In these unprecedented times of uncertainty, confusion and conflicting advice, the team here at FosterTalk wanted to tell you that You Are Not Alone. Foster carers are needed now more than ever and you will undoubtedly face situations that were totally unexpected when you became a foster parent, but you are resilient, strong and resourceful (that’s why you are a foster parent) and you will prevail. 


FosterTalk are here to provide support and guidance along the way and try to answer any questions you have about your role and responsibilities and the impact of coronavirus on you and the children in your care. To help you, we have added links to government regulations and guidance on our website, which will be regularly updated as and when news comes in, and we have also compiled a list of frequently asked questions to help you in your role.


FosterTalk – supporting you every step of the way

 

  • During these uncertain times, we want to remind you that all of our helplines will be remaining open. We have ensured systems are in place in order for our services to continue running to best support you. These helplines will be open for our standard fostering-related concerns and queries, as well as those which have come about due to the coronavirus outbreak.
  • Our counselling, medical, legal and educational lines are also still running. During these times of high stress, we especially want to look out for and support our members!
  • We all need a little extra support at times. That’s why we offer around-the-clock confidential counselling helpline that is delivered by a team of clinically trained and qualified experts.
  • FosterTalk also provide members with detailed advice as self-employed people. Remember our specialist tax, benefits and national insurance team are still here to help you.
  • We will be constantly supplying up-to-date government updates on social media and our website to keep you in the loop.
  • Remember, our qualified fostering advisors are working to support you throughout this pandemic.  FosterTalk is here for you; call us if you need to talk!

 

We have created a brand new newsletter too, as we know how challenging it can be having children at home instead of at school, so to show you that you are not facing these challenges alone, we’ve created a brand new newsletter, specifically to help you occupy your children’s time during the school closures.  We’ll be sending it out every few weeks with new ideas to help keep them active and interested in learning activities.  If there is anything you would like us to feature in this newsletter, please let us know!  Just contact marketing@fostertalk.org or call 0121 758 5013


Support for The Self-employed

FosterTalk has also provided members with detailed advice for foster carers as self-employed people. Remember our specialist tax, benefits and national insurance team are still here to help you.

Find out more here >

Extension to Self Employed Income Support Scheme (seiss)

The government has announced that the SEISS will be extended to 30 April 2021!

Find out more here >


The Martin James Foundation

FosterTalk is the Centre of Excellence UK for the Martin James Foundation and associated group and recognised as the “go to” organisation for fostering advice, practice guidance, training and independent support for both foster parents and fostering services alike.

The Martin James Foundation has released two practice briefings which aim to support foster  carers and practitioners to talk and listen to children and young people in alternative care about Covid-19.

Considerations for home visits and face-to-face interventions with children and families

Find out more here > 

COVID 19 CRISIS: Talking with and listening to children and young people in alternative care!

The Martin James Foundation has released a practice briefing which aims to support carers and practitioners to talk and listen to children and young people in alternative care about Covid-19.

Find out more here >


NHS Guidance & Guidance from an NHS Nurse about Coronavirus

With all the uncertainty around the current situation, regarding Coronavirus, we thought this information would be beneficial to you all, shared with us by an NHS nurse.

Find out more here >


Coronavirus Legislation and Guidance

As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, governments across the UK have made changes to regulations and issued new guidance which affects local authorities and fostering services. Each UK country has its own regulations and guidance, which change rapidly as the government moves to ease lockdown and we will continue to update this page as changes occur.

Coronavirus Update – UK

England has returned to a tiered system of coronavirus restrictions after its second national lockdown ended on 2nd December.

 

Under the system every area of the country is in one of three tiers – medium (one), high (two) and very high (three) – with the vast majority of the population in the higher two tiers. In tier two, people are not allowed to mix with anyone outside their household or support bubble indoors, although they can socialise in groups of up to six outdoors, and in tier three, people must also not mix with anyone outside their household or support bubble indoors, or at most outdoor venues.

 

Scotland operates a five-tier system while Wales and Northern Ireland have their own coronavirus restrictions – with the latter currently in a two-week circuit breaker lockdown.

To find out which tier you are in click here: https://www.gov.uk/find-coronavirus-local-restrictions

For more information about the rules in your region see below:

Christmas Bubbles

While the coronavirus rules vary depending on which part of the UK you live in, the 4 UK governments have agreed on a 5-day relaxation of the rules to allow up to 3 households to meet together over the Christmas period (23 to 27 December). The rules are complex and you should check before making any travel plans.

For further information on this and how it affects you please visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/making-a-christmas-bubble-with-friends-and-family/making-a-christmas-bubble-with-friends-and-family

Please help to stop the spread of coronavirus by downloading the NHS Covid-19 App


England

Updated Guidance for Children’s Social Care Services

The government updated its coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for children’s social care services on 25 September 2020. The guidance has been updated to:

  • reflect that the Adoption and Children (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 have expired
  • update with the Adoption and Children (Coronavirus) (Amendment) (No2) Regulations 2020
  • reflect the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (No. 2) (England) (Amendment) (No. 4) Regulations 2020 – the rule of 6

All documents relating to COVID-19 guidance for children’s social care services, including the updated list of Amendments from 24 September 2020 to existing regulations, are on the Gov.uk website.

