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.
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.
We are pulling together useful practice information and best practice for fostering services. Please see below.
Coronavirus legislation and guidance
UK governments have published fostering guidance and legislation to support fostering services and foster carers through this crisis. We are in discussion with governments and will continue to produce further advice and resources to support our members through our practice staff, helplines and website.
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.
The Adoption and Children (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 - England
In April, the government announced changes to the adoption and children regulations. It is our view that these changes should be seen as providing ‘options’ to be utilised as a last resort and only where, despite every effort, it has not been possible to comply with the usual regulatory requirements. In such circumstances, services should make decisions in the spirit of the principles set out by the Department for Education:
- child-centred - promoting children’s best interests
- risk-based - prioritising support and resources for children at greatest risk
- family focussed - harnessing the strengths in families and their communities
- evidence informed - ensuring decisions are proportionate and justified
- collaborative - working in partnership with parents and other professionals
- transparent - providing clarity and maintaining professional curiosity about a child’s wellbeing
- carry out a careful risk assessment of any action taken and keep a clear record of the decisions made, as advised by Ofsted.
In our briefing for fostering services, we have sought to outline the key changes to the Adoption and Children (Coronavirus (Amendment) Regulations 2020 for our fostering service members, whilst also referring to key relevant regulatory requirements that remain in place.
The Adoption and Children (Coronavirus) (Amendments) (No2) Regulations 2020
Following consultation with the sector, the Department for Education have announced that a small number of flexibilities to the adoption and children regulations will continue until March 2021. Read The Fostering Network's response to the Government consultation here.
The following extensions will be maintained: the timing of medical reports in the foster carer and adopter assessment processes, the use of virtual visits, and the continued suspension of the regular cycle of Ofsted inspections of children’s services providers. Read the full government response here.
All other amendments expire on the 25 September 2020.
We have created a briefing paper for fostering services that covers the changes that will remain in force, the savings provisions and notes on the relevant guidance.
On 23 March 2020 the UK government directed the public to severely restrict direct contact with people from outside their household in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The ‘lockdown’ presented a significant barrier to children in care having face-to-face contact with their birth families.
Governments’ guidance (in England, Northern Ireland and Wales, the Scottish Government has not produced specific guidance on contact) from the outset has been clear that the expectation is for contact between children in care and their birth families to continue as it is essential for children and families to remain in touch and, for many children, the consequences of not seeing relatives would be traumatising.
Government guidance sets out that contact arrangements for children in care should be assessed on a case by case basis taking into account a range of factors including the government’s social distancing guidance and the needs of the child. The guidance makes clear that it may not be possible, or appropriate, for the usual face-to-face contact to happen during lockdown and keeping in touch may need to take place virtually. The expectation is that the spirit of any contact orders made in relation to children in care be maintained. This requires social workers to determine how best to support valuable family interactions based on the circumstances of each case and children to be reassured that this position is temporary and will be reviewed as soon as possible.
Foster carers, with the support of their services, adapted quickly and creatively to using virtual contact to ensure the vital link between children and their birth families was maintained. In addition, many foster carers assumed additional responsibility of supervising the contact arrangements in their own home.
Across the UK, at varying paces, lockdown restrictions are now easing. People from different households are able to meet outside while adhering to social/physical distancing rules (see country guidelines for England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales). The easing of restrictions will trigger the review of contact arrangements and whether face-to-face contact can resume.
The Fostering Network’s view
The Fostering Network believes all decisions around contact arrangements should continue to be assessed on a case by case basis taking into account both the needs, wishes and concerns of the child and those caring for them. In reviewing contact plans the safety, health and welfare of children, their foster carers and birth families must always be the key priority.
Adapting the practices established during lockdown as restrictions ease is the next challenge and, in many ways, will be more complex and nuanced than adapting to the sudden changes brought by lockdown. There will need to be a flexible and sensitive approach to the decisions to enable children to keep connected with their birth family while minimising the health risks to the child and those around the child. It will raise questions of rights and responsibilities and different perspectives and priorities among those in the team around the child.
