DfE coronavirus helpline

Telephone: 0800 046 8687
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm
Saturday to Sunday, 10am to 6pm
Find out about call charges

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!

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.

Covid: England’s third national lockdown legally comes into force

England’s third national lockdown has legally come into force, with effect from Tuesday 5th January 2021

The measures, which include a stay-at-home order and the closure of schools to most pupils, were announced by the prime minister on Monday. The regulations,  allow the lockdown to be in place until the end of March include the closure of all schools and colleges except for vulnerable children and children of key workers..

All of the UK is now under strict virus curbs, with Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland also in lockdown.

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

Coronavirus: guidance for children’s social care services in England

The Department for Education (DfE) has updated guidance for children’s social care in England to reflect restrictions following the National lockdown: stay at home guidance which came into force on 5 January 2021. Areas covered by the updated guidance include: vulnerable children and young people’s attendance at educational settings, risk assessments, alternative provision, respite care and Ofsted inspections.

Read the guidance: Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for children’s social care services
National lockdown: stay at home

 

Coronavirus: social care services in Wales

The Welsh Government has published a control plan for social care in Wales, to help social care services understand the measures to expect in each level of restrictions. The plan includes a section for children’s residential care setting out how practice should be adjusted to comply with restrictions for alert levels 1 – 4.

Read the plan: Coronavirus control plan: Alert levels in Wales for social care services for adults and children

 

Coronavirus: children returning to home learning in the UK

The Cabinet Office has published guidance following the national lockdown in England announced on 4 January 2021. The guidance states that children will learn remotely until the February half term, with colleges, primary (reception onwards) and secondary schools remaining open for vulnerable children and the children of critical workers. The Scottish Government has announced that primary and secondary schools will be closed until 1 February, except for vulnerable children, and children of key workers. The Welsh Government, has stated that all schools, colleges and independent schools should move to online learning until 18 January with schools and colleges remaining open for children of critical workers and vulnerable learners. The Education Minister for Northern Ireland has stated that primary and post-primary schools will be required to provide remote learning to pupils until the half term break in mid-February with vulnerable children and children of key workers having access to schools for supervised learning. Separately, the Department for Education has announced that strengthened minimum standards of remote learning will be put in place in England, with schools expected to provide a set number of hours of high-quality remote education for pupils.

Read the guidance for England: National lockdown: stay at home
Read the guidance for Scotland: Coronavirus (COVID-19): school re-opening arrangements for January 2021
Read the guidance for Wales: Schools: coronavirus guidance
Read the guidance for Northern Ireland: Weir sets out plans for education provision
Read the press release: Education Secretary outlines plans to support young people

Coronavirus: early years and childcare provision in the UK

The Cabinet Office has published guidance following the national lockdown in England announced on 4 January 2021.The guidance states that early years settings (including nurseries and childminders) will remain open, and that vulnerable children and children of critical workers can continue to use registered childcare, childminders and other childcare activities. The Scottish Government has announced that nursery schools will be closed until 1 February 2021 but can remain open for key workers and vulnerable children. Childminding settings can continue to remain open and can also continue to provide care for key workers and vulnerable children. The Welsh Government has stated that all childcare settings can remain open. The Education Minister for Northern Ireland has stated that childcare settings, including those based in primary schools can remain open. Childminders are also allowed to continue their provision

Read the guidance for England: National lockdown: stay at home
Read the guidance for Scotland: Coronavirus (COVID-19): school re-opening arrangements for January 2021
Scottish Childminding Association: latest COVID-19 restrictions
Read the guidance for Wales: Schools: coronavirus guidance
Read the guidance for Northern Ireland: Guidance for schools and educational settings in Northern Ireland – January 2021

Vaccine priority groups: advice on 30 December 2020

Phase 1 – direct prevention of mortality and supporting the NHS and social care system

JCVI advises that the first priorities for the COVID-19 vaccination programme should be the prevention of mortality and the maintenance of the health and social care systems. As the risk of mortality from COVID-19 increases with age, prioritisation is primarily based on age. The order of priority for each group in the population corresponds with data on the number of individuals who would need to be vaccinated to prevent one death, estimated from UK data obtained from March to June 2020 (see reference 3):

  1. residents in a care home for older adults and their carers
  2. all those 80 years of age and over and frontline health and social care workers
  3. all those 75 years of age and over
  4. all those 70 years of age and over and clinically extremely vulnerable individuals[footnote 1]
  5. all those 65 years of age and over
  6. all individuals aged 16 years[footnote 2] to 64 years with underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk of serious disease and mortality[footnote 3]
  7. all those 60 years of age and over
  8. all those 55 years of age and over
  9. all those 50 years of age and over

It is estimated that taken together, these groups represent around 99% of preventable mortality from COVID-19.

For further information: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/priority-groups-for-coronavirus-covid-19-vaccination-advice-from-the-jcvi-30-december-2020/joint-committee-on-vaccination-and-immunisation-advice-on-priority-groups-for-covid-19-vaccination-30-december-2020

 


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

 Question

Answer

 

What should I do if I think I have 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.
  3. 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 happens if

I need to self- isolate?

If anyone in your household needs to self-isolate, you should notify your supervising social worker and child’s social worker and advise them of your diagnosis. 