The Coronavirus Act 2020 includes new laws that affect foster care to help to slow the spread of the virus. Read the legislation

The guidance:

  • advises on flexibilities in delivering statutory duties, and the principles they should apply, to manage any increased risks to vulnerable children as a result of COVID-19;
  • acknowledges there needs to be flexibility under statutory duties;
  • offers key principles to guide thinking such as being child-centred, risk-based, and collaborative; and
  • sets expectations that risk assessment of every child, and identifying those most at risk will be important and that vulnerable children are expected to attend school

The Adoption and Children (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 were introduced on 24th April and have significant implications for family placement work in England. CoramBAAF have produced a summary of the changes, and the full regulations can be found here.

The Department for Education has provided some general practice guidance for local authorities on children’s social care that includes a section that is specific to fostering.

The Nuffield Family Justice Observatory have provided guidance on managing family contact during the coronavirus crisis.

National Association of Child Contact Centres (NACCC) has issued an update on how Child Contact Centres are operating during the Coronavirus crisis.

Guidance for Care Leavers: The Department for Education, along with other government departments, has produced a series of guidance documents and factsheets to support young care leavers (aged 16 to 25) during the pandemic. Click on the links below to download.


Scotland

The Coronavirus (Scotland) Bill was passed on 1 April 2020.Provisions of direct relevance to child protection, foster and kinship care, children’s hearings and secure care have been developed for inclusion in the Coronavirus (Scotland) Bill 2020.

Guidance on looked after children and children’s hearings provisions, published 7 April This guidance elaborates on the above Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020. It includes information on: children’s hearings, placement limits and certain time scales being extended.


Wales

The Welsh Government has, for the time being, decided against relaxing regulations around fostering. It has instead published guidance for Children’s social services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

There is also additional guidance regarding vulnerable children and young people and education safeguarding.

Children’s Social Services during the COVID-19 Pandemic: Updated Guidance

The Welsh Government has updated its guidance on how children’s social care providers can change their services to support young people during the coronavirus pandemic. This operational guidance is aimed at local authorities, adoption services, fostering services and providers of care homes for children and is intended to:

  • encourage a flexible and pragmatic approach to maintaining support for looked after and vulnerable children during the outbreak of novel coronavirus and as measures are relaxed
  • recognise the areas of provision where local authorities will struggle to meet their statutory requirements, and provide guidance on the measures that should be put in place that are in the spirit of the law
  • minimise the impact of novel coronavirus on Children’s Services and partners, when resources available to cope with additional burdens are reduced, and as alternative working practices are being introduced and delivered
  • promote partnership working across the breadth of services that support families

The guidance document is available on the Welsh Government website >

Coronavirus: vulnerable and disadvantaged learners returning to school in Wales

The Welsh Government has published guidance for supporting vulnerable and disadvantaged learners returning to school settings. The guidance covers: the legislative background; preparing an approach from September 2020; and preparing for a further lockdown or blended learning approach.

Find out more here >


Northern Ireland

The Department for Health have issued COVID-19 Guidance for foster care and supported lodgings. This was updated on 13 May 2020.

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

Full changes to the The Foster Placement (Children) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1996 regulations: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/nisr/2020/78/regulation/3/made

Guidance to accompany the changes: https://www.health-ni.gov.uk/sites/default/files/publications/health/childrens-social-care-temp-modification-regs.pdf


 

Coronavirus FAQs

 

Questions

 

Answers

What are the symptoms

of Coronavirus?

The main symptoms of coronavirus are:

  • a high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)
  • a new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)
  • a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – this means you’ve noticed you cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal

Most people with coronavirus have at least 1 of these symptoms.

What to do if you have symptoms

If you have any of the main symptoms of coronavirus:

  1. Get a test to check if you have coronavirus as soon as possible.
  2. Stay at home and do not have visitors until you get your test result – only leave your home to have a test.

Anyone you live with, and anyone in your support bubble, must also stay at home until you get your result.

Use the NHS 111 online coronavirus service if:

  • you’re worried about your symptoms
  • you’re not sure what to do

Use the NHS 111 online coronavirus service

What do I do if I have any symptoms of Coronavirus? If anyone in your household needs to self-isolate, you should notify your supervising social worker and child’s social worker, advise them of your symptoms. You should not attend any offices. Other members of the household must then stay in the home and isolate for 14 days from the first day the person began to show symptoms as they may not initially show any signs of illness themselves but could be infectious.
   
What happens if I need to self-isolate?

If you or any member of your household develop any of the above symptoms, the government advice is that the person demonstrating symptoms should now self-isolate for 7 days. This means they should:

– Stay at home
– Not go to work, school or public places
– Not use public transport or taxis
– Ask friends, family members or delivery services to do errands for you
– Try to avoid visitors to your home – it’s OK for friends, family or delivery drivers to drop off food

– Practice safe distancing of 2 meters / 6ft

   
What is the difference between self-isolation and social distancing?

