Coronavirus (Covid-19) - support for foster carers

You are here

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 fostering services.

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. If you need any support, advice or a listening ear, please get in touch.
  • Members can also make use of our stress support service and legal helpline.
  • If you are a foster carer with concerns or queries about coronavirus and local practice (such as contact arrangements), or it's impact on your fostering because of health, then please contact your fostering service in the first instance as they know you, your family and the children in your care.
  • 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.
  • Our online community can also be a place to support and share advice with each other/others from the fostering community. 
  • We are creating a list of useful resources for foster carers during this time. Please see below as we add to that list. We would love to hear from you if you have a good suggestion for our list. Please email us at media@fostering.net
     

Visit the useful resources list

 

The Fostering Network's view

Contact

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’ presents 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 although it has been continuing throughout) 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 normally 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.

Resource for foster carers

We have developed a checklist to help foster carers think about what they need to consider, and questions they may need to ask their fostering service, in any contact planning being made for the child following the easing of lockdown restrictions.

Read the checklist
 

Other resoruces: 

Short breaks (Respite)

While some lockdown restrictions remain in place, our advice is that short breaks for fostering households should not take place except in exceptional circumstances, including where a placement is at significant risk of breaking down and a short break is necessary to maintain the stability of the placement.

We understa​nd the emotional and practical impact of this on foster families, but the priority at this time is ensuring the safety and wellbeing of all members of the fostering community.

Given that there is likely to be a need for more foster carers in the coming weeks, we would encourage short break (respite) carers to talk to their fostering service about how their skills and experience might be best utilised to support children in foster care at this time.

Foster carer's finances

The Fostering Network has had an increasing 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.


Read about our #fundfostercarers campaign


England    
   
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.


Northern Ireland
   
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.

Scotland
   
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.

Wales
   
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. If you are a foster carer concerned about your finances during this time please get in touch.

Foster carers as key workers (inc testing)

The Fostering Network believes foster carers should be treated as key workers because they are delivering an essential service.

Read more on our position here

 

Here is the latest information from governments:

 

England

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.

 

Northern Ireland

The status of foster carers as key workers in Northern Ireland is still unclear. We are seeking clarification from officials.  

 

Scotland  

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.

 

Wales

Foster carers are entitled to a social care worker card. 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.

School attendance

Current guidance is slightly different in each of the four nations. Useful resources can be found at the end of this section.

In England, the Government has introuduced a phased return which has been happening since 1 June. Early years (aged 0-5), Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 groups have been returning to schools since the 1 June, subject to local arrangements. From 15 June, secondary schools and further education colleges have began some face to face support with Year 10 and 12 pupils. The remainder of pupils are to return to school in September and will be given a part-time offer of blended learning. 

In Northern Ireland the education minister has announced (in a statement), subject to medical guidance and safety, that he is aiming  to see a phased reopening of schools, beginning with a limited provision consisting of blended learning for key cohort years week beginning 24 August. All vulnerable children will also be expected to return at this date. The remainder of children will return in at the beginning of September.

Schools in Scotland will return on 11 August, one week earlier than planned for most pupils, while Early Learning and Childcare (ELC) settings will open over the summer. Students will go back full-time. 

The Welsh Government has announced its new “Check in, Catch Up, Prepare for summer and September” through which it has proposed that all schools will start the next phase on 29 June. All children from all year groups will have the opportunity to attend. Schools will return full-time at the beginning of September for all pupils. 

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. 

 

Resources to support the transition back to school:

 

Other helplines and advice

Accessing equipment to support learning

England  

Guidance: Get technology support for children and schools during coronavirus (COVID-19) 

The Department for Education will provide digital devices and internet access for some disadvantaged children and young people who do not currently have access to them from other sources, such as their school.  

What can care leavers and children and young people (aged 0 to 19) access?  

  • Digital devices  

  • Internet access provided through 4G hotspot devices for any of the following (young people aged 0 to 10 with a social worker are not eligible for this)  

     

Who do I approach to get access to a device or internet on behalf of a child?  

Local authorities are responsible for ordering and distributing laptops and tablets to care leavers and children with a social worker. Local authorities will own the laptops and tablets they receive, and loan them to children and young people and they are responsible for applying for this support. 

When laptops and tablets will be delivered? 

Orders will be delivered in May and June. 

Getting laptops and tablets to children and young people 

Laptops and tablets for care leavers or children with social workers will be delivered directly to local authorities. Local authorities can organise for them to be delivered to children’s and care leavers’ homes. This should be done in accordance with social distancing guidelines

 

Northern Ireland 

The Fostering Attainment and Achievement (FAA) programme, funded by the Health and Social Care Board and run by The Fostering Network in Northern Ireland, is a unique programme  that works to improve educational outcomes for looked after children in foster care. 

