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 >

 

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 outbreak FAQs: what you can and can’t do – updated Government guidance

The government has set out its plan to return life to as near normal as we can, for as many people as we can, as quickly and fairly as possible in order to safeguard livelihoods, but in a way that is safe and continues to protect our NHS.

The government has published guidance on staying safe outside your home and guidance on social distancing rules. This page sets out key FAQs to help you prepare for these changes.

This guidance applies in England – people in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland should follow the specific rules in those parts of the UK.

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 Updates:

Shielding guidance has changed for millions of clinically extremely vulnerable people. Find out more.

Travel advice for some countries changed from 4 July. Read the coronavirus travel guidance on the government’s website.

England

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.

 

Coronavirus: children returning to school in England

The Department for Education (DfE) has published updated information and guidance for England in preparation for more children returning to school. Updates include: additional safeguarding guidance around updating child protection policies, designated safeguarding lead arrangements, protecting vulnerable children and mental health; guidance on preventing and controlling infection; and advice for parents about children returning to school and those remaining at home.

 

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.

Coronavirus: children returning to school in Scotland

The Scottish Government has announced that, subject to scientific advice that it is safe to do so, children will return to school on 11 August, and Early Learning and Childcare (ELC) settings will open over the summer.

Find out more here >

Read the guidance >

 

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.

Coronavirus – children returning to school in Wales

The Education Minister has announced that all schools in Wales to re-open on 29th June.

  • All age groups will return to school on 29 June
  • The term will be extended until 27 July
  • There will be a phased approach, with year groups being split into groups with staggered starts, lessons and breaks
  • There will be no more than a third of pupils present at any one time
  • Smaller classes which will consist of online and classroom based teaching.
  • Parents will not be fined if they choose not to send their children into school at the end of the month. The Welsh Government said it will ”respect parent’s decisions
  • The Welsh Government is due to publish operational guidance w/c 15th June to support schools and further and higher education, which will include information on managing their facilities: including buildings, resources, cleaning and transport.
  • Guidance for childcare providers will also be published next

Children returning to school in Wales

The Welsh Government has confirmed that all pupils will be able to return to school in September. The announcement follows a recommendation by the Welsh Technical Advisory Group. The Children’s Commissioner for Wales welcomed the government’s positive response to calls to maximise children and young people’s physical attendance at schools, colleges and other education settings in September.

Read the press release: Education Minister announces ‘back to school’ plans for September
Read the advice on returning to school: Technical Advisory Group: advice on return to school
Read the response from the Children’s Commissioner: Commissioner responds to announcement about the return to schools, colleges and other educational settings in September

 

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


 

FAQs

We have compiled some Frequently Asked Questions to help answer some of your questions through these unprecedented times. If you have a question that you can’t see on here or one you think should be included, call 0121 758 5013 or email marketing@fostertalk.org

 

Questions Answers
What are the symptoms of Coronavirus?

According to the NHS, the symptoms of the coronavirus are:

· A dry persistent cough
· A high temperature
· Shortness of breath

But these symptoms do not necessarily mean that you have the illness. The symptoms are similar to many other illnesses including cold and flu.

The NHS has a specialist website to find out what to do next if you have any of the symptoms: https://111.nhs.uk/covid-19

What do I do if I have any symptoms of Coronavirus?

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

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 actions do I need to take? Current government instructions are to stay at home and only go outside for food shopping, health reasons (exercise or to support a vulnerable person) or to work (where this is absolutely necessary and cannot be done at home). It also advises to stay 2 metres / 6ft away from other people and to wash your hands as soon as you get home.
What happens if I need to self-isolate? You should contact your supervising social worker and your child’s social worker if you develop any of the above symptoms. All members of the household will also need to self-isolate.
Is my child or the young person I care for classed as a vulnerable child? All looked after children placed with foster carers are considered vulnerable along with any child that has a social worker and any child that has an Education and Health Care Plan (EHCP)
Government guidance is available here
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-on-vulnerable-children-and-young-people/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-on-vulnerable-children-and-young-people
The Department For Education has set up a Coronavirus Helpline and can be contacted on 0800 046 8687 8am-6pm Mon-Friday
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.

Staying at home means you should:
– Not go to work, school or public areas
– Not use public transport or taxis
– Not have visitors, such as friends and family, in your home
– Not go out to buy food or collect medicine – order them by phone or online, or ask someone else to drop them off at your home.

You can use your garden, if you have one. You can also leave the house to exercise once a day – but stay at least 2 metres / 6ft away from other people.
Social distancing means avoiding unnecessary contact with other people.
It means spending less time in public places, where a lot of people are around.
Everyone is now advised to follow self-distancing measures, especially the over-70s, pregnant women and adults normally eligible for a flu jab.