We believe the key will be planning on a case by case basis, taking into account all the relevant factors in determining the best approach for each child in the context of the continued health risks in relation to Covid-19. Any limitations to face-to-face contact is likely to be traumatising for the child and their birth family but the key priority must be to keep everyone safe and to comply with the governments’ Covid-19 requirements.
The key principles, taken from Neil’s research contact during lockdown: how are children and their birth families keeping in touch?, which underpin family contact for children in care should be applied throughout this time:
- Keep the child’s wishes, feelings, strengths and short and long-term needs at the centre of planning for family contact time;
- Take into account the needs, wishes, feelings and strengths of birth family members and of foster carers and their family members;
- Look for opportunities to build trust, collaboration, empathy and a shared sense of goals between the family caring for the child/young person and the child’s birth family so they can work together in the best interests of the child/young person;
- Consider on an individual basis what risks there might be and make plans to manage these proportionally; and
- Aim for family contact time to be rewarding, fun and child-friendly.
Foster carers and fostering services have moved swiftly to maintain birth family contact throughout the pandemic and have used numerous platforms in a flexible and creative way. Moving forward beyond lockdown it should be considered how virtual contact can be offered as part of a range of options to children and young people in helping to maintain contact with their birth families. Children, birth families and foster carers need to have access to digital equipment and training to ensure they able to safely continue with virtual contact if appropriate and embrace new ways of working.
The Fostering Network have produced practice resources for foster carers and social workers to support the decisions being make around contact plans and highlight issues to consider.
- Covid-19 contact arrangements: Social worker checklist
- Covid-19 contact arrangements: Foster carer checklist
- Read our blog about things to consider for online family time.
- This resource from the University of Sydney's Research Centre for Children and Families that gives tips for using video chat for family time is also very useful.
- The Nuffield Family Justice Observatory have also published research about contact arrangements during lockdown. You can also watch a webinar on their research here.
- The PCFSW & Social Work England have produced a Best Practice Guide for Video Call/Contact and Virtual/Online Home Visit this would also be relevant for other countries in the UK.
- Social Work Scotland’s framework for decision-makers to ensure children in public care maintain strong connections with family during Covid-19 pandemic
Throughout the lockdown period our view was that young people in foster care who are turning 18 should have the opportunity to remain in foster care for the time being, with foster carers receiving the same practical and financial support as previously – in the same way as many fostering services allow young people turning 18 to remain with their foster carers in a fostering arrangement until the end of the academic year. Young people who are due to be leaving a Staying Put, Continuing Care, When I am Ready or GEMS arrangement should also have the opportunity to stay in in this arrangement until the coronavirus crisis comes to an end if they wish. This can help ensure that the right support is put in place for young people whose plans for the future may have been paused, and for their foster carers (or former foster carers).
We understand the emotional and practical impact of this on young people and foster carers, and on the capacity of foster placements, but the priority at this time is ensuring the safety and wellbeing of all members of the fostering community. We do not believe that now is the time to be moving young people into independent living if the usual support networks are not available and if this would not be in the best interest of the young person.
Foster carer's finances
The Fostering Network, throughout the pandemic, has recieved a number of queries from foster carers concerned about their fostering finances during the covid-19 crisis. This includes those who are unable to foster during the outbreak and those who are facing additional costs in caring for children.
It is essential that we support and retain foster carers throughout this difficult time, so we are campaigning to ensure the necessary financial support reaches foster carers.
The Minister has confirmed that funding for foster carers should be prioritised within the £3.2 billion allocated to local authorities. We are continuing to monitor the situation and work with other organisations to ensure that foster carers are receiving support.
HSC Trusts have made an additional payment of £100 per fostering household to enable carers to purchase arts/crafts material, board games etc. A further enhancement of foster care allowances have been made for a temporary period of up to 12 weeks. The Health and Social Care Board is continuing to monitor the position with the Health and Social Care Trusts with regard to the provision of fostering services and are addressing any issues or pressures brought to their attention.
The Scottish Government has established a £350 million community support fund. This money has been given directly to local authorities to assist those most affected by covid-19, and it is the fostering service’s responsibility to ensure no foster families are disadvantaged during this time. The Scottish Government officials are liaising regularly with The Fostering Network to better understand the impact the covid-19 restrictions are having on foster carers.