What is this programme providing during the pandemic?  

Since March 2020, we have provided emergency IT provision (mainly devices) to children who are looked after. During the pandemic, a relaxation of the application process for social workers to apply for devices has been relaxed with the aim of supporting more foster families with devices.  

How do I get a device?  

Emergency IT provision can be requested with a supporting email from the child’s social worker or supervising social worker. Emails need to be sent to the project’s administrator, Kellie Long, or you can get in touch with the programme’s project manager, June Onyekwelu.  

Who can access this service?  

To access this service you must foster a young person in Northern Ireland. Support can begin six months prior to starting primary school and can continue until age 18. 

 

Scotland 

In Scotland, there is no national scheme to provide devices to support education to vulnerable children and children with a social worker but, if children are in need of a device (i.e. if there is no device available within the fostering home that they can use), they should be encouraged to speak with their fostering service and child’s social worker in the first instance. Foster carers and social workers of children in need of equipment would also be encouraged to have a conversation with head teachers to explore what/if available funding or equipment is there to support attainment and lessen gaps in learning.

If you are still struggling to get access please call our helpline

 

Wales 

In Wales, there is no national scheme to provide devices to support education to vulnerable children and children with a social worker. If you require additional resources of any kind to assist in the promotion of foster children’s education during lockdown, firstly contact the children’s social worker and school. If you cannot get the equipment you require from these conversations, request a children’s advocate to assist in resourcing what is needed. 

If you are still struggling to get access please call our helpline

England

There are regular updates on Department for Education’s Twitter and Facebook channels. 

Office for Students (OfS) has published a briefing note and news item on students without family support (including care leavers) during the coronavirus pandemic. The aim of the briefing note is to promote and publicise the positive way universities and colleges are responding to the pandemic and to share ideas and practice.

The Children's Commissioner's advice and assistance service, Help at Hand, is there for vulnerable children during the COVID-19 crisis. If there are any foster children that would like our help or you have any concerns you would like to raise with us please contact us on 0800 5280 731 (open 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday) or help.team@childrenscommissioner.gov.uk.

The Department for Education has provided fixed-term funding to help support young people and their families most affected by coronavirus. Part of this funding is for Fosterline Plus which offers independent one to one virtual support for current foster carers (including family and friends carers) in England experiencing extreme anxiety or crisis as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The service may also be used by prospective carers who require additional support during the assessment process.

Northern Ireland

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 Auhtority has established a helpline, open to all foster carers, to provide support for learning. The helpline number is 028 7051 1086 (open Monday - Thursday 8am to 5pm and Friday 8am to 4pm). You can also email them at: lookedafterchildren@eani.org.uk 

Scotland

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/

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/

Parent Club: https://www.parentclub.scot/

Clan Child Law Centre: https://www.clanchildlaw.org/contact 

CAMHS: https://www.camhs-resources.co.uk/

Information and support for children and young people

Young Scot: young.scot/campaigns/national/coronavirus

Reach has information to help young people, particularly with their schooling and education: https://reach.scot/get-help/coronavirus/ 

The Children and Young People's Commissioner Scotland is there to help children, making sure human rights are still in place to keep children safe and happy: https://cypcs.org.uk/coronavirus/ 

The First Minister answers questions from children about Coronavirus: https://www.parentclub.scot/kidscovidqs

To help parents and carers make sense of the latest easing of restrictions in Scotland, Parent Club has developed some resources which are abailable on their website for parents and via We Transfer for children.

Wales

Welsh Government advice: 

Senedd Research, National Assembly for Wales: https://seneddresearch.blog/2020/03/17/coronavirus-constituency-support

Care Inspectorate Wales:

Children’s Commissioner for Wales: 

   
Voices from Care:

WCVA: Voluntary Services Emergency Fund (VSEF): 

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 gwe COVID-19
  • Social Care Wales is providing a social care worker card which allows 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 either virtually or digitally.

Further guidance

Updates on COVID-19: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus 

NHS advice: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/

BASW updates: https://www.basw.co.uk/coronavirus-covid-19-basw-updates

Our friends at CoramBAAF have information regarding fostering panel virtual meetings: https://corambaaf.org.uk/updates/coronavirus-adoption-and-fostering-panel-virtual-meetings

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

The Mortgage Brain are able to help, guide and offer advice to anyone who is concerned about their mortgage repayments, whether you are an existing client or not. If you are approaching the end of your current mortgage rate and are due to re-mortgage, get in touch with The Mortgage Brain as soon as possible - they can assist you with your re-mortgage to avoid you waiting in queues to speak to your existing lender or dropping onto a standard variable rate. Payment holiday advice is also available. The team at The Mortgage Brain will be available seven days a week during this period of disruption. Visit https://www.themortgagebrain.net/mortgages/foster-care-mortgages/ or call 0800 987 1700.