How to self-distance – Work from home whenever possible
– Avoid all unnecessary travel
– Stay away from pubs, clubs, theatres and other such social venues (now closed as per government restrictions)
– Avoid gatherings with friends and families wherever possible (Police have powers to disperse gatherings of more than 2 people under government restrictions)
Do I need to send the child or young person in my foster care to school? The carer should liaise with the school and the child’s social worker to decide what is in the best interests of the child. There may be flexibility to offer work for the child to complete at home for example if the carer household contains a vulnerable group and there is concern about possible transmission. The carer is advised to keep open communication with professionals to ensure all are updated and record decisions and actions taken.
It is recommended that where possible children should remain within the home unless this presents a particular risk or the foster parent is within the key worker group. Any decision must be risk assessed in conjunction with the child’s social worker on an individual basis.
The expectation is that looked after children should be treated in the same manner as their peers except in extreme circumstances. We advise discussing with your fostering service any decisions taken.
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

If you have fostering membership contact your provider via their specialist helplines for additional advice and support.

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 government has advised any UK travel should be avoided unless for essential purposes.
If a carer has a holiday home or caravan the advice is to remain at the primary residence to reduce the risk of transmission and protect rural communities and healthcare services. Travel outside the UK is not recommended at the current time.
Decisions regarding introductions/placement breakdowns/allegations etc.

At this time communications with your fostering service should be conducted virtually where this is practically possible. The use of smartphones and computers are an advantage for face to face communication but telephone communication is available to all.

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.
At this time you may see fewer children being introduced to their permanent homes, with planning being suspended.

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.

Supervision, training and support groups/meetings

Current government advice is to avoid all gatherings involving more than 2 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.

School has said provision can’t be provided as the foster placement is stable? All looked after children placed with foster carers are considered vulnerable under the guidelines for continued provision. However, there may be flexibility in how the provision is offered dependent on local factors such as the availability of staff and other resources. Educational resources may be provided for the child to use at home or other provision offered. It is not for the school to decide if the foster placement is stable. The decision for the child to attend school (which may not be the child’s current school) needs to be made in conjunction with the child’s social worker, the school and you as a foster parent. If you are concerned that the provision offered is not meeting the child’s needs you can contact the school and the child’s social worker to determine whether any alternative or additional provision can be made.
Do I need to send my looked after child to school if my own child is off school? If a foster parent’s own child is off school as they do not meet the criteria of being vulnerable, having a social worker or an Education and Health Care Plan (EHCP) and parents do not fall into the key worker category they should not attend school.
Looked after children should be treated as their peers however any decision for a looked after child to remain at home should be taken in conjunction with the child’s social worker and the school. Keeping birth children away from school while sending a looked after child to school could be detrimental to the placement. The looked after child should be provided with the opportunity to attend school as per government instructions where necessary.
If a foster parent has concerns about the a child attending school perhaps due to a household member being in a vulnerable group for example they should discuss concerns with the child’s school and the social worker and agree what is in the best interests of the child in the circumstances.
Do foster parents fall into the category of key workers? Foster parents are not defined as a key worker.
Some foster parents may be defined as a key worker if they have employment outside of fostering and fall into a defined category such as NHS worker.
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.
What is shielded isolation?

Shielded isolation is guidance for people, including children who are at very high risk of severe illness from the coronavirus due to an underlying health condition.

Individuals that fall into this category need to follow the shielding measures in order to keep themselves safe.

You will receive notification from the NHS and you are strongly advised to stay at home at all times and avoid any face to face contact for a period of at least 12 weeks.

This period could alter.
If you think you have developed symptoms of COVID-19 such as a new, continuous cough or fever, seek clinical advice using the NHS 111 online coronavirus service or call NHS 111. Do this as soon as you get symptoms.

If you have someone else living with you, they are not required to adopt these protective shielding measures for themselves. They should do what they can to support you in shielding and they should stringently follow guidance on social distancing, reducing their contact outside the home.

People falling into this extremely vulnerable group include:
Solid organ transplant recipients.
People with specific cancer:
people with cancer who are undergoing active chemotherapy or radical radiotherapy for lung cancer people with cancers of the blood or bone marrow such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma who are at any stage of treatment
people having immunotherapy or other continuing antibody treatments for cancer
people having other targeted cancer treatments which can affect the immune system, such as protein kinase inhibitors or PARP inhibitors
people who have had bone marrow or stem cell transplants in the last 6 months, or who are still taking immunosuppression drugs
People with severe respiratory conditions including all cystic fibrosis, severe asthma, and severe COPD.
People with rare diseases and inborn errors of metabolism that significantly increase the risk of infections (such as SCID, homozygous sickle cell).
People on immunosuppression therapies sufficient to significantly increase the risk of infection.
Women who are pregnant with significant heart disease, congenital or acquired.
 
For further information please click below
 
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-on-shielding-and-protecting-extremely-vulnerable-persons-from-covid-19/guidance-on-shielding-and-protecting-extremely-vulnerable-persons-from-covid-19