The Welsh Government has reassured us that they are in regular communication with fostering services, that they are monitoring the financial situation of foster carers and if a fostering agency is considering offering additional monetary support to their foster carers they should consult the AFA Cymru guidance document. The Fostering Network in Wales have developed an information sheet which brings together lots of the financial support and assistance available for foster carers in Wales during the Covid-19 pandemic. The information will be helpful for foster carers to know what options to explore for any financial help and support.
Foster carers as key workers
The Fostering Network believes foster carers should be treated as key workers because they are delivering an essential service.
Here is the latest information from governments:
The Department for Education does not classify foster carers as key workers. However, they have made concessions which mean foster carers are eligible for personal protective equipment and coronavirus testing. The Government's digital portal enables individuals, including foster carers, to book a test themselves.
The status of foster carers as key workers in Northern Ireland is still unclear. We are seeking clarification from officials.
Foster carers in Scotland are not currently considered key workers. The Scottish Government has a list of who is eligible for coronavirus testing. The Fostering Network's view is that foster carers fall into priority category 1A or 1B - however, we are seeking clarification about this and are calling for foster carers to be listed explicity.
Foster carers are entitled to a social care worker card which grants them key worker status. Fostering services managers should have received an email from Social Care Wales about how to get the card to unregistered social care workers. Social Care Wales’ website details further information about the social care worker cards. Foster carers with covid-19 symptoms are eligible for testing and should visit the website of the local authority in which they live for details of how to book a test.
- Fostering services have a duty to ensure the recruitment and assessment of foster carers meet the regulatory framework as laid out in legislation.
- Fostering services have a critical contribution to make to the sufficiency of safe resources for children and young people requiring alternative family settings.
- Wherever possible every fostering service should seek to continue with their recruitment strategy but consider any government advice and ensure children, staff and carer safety are not compromised.
Things to consider
It may be helpful to consider how the current situation impacts on the recruitment and assessment of foster carers, especially the timescales that govern this work. Delays and postponement of recruitment and assessment activities now will impact on availability of placements both now and in the future. Some factors to consider in support of the continuation of the recruitment and assessment process include the following.
Consider different platforms other than telephone calls to engage with prospective carers, for example virtual meetings, which can support the continuation of initial visits, assessment meetings and initial family and friends assessments (viability assessments). These could include:
- Use of FaceTime, WhatsApp, Messenger phone calls to view/discuss issues
- Skype calls in place of assessment visits
- Virtual tours of the home
- Sharing information securely electronically
Have you got enough technological support to staff and prospective foster carers to ensure they can utilise the software?
- Can everyone hear and see each other?
- Is the venue secure from interruption and confidential?
- How will you ensure all parties understand what is being shared?
- Are cultural and language issues are supported?
In circumstances of the immediate placement of children – consider joint online conversations between the children’s social workers and the proposed carers to establish adequate information is shared, gathered and understood for safeguarding requirements:
- At least one home visit should be undertaken to comply with statutory guidance, verify the identity of the connected person and ensure adequacy of accommodation for the immediate needs of the child(ren). If this is not considered safe to undertake in line with government guidance, then services can explore if it is feasible to undertake this virtually using video conferencing.
- What are the contingency plans when placing a child in these circumstances?
- Can electronic signatures /emails be accepted as temporary means of consent - use your data protection officer.
- What means of ensuring confidentiality remain in place for safeguarding all parties and storing information?
Consider delivering preparation training virtually or via an online link for participants to have an interactive discussion.
Can references be sent securely via emails to reduce delays with follow up interviews undertaken remotely?
Utilise online dedicated web pages to keep people updated.
Consider virtual panels – see separate information.
Discuss contingency plans for delays of medicals, as GPs are only doing priority work – what might be acceptable (especially for immediate placements that can’t wait)?
Consider how you will monitor timescales that may not reach regulatory requirements during this time and ensure safeguarding is not compromised.
Review the platforms for delivering Foster Care FortnightTM and other recruitment events to be online only.
- The Fostering Service (England) Regulations (2011 as amended) govern the provision of fostering services and are supported by statutory guidance, national minimum standards (NMS) and good practice guidance.
- The Care Planning Placement and Case Review Regulations England 2010, govern the placement of immediate placements with connected persons (family & friends).