Face coverings are currently mandatory in certain situations across the UK. However, some people don’t have to wear a face covering including for health, age or equality reasons. These mask exemption cards are available to help communicate to others why you are not wearing a mask.

 

Coronavirus legislation and guidance

Governments across the UK are passing legislation and issuing guidance in the light of coronavirus.

Read the guidance 

 

Useful resources

We are pulling together useful resources for foster families, especially during school closures. This is very much a work in progress. Please email media@fostering.net if you come across any great websites or resources, and please check back to this page regularly as we add new resources.

Useful resources for children and young people about covid-19

  • This book, explaining the coronavirus to younger children, has been illustrated by Axel Sheffler
  • This page from Young Minds is a great resource for young people who are concerned about the coronavirus.
  • Childline has a page for young people about coping with the impact of the coronavirus.
  • BBC Newsround has a useful page about the coronavirus. 
  • Our friends at Become have this page of advice for care experienced young people.
  • Read our interview with Dr Dawn Huebner who is a clinical psychologist specialising in the treatment of anxious children. Her latest book Something Bad Happened guides children and the adults who care for them through tough conversations about serious world events in the news. 
  • The BookTrust has put together this list of books for children to talk through things when times are tough.
  • The National Association of School Pyschologists in America have this page on how to speak to children about the coronavirus.
  • This article from The Independent is also very helpful about talking to children about the coronavirus.
  • The children's commissioner has produced a children's guide to coronavirus.
  • The Scottish Government's Parent Club has a wealth of great resources for speaking to children and young people about coronaviruys, as well as loads of great activities.
  • NSPCC Speak out, stay safe virtual assembly helps children understand what’s happening currently, why they may be feeling anxious or worried, and where to get help if they need it.
  • Oxford and Reading Universities have produced advice for parents, carers and people who work with children and young people on supporting children and young people with worries about COVID-19 

Resources for managing wellbeing

Resources for educating at home

For many families, being isolated at home and seeking to maintain children's education and keep them entertained can be very daunting.  We have published a blog Supporting learning during periods of school closure: a guide for fostering families.

When your children are off school you might want some ideas and resources on keeping learning going and continuing a structure for your child, as well as ideas for fun and creativity.  

Ideas for keeping busy and nurtured at home

Great virtual days out

Ideas for keeping the whole family fit at home

  • Joe Wicks, the Body Coach, is hosting a free live PE lesson every day from 23 March at 9am on Youtube. Find out more here. And here are Joe's workouts for kids during the holidays.
  • Cosmic kids is yoga, mindfulness and relaxation designed specially for kids aged 3+
  • The Ballet Coach is offering free ballet lessons on Facebook.

We would be grateful to receive your ideas and resources of things that you have found work well for this. Please email media@fostering.net.  

Discounts and Offers

Haven, have pledged a Coronavirus Book with Confidence Guarantee, which means you can book a holiday safe in the knowledge that you are covered if the Coronavirus Pandemic interrupts your plans. The guarantee applies to all booking in 2020 and 2021, allowing you to move a holiday to a future date free of charge or receive a no quibble refund. Although all parks are temporarily closed, the guarantee means you can safely make future plans. Members of The Fostering Network are already entitled to up to 10 per cent off bookings.

The Cinema Society is bringing movies to your home by providing discounts on Rakuten TV, Chili and Sky Store ecodes. Once logged in, go to 'Buy vouchers' to see the options available.

Baker Ross have a huge range of arts and craft supplies available for home delivery. They are offering members of The Fostering Network a 15 per cent discount.  Members can view full details of the offer by signing into the members' discount page.

Foyles, the award winning, independent bookstore, are offering all members of The Fostering Network a 10 per cent discount on online orders, from now until 31 October. Members can view full details of the offer by signing into the members' discount page.    

Little Cooks Co offer an easy, fun and healthy cooking activity for your kids. Their award-winning monthly kits make baking simple. Each month they send your little cook a new baking recipe and all the dry organic ingredients to make it. The kits are fun, delicious and educational - ideal for children aged 3-10. Members can view full details of the offer by signing into the members' discount page.   

Big Potato Games make party games for kids, families and adults that are easy to pick up, but impossible to put down! They are offering members of The Fostering Network 40 per cent off all purchases through through their website. The offer is valid until the end of June. Visit the members' area for full details.