Foster carers have a particularly well-developed understanding of what social workers are engaged in day-to-day. They are, after all, working with a shared objective: to ensure the safety and well being of some of the most vulnerable children and young people in the country. It’s a huge responsibility. And it has been tested of late in ways that no one could have imagined at the start of the year. The coronavirus pandemic has brought a unique set of pressures and challenges for foster carers and social workers. The pressures to safeguard vulnerable children whilst observing social distancing have been unprecedented. There has been the need to help foster carers embrace technology so they can participate in online meetings as well as support children learning remotely. For the last six months, foster carers and social workers have been inhabiting an altogether different world.
The British Association of Social Workers celebrated its fiftieth anniversary this June. This year has been a point in time when the profession has had to cope with the challenges posed by coronavirus. Social workers have had to deal with their own worries in relation to personal safety whilst attempting to safeguard vulnerable children (the same, it has to be said, applies to foster carers). For social workers, this has been on top of the usual background pressures of dealing with a lack of resources as well as staffing shortages. Social workers have all too often had to deal with an attitude from the public that can be described as indifferent. Despite the vital work they do, just like foster carers, they can all-too-easily find themselves under scrutiny following a scandal. Bad news travels fast and is always likely to eclipse the sterling efforts made by social workers and foster carers day-in-day-out. But there may be some positive consequences from the pandemic. If a survey being run by the BASW is anything to go by, social workers have become more vocal as a result of the experiences they have undergone during the lockdown. The chief executive of the BASW, Ruth Allen, is of the opinion there are now positive changes afoot that will alter social work in the coming years. These are in four main areas: public support, mental health practice, adapting to a new normal and working conditions.
Much of the change will be driven by ‘visibility’. Over the weeks of the lockdown, everyone has applauded the efforts of those perceived to be on the frontline of this crisis. Members of the general public have been forced to confront personal risk and mortality. This is a climate where people are nervous. Appreciation, awareness and support for social workers and the concerns they express, is only likely to grow. There will be plenty of media attention over the next few months as the number of referrals grows: a trend which is likely to be dramatic. And foster care agencies will be on the front line. Over eighty-five per cent of respondents to the BASW survey predicts this will probably begin impacting when youngsters return to school in September. Much of mental health practice and social work will become closely allied. As a society, we all have to come to terms with the experiences of coronavirus during 2020. This will not be a short term process. Vulnerable groups and particular communities have been traumatised. It will be social workers who provide the necessary framework for recovery. Specialist mental health social work will increase and become more influential. The spread, sharing and growth of expertise is likely to have a galvanising effect. The government will be under pressure to address funding gaps and provide more support to local authorities. The pandemic has acted as something of a reset button. Society now has a different trajectory. Community values have come to mean something tangible over recent months so the idea of paying lip service to certain aspirations we should all have, has been tempered. This is something very different from abstract ideas of what it is to care. Everyone in the country has witnessed compassion in action: the kind of care and values foster carers and social workers embody. The ground is likely to remain fertile for an improvement in social worker’s conditions. Especially if the opinions of Ruth Allen are anything to go by:
“When public health strategy and national government decisions are scrutinised, the role of social workers in recovery and future emergency and public health planning will be recognised. There can be no effective public health strategy without social health, and social workers are crucial to the health of the nation.”
The same can be said of the nation’s foster carers. It is a sad fact that far too many children are destined to become fostered. This is a harsh reality but we can soften its effects through applying social justice. Society cannot be at ease with itself if its most vulnerable members – looked after children – have drastically reduced prospects measured against their peers. There needs to be a similar reappraisal of the work done by the nation’s foster carers on our behalf. The pandemic has seen the forging of new kinds of relationships between foster carers and social workers and this is a strength to be carried forward into the future. Coronavirus has brought about social distancing but paradoxically we have been drawn together into a closer understanding of what it is to be mutually interdependent.
Foster with Rainbow – get in touch today.
Rainbow Fostering is looking for families who want to provide a loving home for vulnerable children and teenagers. Or children with complex needs. We want individuals committed to sharing their lives and supporting children – many of whom are traumatised when they come into care. Foster carers can be any gender, race, ethnicity or sexual orientation. They can be married, cohabiting, single or divorced. To foster you must have a spare room available in your house or flat for the exclusive use of a child or young person. You do not have to be a homeowner.
Right now, there are fostering opportunities in Rainbow Fostering London; Rainbow Fostering Birmingham; Rainbow Fostering Manchester and Rainbow Fostering Hampshire. Call our National Line 0330 311 2845.
Please visit our FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) page. This provides a lot of general information about fostering – http://rainbowfostering.co.uk/frequent-asked-questions/ And for a blog on fostering recruitment –
To make sure you and your family remain safe, please visit the site below for the latest advice and guidance – https://www.health-ni.gov.uk/coronavirus