- The Adoption and Children (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 include temporary changes to 10 sets of children's social care regulations.
- Ofsted (England)
Ofsted are going to carry out a phased return to routine inspection. In this interim phase, inspections of local authority children's services will focus on the key decisions made for children in need of help and protection, for children in care and for care leavers. They will also look at the impact of leaders.
Ofsted's regulatory work didn't stop during the pandemic, but from 1 September 2020 they will visit more providers to provide assurance about the settings and services they regulate.
They are also not currently carrying out inspections under the social care common inspection framework, but will start to do assurance visits from 1 September 2020.
The Skills to FosterTM Digital Edition
The Skills to FosterTM Pre-approval course is the market-leading course for preparing new applicants for the challenges of fostering. It offers applicants the opportunity to develop their understanding of foster care through trainer-led learning opportunities, including the chance to discuss and reflect on information, and to share ideas and perspectives with other participants.
We recognise that even during this challenging time when it is essential to maintain capacity within fostering but training cannot take place face to face, it remains as important as ever that prospective carers are helped to prepare as fully as possible for the role. This is why we have launched a digital version of the third edition of our market-leading The Skills to FosterTM Pre-approval course.
The Covid-19 developments have left fostering services with concerns about the impact on their recruitment and approval of foster carers, including family and friends’ carers, in the absence of routine health appointments. The Adoption and Children (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 remove the requirement for health information to be supported by a medical report.
CoramBAAF have posted advice on their website and have developed a Self-Declaration of Health Form for use during Covid-19 Pandemic form (and Emergency Self-Declaration of Health Form for use in Reg 24 temporary approvals) that can be downloaded here.Things to consider
- Fostering services must consider the physical, mental and emotional health of all who foster to ensure they are fit to meet the demands of fostering and the needs of fostered children, and that their own health needs are supported.
- The usual approach to assessing the health of foster carers (by obtaining medical reports from medical practitioners (usually GPs) based on medical records and physical examination which are reviewed by a medical adviser) is not currently available to fostering services due to government guidance on social distancing, and limited access to health services due the pressures from Covid-19
- In order to maintain the capacity of fostering services to provide placements as required, the continued recruitment and retention of foster carers is essential and will require temporary flexibility around processes designed to meet regulations and guidance.
In considering any approach, each service would need to consider:
- Relying on the applicant to complete a declaration of health and taking the assessment to panel without a medical report having been completed. If panel members consider the applicants to be suitable to foster, they could recommend approval on condition that a positive medical was forthcoming at some future date when the current measures have been relaxed.
- Schedule 3 (of the fostering regulations in England) does not state who should complete a medical report so it may be possible for any medically trained person to review a declaration of health.
- Ask your medical adviser to review the applicant’s declaration of health (and any medical information obtained) and to issue their comments on this, albeit limited, information.
- Assessing social workers assess the health of applicants to their best ability in the medical section, looking at applicants’ daily activity and lifestyle issues, which may impact on the carer’s health, alongside self-reported health information.
- The assessing social workers observations are triangulated with references and other information gathered from third parties to provide a picture of the carer’s overall health needs which can then be addressed within the assessment and balanced with other factors.
- In situations where there are particular concerns, especially those when assessing connected persons, it will be important to consider how the wider family will respond should the carer become unable to care for the foster child.
Where further clarification is needed, the service could contact the Medical Advisor and or GP (where possible) to consult, or access the NHS website for further information. In exceptional circumstances, it may be possible to ask a GP or other health professional if they will complete the report from medical records without meeting and examining the applicant.
- Does the information obtained for assessment and approval meet the requirement of Fostering Regulations?
- Is there enough medical and supporting information and advice on which to make an informed decision?
- What is the level of risk post-approval if concerns are raised regarding an applicant’s health that were not identified pre-approval?What contingency plans could be put around this?
How does my recording reflect the risk assessment completed to inform the decision-making?