 

Current government guidance states:

If foster carers develop symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19), the foster home should follow the households with possible coronavirus (COVID-19) infection guidance to avoid the spread of infection, and the fostering service should follow the guidance on safe working in education, childcare and children’s social care settings, including the use of personal protective equipment (PPE).

 

We recognise the importance of maintaining a stable setting for children wherever possible. In most cases, we expect that children will continue living with their foster carers, observing government guidance on self-isolation and social distancing. In circumstances where this is not possible, we would expect fostering services to identify alternative temporary placements with other carers, or respite carers for the duration of the foster carer’s illness. We would then expect the child to return back to their usual home.

 

Will foster carers be given priority for the Coronavirus vaccine now this is being rolled out?

Foster carers have not currently been identified as a priority group for vaccination and will be called for vaccination in line with other members of the population as per the JCVI list.

As the risk of mortality from COVID-19 increases with age, prioritisation is primarily based on age. The government aims to vaccinate all over 70’s by mid- February, followed by other priority groups

For further information: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/priority-groups-for-coronavirus-covid-19-vaccination-advice-from-the-jcvi-30-december-2020/joint-committee-on-vaccination-and-immunisation-advice-on-priority-groups-for-covid-19-vaccination-30-december-2020

 

Do I have to send my foster child to school during lockdown?

When the government announced a new national lockdown on 5th January 2021 this included the closure of all schools except to the children of critical workers and vulnerable children.

 

There is specific section on attendance of vulnerable children and young people. It does refer to ‘parents or carers’ and is obviously applicable to children in foster care (who are mainly considered vulnerable within the group of children with a social worker).

Restricting attendance during the national lockdown: schools (publishing.service.gov.uk)

 

The guidance states:

Schools are expected to allow and strongly encourage vulnerable children and young people to attend. Parents/carers of vulnerable children and young people are strongly encouraged to take up the place.

 

If vulnerable children and young people do not attend, schools should:

  • Work together with the local authority and social worker (where applicable) to follow up with the parent or carer to explore the reason for absence, discussing their concerns using supporting guidance considering the child’s circumstances and their best interests
  • Work together with the local authority and social worker (where applicable) and other relevant partners to encourage the child or young person to attend educational provision, particularly where the social worker agrees that the child or young person’s attendance would be appropriate
  •  
  • Where schools grant a leave of absence to a vulnerable child or young person they should
  • Speak to parents and carers, and social workers (where applicable) to explore the reasons for this and any concerns raised.
  • The discussions should focus on the welfare of the child or young person and ensuring that the child or young person is able to access appropriate education and support while they are at home.

 

If your foster child has special needs, or is vulnerable due to a medical condition, or you or a member of the household has a medical condition, you should discuss this with the school and your supervising social worker and request a risk assessment be carried out.

Do I have to facilitate contact during lockdown?

Guidance regarding contact currently states:

We 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 traumatic.  However, there may be local or individual circumstances where face-to-face contact may not be possible, including where members of households are isolating or continuing to take precautions due to clinical vulnerability.

 

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.

 

  • Under the current provisions for social distancing, there are exceptions for the purposes of arrangements for access to, and contact between, parents and children where the children do not live in the same household as their parents or one of their parents.
  • There is also an exception to allow for contact between siblings when they do not live together and one or more of them is a looked after child or a 16 or 17-year-old care leaver.
  • Where it is not possible for the usual face-to-face contact to happen, keeping in touch will need to continue to take place virtually.
  • 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.
  • We recognise that some young children may not be able to benefit from virtual contact with their family, because of their age or other communication challenges.
  • In these circumstances, local authorities should work with families to ensure that they can have safe face-to-face interactions, whilst still adhering to social distancing guidance or restrictions.
  • When considering the most appropriate ways for children to stay in touch with their families, social workers and carers should seek the views of children who may welcome different forms of contact, including less formal and more flexible virtual contact with their birth families.

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#childrens-social-care

Placement introductions or moves

Your fostering service may contact you to discuss your capacity to take another child into your home or to undertake introductions to adopters for a current foster child. You should not feel pressurised into taking any action without first considering the risks incolved.

The guidance states:

Whilst we understand that introductory meetings will sometimes be challenging in the current circumstances, there needs to be a case by case, risk-based decision, about what is right in the circumstances.

Face to face introductory meetings, such as adopters and foster carers visiting each other’s homes so the child(ren) can get to know the adopters before moving in with them, can continue to take place if it is possible to do so and if all parties are comfortable with the arrangements. Individuals should consider what is most appropriate in their specific circumstances.

We accept that for some children introductory meetings may have to be postponed for example, where someone in the foster family is in a vulnerable category and that other ways may need to be found to prioritise permanent placements for children in line with their best interests.

 

Requesting a Risk Assessment

If you or a family member are medically vulnerable or shielding, you are advised to request a risk assessment to be carried out if you feel that you or your family are being put at risk by face to face contact, travelling to do introductions or the attendance of your foster child at school during lockdown. This risk assessment should be child focussed and also explain how the risks identified will be mitigated.

 

Managing a young person’s behaviour if they are not complying with government restrictions

 

 

We appreciate how difficult understanding and following social distancing guidelines can be for children. If a young person is not complying with social distancing guidelines, the response should be considered on a case by case basis. In the first instance, we would encourage those who know these young people best, to continue to engage with them on this issue, and discuss with the child’s social worker to develop a plan to encourage the child to comply.