Coronavirus (Covid-19) - support for foster carers

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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.

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, especially with schools being closed. 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

 

UK governments have published fostering guidance and legislation to support fostering service 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.

 

The Fostering Network's view

Contact

The UK Government’s very clear instruction is to ‘Stay Home’, apart from tightly defined circumstances, and therefore, our advice is  that face-to-face physical contact with people outside of your home should not take place except in extremely unusual circumstances. We would encourage fostering services to work with foster carers, children’s social workers and birth families to ensure that contact can happen in other ways, for example through video calls, phone calls and social media platforms.

We understand the emotional and practical impact of this on children, their birth families and foster carers, but the priority at this time is ensuring the safety and wellbeing of all members of the fostering community.
 
We know that many fostering services have already made these changes and are exploring the best way of maintaining contact and keeping children connected with their birth families. The Fostering Network will share areas of good practice with our members to enable services to find the best way of maintaining relationships at this difficult time.

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 giving tips for using video chat for family time is also very useful.

Short breaks (Respite)

The UK Government’s very clear instruction is to ‘Stay Home’, apart from tightly defined circumstances, and therefore, 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.

School closures

Updated 23 March

School places are available for children and young people in foster care in England but foster carers should discuss what is in the best interest of their child with their social worker and the child's social worker. Local authorities will be well placed to identify children in foster care and ensure that foster carers know that they will be eligible for this provision and how to access support if required. In the latest update from the Department for Education there is also a recommendation that this should take into account the foster carer's own health concerns. The general advice is for children and young people to remain at home if possible, however, your child’s social worker should be available to discuss the best option for your child. The latest advice from the Department for Education is here.

In Wales the Welsh Government is taking a similar view, with their latest statement saying that the 'most vulnerable' of vulnerable children (which includes those in foster care) should be prioritised.

In Northern Ireland there is as similar approach with schools offering places for 'vulnerable children'. Here is the general guidance from the Government in Northern Ireland, as well as an update from the Health Minister which says that further guidance will be published this week.

In Scotland the Government have announced that identified children who may be particularly vulnerable will still be able to attend school. We are working with the Government to establish what this means for children living in foster care.

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. These fall into three groups:

  1. Those foster carers with coronavirus who, temporarily can no longer care for their fostered child(ren);
  2. Those who have to self-isolate for 12 weeks because they are in the very vulnerable category;
  3. Respite foster carers who are unable to offer respite placements as a result of the social distancing requirements.


The Fostering Network believe that foster carers who fall under these categories should be paid a retainer at this time by their fostering service to ensure consistency of financial support. We believe fostering services should be able to draw down from a central government fund to pay for these retainers. We are currently talking to governments across the UK about our proposal and will keep our members updated.


We believe this should happen because: 

  • The employment status of foster carers is ambiguous. Foster carers are only classified as self-employed for tax and national insurances purposes and therefore fall through the gaps in all the Government’s financial support packages announced to date. The recent announcement for self-employed persons is not helpful for many foster carers because they use Qualifying Care Relief and the majority of foster carers are below the threshold and have no taxable profit from their self-employment.
  • To ensure continued capacity within the foster care workforce and continuity of care for children the fostering service is best placed to administer the retainers for their foster carers, but it should be funded centrally. We do not feel the responsibility should be held by foster carers, who are looking after children on behalf of the state.
  • It is also the case that foster carers are taking on extra responsibilities, such as home schooling at this time.
  • Fostering services, could consider alternative ways to use the skills and expertise of respite carers, for instance:
    • redeployed, with appropriate virtual training and support, to be short-term foster carers and also emergency placements
    • used to buddy up with a foster family to offer peer support in a range of ways, e.g. doing shopping
    • planning 'lessons' for foster carers home schooling
    • playing games online, reading a book to children in foster families
    • providing a listening ear and peer support to foster families

 

We would urge the Government to explore the provision of an increase in the level of financial support given to foster carers to take into account these additional duties.

 

Other helplines and advice

UK Government

The Department for Education has launched a new helpline to answer questions about COVID-19. 

Phone: 0800 046 8687

Email: DfE.coronavirushelpline@education.gov.uk

Opening hours: 8am to 6pm Monday to Friday and 10am to 4pm Saturday and Sunday

England

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

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.

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 establihsed a helpine, 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-heari...

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

 

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

 

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.

 

 

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

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.