Dear Foster Carers,
The impact of the Coronavirus is being felt in our families and communities across the UK and all over the world. I can reassure you that the UK Fostering Team will continue to everything we can to support and guide you through these difficult times.
Since my last email to you just a few days ago, our lives and routines change at a pace which was previously unthinkable. Restaurants, Pubs and Leisure Centres are closed, schools have been shut. Whilst we have no choice but to adjust, we can continue to help each other and look out for those who are most vulnerable.
The current message from our government is clear and simple: Stay at Home, Save Lives. This is an essential part of helping the NHS to cope with the impending rise of patients requiring intensive care and saving lives.
What was unthinkable a few weeks ago has now been decided by the Government: Schools are closed. This will affect all of our foster carers in several ways. Below, I outline the initial thoughts and actions by UK Fostering in relation to the school closures. These will be further developed over the next few weeks and months.
Which children can access school provisions
There has been some confusion about which children should and can continue to access schools. It is imperative to recognise and accept that the schools were closed for one reason alone: To help slow down the spread of the virus. These principles apply:
- ‘…the most recent scientific advice on how to further limit the spread of COVID-19 is clear: If children can stay safely at home, they should, to limit the chance of the virus spreading.’ (DfE, Guidance for schools, childcare providers, colleges and local authorities in England on maintaining educational provision Published 19 March 2020)
- ‘Every child who can be safely cared for at home should be.’ (DfE Guidance on: Closure of educational settings: information for parents and carers, Updated 20 March 2020)
This means that children should be cared for at home wherever possible, even children from critical workers (nurses, doctors, frontline workers, delivery drivers, etc). And the same applies for Looked After Children, but where this is impossible, schools offer provisions for looked after children. You would need to discuss this with your SSW.
Keeping the children at home
This is a big deal and a big ask. It’s a massive task for any family and an unprecedented move, never before has this been done. Lots more details need to come from your local schools to explain how this is going to work. This includes clarification on how teachers remain in contact with you and the children, what coursework do they need to complete, how do they access their work, what is expected of you, etc.
Lots of questions, few answers at this point. Please give it a few days, so that your school can figure out how they are going to resolve these points.
Help from UK Fostering and other sources
There are several initiatives (new and old) which we are planning to assist and help you during the school closure. Work has started on our side, please bear with us for a bit though. What we have come up with so far includes the following:
- Resource Library: From UK Fostering we are putting together a resource library which you will be able to access through our website. It will include sites for academic work for all age groups and subjects, reading, entertainment, information, games, etc.
- BBC Bitesize: The government is working with the BBC to expand this website to have daily new content/schoolwork. This will include material for all school ages and topics, including documentaries. You can have a look what there is so far: https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize
- Independent Counselling Helpline: This is to remind you that all foster carers of UK Fostering are members of FOSTER TALK. Through them, we offer support on a number if topics including counselling for foster carers. This could be for issues which you would like to discuss in confidence with someone independent. They can be contacted on 0121 758 5013. The same number can also put you through to a financial advisor. This is at no cost to you and you can use these services for anyone living in your household, including adult children.
- Helpline for children and young people: We are considering on how we could set up a helpline for our children and young people (birth children and looked after children). Its very early das for this idea, but watch this space.
- Newsletter: In addition to our existing Newsletter, we are starting to work on a publication specific for this abnormal time. The idea is that it comes out frequently and provides some uplifting and positive stories and light entertainment.
- Window to the World: Whilst we are largely confined to our houses, it will be important that ‘Social Distancing’ can lead to ‘Distant Socialising’. We have a number of ideas which include that children and carers can share their own stories, talk of their joys and challenges during these challenging times. We are exploring a ‘Story Telling Project where someone may be presenting uplifting and encouraging stories for young and old. We may even encourage children and carers to come up with their own stories and share them through the Window to the World. I hope we can tell you more about this idea soon.
- Netflix: This is something we can implement quickly hence we offer this now. During these challenging times of self-isolation and social distancing, UK Fostering is offering 3 months free Netflix subscription to all foster families. It may just give you or the children a little break and make life a little easier for an hour or two. We will be purchasing E-vouchers on your behalf that can be used to open a Netflix account (can be cancelled at any time). Or if you already have a Netflix account, you can use the voucher towards your upcoming bills. If you would like to take up this offer please send a request to you Supervising Social Worker by the 27th March when the vouchers will be purchased. We are also looking into other resources which we may be able to organise and provide for you.
These are not normal times. Nothing much is normal at the moment. But we will get back to what is familiar and dear to us. At this moment and time, lets do everything we can NOW, that when we look back, we can be proud of ourselves. Please look out for each other, the children in your life, the vulnerable people in your community. UK Fostering is only ever a phone call away. If you are worried or concerned, need a chat, please pick up the phone and ring your Social Worker. We have fantastic people working for us, and together we will get through the next day, and the one after that, and so on.
THANK YOU for your humanity and solidarity.