     

Guidance to accompany the changes is available here.  

Other helplines and advice

Scotland 

Relevant government guidance

There has been no fostering specific coronavirus related guidance published in Scotland. Below are links to the overarching guidance and guidance relevant to children’s contact centres. 

Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020

The Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020 was passed on 1 April 2020.

Guidance on looked after children and children's hearings provisions was published 6 April. It includes information on: children's hearings, placement limits and certain time scales being extended.

Read the guidance

Other helplines and advice

Wales

    Relevant government guidance

    Other helplines and advice

    Welsh Government

    Senedd Research, National Assembly for Wales

    Care Inspectorate Wales:

    Children’s Commissioner for Wales: 

       
    Voices from Care:

    Social Care Wales:

    • Covid-19 information, signposting and resources to support those in the social care sector who are affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in Wales. Visit the COVID-19 pages Ewch i'n tudalennau gave COVID-19
    • Social Care Wales is providing a social care worker card which allow access to priority shopping at major supermarkets in Wales. All social care workers are eligible for the card, including foster carers. Fostering services should be distributing the cards to their foster carers wither virtually or digitally.
       

    Samaritans has launched a new confidential emotional support line for NHS and social care workers, funded by the Welsh Government. Foster carers and social workers are encouraged to use it if they feel they need the support, for example, this might be if they are feeling worried, stressed or overwhelmed, or just needs to talk things through. The helpline is open frm 7am to 11pm seven days a week: 

    • English speaking number: 0800 484 0555
    • Welsh speaking number: 0808 164 2777

     

    Further advice