Coronavirus (Covid-19) - support for foster carers

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.

All four nations of the UK are experiencing some level of restrictions. Rather than reflect the individual changes on our website, we are linking to the latest country guidance that details government restrictions for EnglandNorthern IrelandScotland and Wales. This page lists useful resources, helplines and advice and is being regularly updated. There is a similar page for fostering services.

This page was last updated on 28.07.21

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 its 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.
  • 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 have created a list of useful resources for foster carers to make use of throughout the coronavirus pandemic. We would love to hear from you if you have a good suggestion for our list, please email us at media@fostering.net.  We also have a list of member discounts and offers, adapted so you can still benefit from them throughout the pandemic, available here.
     

Country specific information

England

Relevant government guidance

Covid-19 restrictions and the fostering role

Aspects of the fostering role such as contact arrangements, short breaks (respite) and social worker visits for example, are exempt from the coronavirus restrictions and are able to continue. 

Just because the exemptions exist does not mean that they have to be used. Decisions to make use of any exemptions should be taken case-by-case, in the best interest of the child and take into consideration the views of the foster family and birth family such that all those involved are not placed unduly at risk.

If it is decided and agreed upon that a face-to-face meeting should happen, extra precautionary measures may need to be taken and any arrangements risk assessed in light of the latest public health advice.

Read the briefing

 

Previous briefings: 

Attendance at educational settings

Colleges, primary (reception onwards) and secondary schools re-opened for all pupils on 8 March 2021. 

Guidance: What parents and carers need to know about early years providers, schools and colleges during COVID-19

Advice: Education catch-up for your child

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 fact sheets to support young care leavers (aged 16 to 25) during the pandemic, which can be found on the care leaver covenant webpage

Rapid asymptomatic testing

There are now more options available to registered foster carers to enable them to participate in the asymptomatic testing programme. Foster carers will be able to access asymptomatic twice-weekly testing. They will be able to choose to do this from the following options: 

  • Attend a test site to get tested where they will be able to see how to take the test or pick up tests to do at home. They can find their nearest test site via the postcode checker or by checking their local council website.
  • Attend a collection site to collect tests to do at home. They can find their nearest collection site here
  • If both of these options are not possible, there will be a supply of rapid tests to order online for people who cannot access them using the options above. More information can be found here

 

Other helplines and advice

  • 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.
  • 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

Relevant government guidance 

Attendance at educational settings

Pre-school, nursery and primary school pupils in P1 to P3 will return to full-time face-to-face teaching from 8 March 2021.

Students in years 12 to 14, who will be awarded qualifications this summer will return to full time face-to-face teaching with effect from 22 March 2021.
To enable the return of years 12 to 14, remote learning will resume for pre-school/nursery children and pupils in P1 to 3 for the week beginning 22 March until the start of the Easter holidays.

Pre-school, nursery and primary schools pupils in P1 to P3 will then return to full-time face-to-face teaching after the Easter holidays along with years 12-14.

Guidance available from the Department of Education: 

Covid-19 restrictions and the fostering role

In Northern Ireland, coronavirus restrictions are still in place. However some exemptions to these restrictions are listed in The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (No2) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020. Some of these purposes relate to the fostering role, for example, to enable family time for children in care to continue with birth family face to face where necessary. 

Guidance to accompany The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (No. 2) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020 is available here

Just because the exemptions exist does not mean that they have to be used. Decisions to make use of any exemptions should be taken case-by-case, in the best interest of the child and take into consideration the views of the foster family and birth family such that all those involved are not placed unduly at risk.

If it is decided and agreed upon that a face-to-face meeting should happen, extra precautionary measures may need to be taken and any arrangements risk assessed in light of the latest public health advice.

Other helplines and advice

Scotland 

Relevant government guidance

There has been no fostering specific coronavirus related guidance published in Scotland. 

Attendance at educational settings 

From 22 February children in P1-P3 and a small number of young people in the senior phase will also return to school. This includes children and young people in special schools/units. 

All remaining primary school children are set to return to school full-time from 15 March, with all secondary pupils returning on a part-time basis from that date.

Regulated childcare, including breakfast and after-school clubs, for primary pupils will also re-start on 15 March as part of the Phase 2 return.