- Fostering Services (England) Regulations 2011 (as amended) – Reg 26, Sch 3 Part 1(2) (assessment) and Reg 28 (reviews)
- Assessment and approval of foster carers (2013) – page 6 (assessment) and page 18 (reviews)
- Care planning regulations 2011 (as amended) – Reg 24 and Sch 4
- Adoption and Children (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020
Management of fostering services
- Services should work within government guidance in respect of coronavirus. As this is constantly being updated, arrangements will need to be kept under very regular review.
- Decisions should consider the needs of all involved, including any individual vulnerabilities or circumstances as informed by the advice of government and other professional bodies.
The aim should be, as far as is possible in the current circumstances, ‘business as usual’ in terms of the service provided to foster carers and children. However, the means by which this is achieved will need to be reviewed considering government advice, including both national guidelines and any local variations to this. Some less critical aspects of the service may need to be put ‘on hold’ as a result of this and consequent operational limitations.
Learning from othersEach fostering service will need to make their own decisions about the best way to proceed based on their own particular circumstances and in line with advice, support and guidance made available to them through their own organisation and networks. However, you may wish to consider any learning from other members of The Fostering Network who are trying to address similar issues. We are hoping to keep this page updated with information provided to us by our members about the approaches they are taking and what is working well or not. Please send any information you think might benefit others to email@example.com.Here is how some fostering services are working currently:General
- All services are looking for innovative ways to maintain their recruitment, assessment, approval, support and training of foster carers to maintain the provision of foster placements to children who need them.
- Services are enabling staff and foster carers to adhere to social distancing, and self-isolating as needed, whilst continuing with their role in relation to the care and support of children.
- Services are exploring ways for face-to-face meetings and visits to operate alongside the use of virtual meeting platforms, outdoor venues and some indoors meetings to create a ‘blended approach’. The approach taken in any particular situation should always be what is best for all concerned, be risk assessed and in line with Government guidelines. A face to face visit may sometimes be essential for safeguarding or support purposes.
- Outdoor supervision, meetings in parks and other outdoor venues and social distancing team walks are some examples of innovative practice.
- Services are attending virtual forums in their regions to learn from each other and offer examples of what works well.
Foster carers and household members
- The majority of staff are working remotely. Decisions to reopen offices are being made based on thorough risk assessment informed by the needs of services to foster carers, children and for staff well-being.
- In line with Government advice, face-to-face meetings are minimised as much as possible with support to carers via phone/video calls.
- If visits are made, staff are ringing beforehand to check all is ok.
- The use of face coverings in line with government guidance are being used.
- Services are aware of foster carers that are in ‘at risk’ groups and what may be needed to safeguard them while they are self-isolating.
- Some services are offering ‘doorstep’ visits where their fostering households are self-isolating or previously shielding.
- Foster carers and supervising social workers in some services are meeting together in person, usually at a social distance, to present reports to a virtual foster panel. This offers support to applicants and foster carers who may need this.
- For all children in placement, services are proactively risk assessing the impact on their education, family time and other support needs.
- Some services are now often offering a blended approach to family time if this is in the child’s best interest – see the Covid-19 contact arrangements: social worker checklist.
- Foster carers should consider their personal support networks, taking into account latest government advice. Make maximum use of these and keep in touch with your fostering service about who you may call on, and identifying any gaps that may require support from the service or elsewhere.
- Many services are providing virtual support groups and online training for foster carers to ensure they feel supported.
Mockingbird constellations are managing support to one another based on levels of vulnerability, need and health status of carers and children.
The Fostering Service (England) Regulations (2011 as amended) govern the provision of fostering services and are supported by statutory guidance, national minimum standards (NMS) and good practice guidance. Whilst the Adoption and Children (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 provide scope to vary from these in certain prescribed ways (see our briefing), these amendments are temporary and should only be used when absolutely necessary, with senior management oversight, and must be consistent with the overarching safeguarding and welfare duties that remain in place. Any use of the amendments should be time-limited and regularly reviewed, and there will be a return to usual practice for new cases covered by the temporary flexibilities as soon as practicable.
