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Our response to ITV News’ report on the effects the pandemic has had on foster carers

An ITV News report yesterday revealed that 1 in 5 foster carers considered quitting fostering as a consequence of the Covid19 pandemic. This news is alarming. With a drastic shortage of foster carers prior to the pandemic, we cannot risk losing the highly-skilled, dedicated carers who make a significant difference to the lives of vulnerable children and young people.

The news suggests that the lack of support from the Government has left carers feeling “exploited and ignored”. In the article published on ITV’s website, it suggested the slow response to the pandemic has had a real impact on carers’ lives and roles, sometimes causing them to quit. Strong concerns have been raised about the safety and welfare of carers during this time. We urge Local Authorities, and others, to take notice and hear what carers are saying and take action to support them in these critical roles.

These headlines prompted us to share a video we released last year. The video highlights the crucial role our carers play as critical workers – traversing roles of carers, mums, dads, cooks, cleaners and teachers. Last year we shared this video with the world to show how proud we are of all of our carers. We felt it was important today to remind every foster carer, at Five Rivers Child Care and elsewhere, what a special role they play in turning children’s lives around.

We have all had to adapt rapidly to continue working safely with children and young people and we are proud of how our carers have responded to the pandemic. It has been an incredibly testing year and our carers have responded with resilience and absolute dedication.

Here’s a snapshot of the steps we have taken to keep our carers safe:

  • Moving online: the safety and wellbeing of all of our carers is paramount. As a consequence we moved all gatherings, one-to-one and group interactions online. We did not ask any carers to meet with us face-to-face but maintained our commitment to ensuring there was time for regular supervision, support sessions and discussion to work together by moving everything online.
  • Testing: we rolled out lateral flow tests as soon as we could and gave carers regular access to the tests to make sure they could manage new children arriving safely.
  • Support groups: we have a dedicated therapeutic team who regularly works with our carers and young people. We asked our Psychologists to work with our carers to support them with any additional challenges they may be facing as a result of the pandemic, or with any anxieties they may have of their own concerning their health and wellbeing.
  • Home schooling: our carers were supported by our education teams from our specialist schools. Our teachers provided resources to help our foster carers with home schooling and worked with carers to support them in their role as it changed and adapted over the year.
  • Clap for carers: we wanted to recognise our carers, just as we did NHS staff, so we regularly clapped for our carers to raise awareness of their vocation and to thank them for the incredible work they do.
  • Thank you gestures: throughout the year we have shown our gratitude, sending Christmas Hampers, for example. A small, but important gesture.
  • Care Day: we prioritised celebrating our children and young people as part of our annual Care Day celebrations. We didn’t let the pandemic deter us, we ran our biggest online celebration yet with carers attending from all over England and Ireland.

We were reassured in a recent workshop as we heard from our carers about how supported they have been in their roles, despite the most challenging of times. We continue to seek feedback from our carers about how we can support them in their roles – we know there’s always more we can do.

Martin Leitch, Head of Fostering Operations, said: “It’s important to note, that whilst we have made all these adjustments to support our carers, we absolutely see this way of working as second best. We wouldn’t work like this in usual circumstances, but the safety and wellbeing of our carers is at the heart of our decision-making around how to navigate and work in these uncertain times. Being a foster carer is a unique role and having someone to talk to and a solid support network is more important now than ever before. We look forward to moving safely back to working how we used to, where we can see one another face-to-face as it’s a much better and more personal way of working.”

Our carers have opened their hearts and homes and played such an important role in helping children and young people get through some of the toughest times. Our carers have shown strength, resilience, compassion, and care. Thank you for standing by those who need you.

If you’re interested in finding out more about fostering with us, please book a call today to find out more about this rewarding vocation. 

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