Guidance: 

Covid-19 restrictions and the fostering role

In Scotland, coronavirus restrictions are still in place. However some exemptions to these restrictions are listed in The Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions and Requirements) (Local Levels) (Scotland) Regulations 2020. For example, family time for children can still happen face-to-face where necessary as it falls under the following exemptions: 

  • the fulfilment of statutory obligations and/or legal orders
  • the conduct of essential work
  • the provision of care to vulnerable people
     

Just because the exemptions exist does not mean that they have to be used. Decisions to make use of any exemptions should be taken case-by-case, in the best interest of the child and take into consideration the views of the foster family and birth family such that all those involved are not placed unduly at risk.

If it is decided and agreed upon that a face-to-face meeting should happen, extra precautionary measures may need to be taken and any arrangements risk assessed in light of the latest public health advice.

Other helplines and advice

Information and support for children and young people

Wales 

Relevant government guidance

Attendance at educational settings

Schools in Wales will begin a phased return for foundation phase learners, from 22 February. From 15 March, all remaining primary school children will be able to be back learning onsite. From that date, learners in qualifications years, and more learners in colleges and training will be enabled to return to return to onsite learning. There will also be flexibility for some learners in year 10 and 12 to return, subject to Covid-19 evidence continuing to move in the right direction. Also from 15 March secondary schools will have the flexibility to provide learners in years 7, 8 and 9 with the opportunity of a check-in focused on support for wellbeing and readiness for a return to their onsite learning after Easter.

It is currently the Welsh Government's intention to enable all learners to be back learning on-site after Easter.

Guidance: 

Covid-19 restrictions and the fostering role

In Wales, there are still coronavirus restrictions in place. However, some exceptions apply and these are listed in The Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No. 5) (Wales) Regulations 2020. Some of these purposes relate to the fostering role, for example, to enable family time for children in care to continue with birth family face to face where necessary. 

Just because the exemptions exist does not mean that they have to be used. Decisions to make use of any exemptions should be taken case-by-case, in the best interest of the child and take into consideration the views of the foster family and birth family such that all those involved are not placed unduly at risk.

If it is decided and agreed upon that a face-to-face meeting should happen, extra precautionary measures may need to be taken and any arrangements risk assessed in light of the latest public health advice.

Vaccinating children and young people

New guidance from Welsh Government: COVID-19 Vaccination - JCVI announcement on vaccinating Children & Young People

Other helplines and advice

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

 

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

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

 

Useful resources

We are pulling together useful resources for foster families, especially during school closures. 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

  • 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 Psychologists in America have this page on how to speak to children about the coronavirus.
  • 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
  • The NHS has a great coronavirus resource HUB which includes guidance for carers and caring for SEND children.
  • Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health have a webpage dedicated to coronavirus resources for parents and carers. 
  • The Scottish Government's Parent Club has a wealth of resources explaining the changes to coronavirus restrictions as well as some great indoor and outdoor activities.
  • Civic Medial Centre have published resources for if you, or your looked after child are exempt from wearing a mask including face covering exemption cards.

General Covid-19 updates from key organisations

Resources for managing wellbeing

Resources to support education 

For many families, school closures or being told to self-isolate and seeking to maintain children's education, and keep them entertained can be very daunting.  We have published a blog to help Supporting learning during periods of school closure: a guide for fostering families.

If your looked after child has been told to self-isolate, or their school has temporarily closed, you might want some ideas and resources to continue to support learning when children are at home.  

You may also find helpful resources aimed at helping children transition back to their educational setting. 

Online safety and advice

Ideas for keeping busy and nurtured at home

Extracurricular activities

Ideas for keeping the whole family fit at home

  • Joe Wicks, the Body Coach, has his fun and child friendly workout videos saved on his Youtube Channel.
  • Cosmic kids is yoga, mindfulness and relaxation designed specially for kids aged 3+
  • Go Noodle is a fantastic Youtube Channel with themed dance along videos, including Frozen 2 and Sonic the Hedgehog! 
  • Youth Sports Trust have all of the resources from their National Sport Week at Home saved on their website. Why not give them a go in your garden or local park! 

 

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