In working within this legal framework, the NMS set out minimum standards that apply to fostering services. However, when making operational decisions in the current challenging situation, it may be helpful to:
- Consider the underpinning values (listed on p3-4)
- Keep in mind the legal status of the NMS which ‘do not mean standardisation of provision...They aim to enable, rather than prevent, individual providers to develop their own particular ethos and approach based on evidence that this is the most appropriate way to meet the child’s needs.’(p4)
- Recognise that services may need to be delivered in different ways in order to meet the required outcomes of the NMS, and that policies and procedures may need to be temporarily changed to reflect this: ‘Each standard is preceded by a statement of the outcome to be achieved by the fostering service provider. . . Services will normally show that they are meeting the headline statement of the outcome by following the standards below. However, these do not have to be followed exactly if the service can demonstrate, and Ofsted is satisfied, that the outcomes are being met in a different way.’ (p4)
- Regulations 23, 24 and 25 govern the constitution, membership and function of a fostering panel. Regulation 23(4) requires the provider to ‘constitute one or more fostering panels as necessary’ and Reg 24(1) sets out the minimum members needed in order for the panel to be constituted, stating that ‘no business may be conducted by a fostering panel unless at least the following [see 24(1) (i, ii & iii)] meet as the panel’. This nearly always means in practice a face to face meeting of panel members. However, there is nothing in the legislation that says that fostering panels cannot be held by way of a ‘virtual’ meeting using currently available media platforms. Some services may wish to consider the continuation of virtual panels in some form once the temporary amendments to the fostering regulations relating to panels expire.
The Adoption and Children (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 give flexibility around panels. They amend the requirements on local authorities and adoption agencies in their use of panels as a critical part of their decision-making process.
- Fostering panels should be conducted in a way that supports the making of timely, quality and appropriate recommendations in line with the overriding objective to promote the welfare of children in foster care.
- Any changes to the conduct of fostering panels in response to the current guidance around coronavirus should include adequate support and preparation for all involved.
- Panels held virtually need to be fair and transparent and afford foster carers and prospective foster carers the opportunity to be heard and to (virtually) bring a supporter if they wish.
Things to consider if running a virtual fostering panel
- Does the virtual panel fulfil its functions as laid out in regulations? How will local policy and procedures need to be amended?
- How are foster carers prepared and supported to ensure they are enabled to take part confidently and effectively?
- Has consideration been given to the agenda and to prioritising the most essential panel business for a virtual panel?
- How are panel members prepared and briefed on access and expectations about involvement? What guidance will they be offered? Does anything need to be reconsidered in the panel members contract?
- Are all panel members able to express views in the panel meeting, ask appropriate questions and demonstrate respect to applicants, foster carers and social workers who attend? How will questions, queries and responses be managed? How well can ‘difficult’ conversations be had?
- Is the panel chair sufficiently/appropriately skilled to manage a video conferencing meeting?
- Are all attendees joining from a quiet, secure, separate space in order to guarantee confidentiality? How is this monitored?
- Has sufficient time been allocated, including preparation and set up, to allow for this different way of operating a fostering panel?
- Can the quality of record keeping still be upheld? Will discussions be recorded and if so, are participants aware of this?
- Does the quality of IT/video conferencing equipment support a virtual panel?
Is IT support on hand and able to ensure systems are working effectively? Are all participants able to access the video conferencing software? Is there a back-up plan if poor IT/connectivity leads to a unsuccessful virtual panel for some or all participants?
In this blog, a panel chair shares her thoughts and experiences on virtual panels.
And you can download some top tips on developing and running virtual panels which have been collated from several services and panel chairs.
Using Zoom video calling services
When the coronavirus pandemic began and the countries of the UK went into lockdown, most planned breaks for children in foster care were stopped in accordance with public health guidance. As lockdown eases at different stages across the UK, we have outlined some considerations, following informal consultation with our members, to aid decision making to enable and support the resumption of planned breaks where it is in the best interests of the child, relevant and perhaps necessary.
Transitioning back to school
Education during the Covid-19 pandemic and transitioning back to school
We conducted a rapid response survey in June 2020 to help us understand what education has been like for fostered children during the pandemic and for people in the fostering sector to share their thoughs about trainsitioning back to school.
Guidance on whether or not children classed as vulnerable should attend school has been slightly different in each of the four nations. However, all schools will now return full-time in the Autumn term, some slightly earlier than usual (11 August in Scotland and 24 August in Northern Ireland) and attendance is mandatory.