Self-isolation is currently recommended for anyone who has symptoms of the virus as described above and will also include anyone who is part of your household who may not be showing any symptoms. Self-isolation involves staying at home.

Social Distancing is maintaining a space of 2 metres between yourself and others outside the home wherever possible and wearing a face covering in enclosed spaces, such as shops.

The Government has introduced “the rule of 6” people who are able to safely meet up indoors or outdoors, maintaining social distance. See specific guidance for each UK region.

   
Do I need to send the child or young person in my foster care to school? All children should attend school wherever possible. If your foster child has special needs, or is vulnerable due to a medical condition you should discuss this with the school and your supervising social worker. Schools are expected to make provisions for children to safely return to school with hygiene measures and social distancing in place. Children should not attend school if they have covid symptoms.
What should a foster carer or fostering service do if they are concerned the carer (household member) or the child needs to self -isolate?

If a member of the household, be it the foster parent/s, foster child or any other member needs to self-isolate then this should be treated as a significant event and the fostering service be notified as with all significant events. Primarily this should be your supervising social worker and child’s social worker or failing this it should be escalated to a team manager.

Further information on the virus and expectations should be obtained from the government website https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus

The carer can access information about the virus on the NHS Direct website or use the 111 online advice. If the carer cannot access online information they can call 111. https://111.nhs.uk/covid-19

In the event of a medical emergency do not attend the GP surgery or the hospital contact 999 and inform them you think the patient has the coronavirus and explain the concerns.

Update your fostering service regarding any admission to hospital or treatment that is required, we urge you to record as usual.

Are there any restrictions on travel?

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) currently advises British nationals against all but essential international travel. Travel to some countries and territories is currently exempted.

This advice is being kept under constant review. Travel disruption is still possible and national control measures may be brought in with little notice.

Travel within the UK is not currently restricted however, may impacted by local lock downs and/or restrictions so you should always check before you travel.

Follow the current guidance in the place where you live. See the guidance for England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland

The rule of 6 and  introductions/placement breakdowns/allegations etc.

During lockdown many fostering services have been conducting visits virtually or over the telephone. As restrictions ease, more face to face visits will take place, however, these will be subject to changing circumstances.

The rule of 6 does not apply to foster placements as each household is classed as one family unit regardless of the number of family members. Social workers are able to visit foster carers’ homes as this is deemed a work situation.

Introductions:
Your fostering service may contact you to discuss your capacity to support additional children within your home. Any additional requests should be fully assessed for risk to both current and additional children.

Placement breakdowns:
This is an extremely difficult time with additional pressures placed upon both fostering parents and foster children alike.
We would ask for fostering parents to be proactive wherever possible and to discuss concerns at the earliest possible moment to agree on any actions beforehand such as what to do if the young person fails to adhere to government restrictions.

Any decisions require consultation with the local authority that holds shared parental responsibility for the child or young person.
All decisions should be made in the best interests of the child and recorded appropriately. Safeguarding policies need to be adhered to at all times.

Allegations:
If an allegation is made during this time then the process will still be followed. You will still be able to access independent support however some of this may be provided through virtual means rather than in person.
Meetings may be rearranged and conducted via platforms such as facetime or skype (others are available) during the investigation.

Contact with birth parents

Current government guidance statesWe expect that contact between children in care and their birth relatives will continue. It is essential for children and families to remain in touch at this difficult time, and for many children, the consequences of not seeing relatives would be traumatising.

Contact arrangements should, therefore, be assessed on a case by case basis taking into account a range of factors, including the government’s current social distancing guidance and guidance on meeting people outside your household and the needs of the child. However, we expect the spirit of any court-ordered contact in relation to children in care to be maintained.

Where it may not be possible, or appropriate, for the usual face to face contact to happen at this time, keeping in touch will, for the most part, need to take place virtually. In these circumstances, we would encourage social workers and other professionals to reassure children that this position is temporary. We would also expect foster parents and other carers to be consulted on how best to meet the needs of the children in their care and to be supported to facilitate that contact, particularly if those carers are shielding or medically vulnerable.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-for-childrens-social-care-services/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-for-local-authorities-on-childrens-social-care

 

Supervision, training and support groups/meetings

Current government advice is to avoid all gatherings involving more than 6 people excluding household members. Carers may wish to contact their fostering service to explore support available which may be offered over the telephone via email or using other platforms such as Skype or Microsoft teams.

Your fostering service may be able to offer training online and will be looking at alternative ways to communicate to their foster carers on mass.

You may find supervision conducted via skype etc or telephone with home visits being suspended.

   
   
   
I am concerned the child in my care is ignoring the government instructions and continues to go out to spend time with their friends? Discuss the concerns with the child’s social worker and your supervising social worker. Consider if a risk assessment is needed to set out what actions you need to take when these situations occur in relation to who you need to inform and any precautions for the household to follow with the young person when they return to the home. Continue to have open communication with the young person about the risks in an age appropriate manner and record all actions/discussions.
Further advice and guidance FosterTalk is committed to supporting foster carers during the ongoing pandemic. Our helplines are available Monday to Friday 9 am to 5 pm and if you are a FosterTalk member you will also have access to legal advice, medical advice and counselling 24 x 7.