We have signed a petition along with others in the sector calling for UK Governments to support the children who will struggle most when school returns. Add your signature here.
Government guidance/information about the transition back to school
- The Department for Education in England has published guidance on the full re-opening of schools.
- The Department for Education in England has produced the following guidance: What parents and carers need to know about schools, colleges and other education settings during the coronavirus outbreak.
- The Department of Education in Nothern Ireland has published Education Restart information for partents and carers and children and young people.
- The Education Authority in Northern Ireland have produced the following guidance document and infographic produced by the children looked after education project team and the EA educational psychology service for primary educators, including foster carers.
- The Scottish Government have published guidance on preparing for the start of the new school term in August.
- The Welsh Government have published guidance on learning in schools from the Autumn term as well as operational guidance.
- we have created a resource for tranistioning back to school following lockdown.
- Supporting care-experienced children and young people during the Covid-19 crisis and its aftermath by The British Psychological Society.
- The Mental Health Foundation has collated resources around mental health and returning to school after the coronavirus lockdown.
- The Royal College of Occupational Therapy has produced some top tips for preparing your child for returning to school.
- Free resource for preparing autistic and SEND children for going back to school.
- Parent Club: Advice on how to support learning as your child returns to school from Dr Janet Goodall
- The children's parliament in Scotland have launched Back to School - a website promoting a rights-based approach to recovery. It is linked to the Scottish cirriculum however, the approach is relevant across the whole of the UK, encourgage your children's teachers to read it.
Other helplines and advice
- The Department for Education has launched a new helpline to answer questions about COVID-19. Phone: 0800 046 8687 Email: DfE.firstname.lastname@example.org (Opening hours: 8am to 6pm Monday to Friday and 10am to 4pm Saturday and Sunday)
- There are also regular updates on Department for Education's Twitter and Facebook channels.
Ofsted is providing a regular rolling update here.
There are also regular coronavirus updates from Yvette Stanley, Ofsted's National Director, Social Care which you can read below:
- Health and Social Care Trust: Guidance for employers and businesses.
- Publich Health Agency advice: https://www.publichealth.hscni.net
- Department of Health advice: https://www.health-ni.gov.uk/coronavirus
- The Northern Ireland Social Care Council has published a free online resource for infection control.
- The Education Authority has established a helpline, open to all foster carers, to provide support for learning. The helpline number is 028 7051 1086 (open Monday to Thursday 8am to 5pm and Friday 8am to 4pm). You can also email them at: email@example.com
- NHS inform: www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/infections-and-poisoning/coronavirus-covid-19
- Health Protection Scotland: www.hps.scot.nhs.uk/a-to-z-of-topics/wuhan-novel-coronavirus/
- The Scottish Government: www.gov.scot/
- Disclosure Scotland: www.mygov.scot/coronavirus-disclosure/
- Parent Club: https://www.parentclub.scot/
- Young Scot: young.scot/campaigns/national/coronavirus
- Children's Hearings Scotland: http://www.chscotland.gov.uk/home/
- Scottish Children's Reporter Administration (SCRA): https://www.scra.gov.uk/contact-us/coronavirus-attending-childrens-hearings/
- Care Inspectorate: https://www.careinspectorate.com/index.php/coronavirus-professionals
- Clan Child Law Centre: https://www.clanchildlaw.org/contact
- CAMHS: https://www.camhs-resources.co.uk/
- Meeting the challenge of COVID-19: Examples of frontline practice in caring for children and young people: https://www.celcis.org/knowledge-bank/spotlight/meeting-challenge-2/
- Social Work Scotland’s framework for decision-makers to ensure children in public care maintain strong connections with family during Covid-19 pandemic
- Vulnerable children webpage / Cymru
- Education safeguarding webpage / Cymru
- Keeping children and young people safe: non-statutory guide for practitioners / Cymru
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
- UK Government updates on COVID-19
- NHS advice
- Family Rights Group have published advice for kinship carers (although it would be relevant to any foster carer) to help children maintain relationships throughout the outbreak
- Children and Families Across Borders have published interim guidance on overseas assessments during COVID-19
- Our Frontline: support for social care workers
- BASW have produced professional practice guidance for hoem visits during the Covid-19 pandemic.