Foster care provision has always operated in a landscape where there is inequality and vulnerability. If levels of these increase, there will be a corresponding rise in the need for more foster homes. The year 2020 started with a shortfall of around 9,000 foster families – an increase on the 2018 figure which stood at 8,100. So, there was a challenge even before the effects of the pandemic took hold. Early in the lockdown, everyone was concerned with avoiding the virus. We were having to live through a period that felt as unprecedented as every media pundit told us it was. There was also a sense that as the country was on hold any other concerns could; like the proverbial tin, be kicked down the road. Now we are in June, the future is becoming more discernible. And, as we are running out of road, it looks far from encouraging. And now our worse fears look like being confirmed: The Institute for Fiscal Studies is warning that the effects of the pandemic will be to widen inequality.
Foster carers deal with the results of inequality every day. Many children come into care suffering from neglect. A significant number also have mental health issues. Being a foster carer is challenging enough. The people that do it need to depend on high-quality support. Not just day-to-day from IFAs or local authorities, but NHS services. Far too many young people were struggling to get timely support from CAMHS before the pandemic. Worrying numbers failed to access this service altogether. The IFS is warning that lockdown measures combined with pressures on the National Health Service, will hit the most vulnerable hardest. And this tied to the most serious economic downturn since records began. The consequences for public health will be serious and wide-ranging. Others are warning that it will be the poor and disadvantaged in society who bear the brunt of the crisis. The health and wellbeing of children from poor backgrounds could be seriously compromised. An IFS research economist, Heidi Karjalainen said –
“low-income families were among groups vulnerable to the economic shutdown and long-term impact on mental and physical health. By making sure that the groups that are most at risk are also protected from the negative effects of a downturn, the government can help minimise the long-run detrimental health impacts that would otherwise occur.”
We can all probably agree on one thing: the use of the term unprecedented has become unprecedented. Despite most of us becoming inured to its use, there is one context its use demands we sit up and take notice: the economy. In April, UK GDP fell by a record 20.4%. This collapse set against the previous month was the since monthly records began in 1997. A disturbing statement from the Bank of England suggested that the pandemic could result in unemployment leaping from four per cent to 9 per cent. This translates into an additional 1.5 million people becoming unemployed. The scale of this economic downturn will impact hardest on the jobs and financial security of low-income families. There are estimates that point to a one per cent fall in employment leading to a two per cent increase in chronic illness. This could result in more than 900,000 people of working age going on to develop a chronic health condition. This is according to the IFS.
Behind these statistics, there will be a huge number of families in desperate straits. This will translate into marital break-up, domestic violence and a range of pressures that will inevitably lead to more children and young people coming into care. And this at a time when there is already a significant shortfall in the number of fostering families needed. If only the conclusions of the Fostering Stocktake had included elevating the status of foster carers. And followed this with a publicly funded campaign aimed at attracting new recruits. Doing this might have meant an increase in the numbers of foster carers becoming available. And they are certainly needed now: it has been reported by ITV News that the number of children needing foster care has “risen 44% during coronavirus epidemic.” The charity, Barnardo’s, stated that at the same time the number of people enquiring about becoming foster carers has fallen by almost half – down 47% – compared to the same two-month period last year. The chief executive at Barnardo’s, Javed Khan, stated –
“The coronavirus pandemic has hit vulnerable families the hardest, with many reaching crisis point.”
Rainbow is recruiting!
The children in our care are as unique as you. They all have different needs just like you. We all have different experiences, skills and abilities. Life will have taught us many things – valuable lessons we can pass on. At Rainbow, we are interested in what you have to offer a child. That is what matters most. It will determine if a child will thrive in your care. We will need to know your age, marital status, religious belief, ethnicity, sexuality and if you are a homeowner or not. But these are facts and circumstances about yourself. They do not tell us if you have the passion, resilience and commitment to support and shape the life of a child. To be at their side through the good times and bad. And then be unwavering in sharing their dreams, hopes and aspirations. If you can do this, we will be with you each step of the way helping to fashion your new life – just as you will be fashioning theirs.
More children and young people are coming into care every day. The reasons are often complex and can be harrowing. Therefore, very sadly, so many come to us traumatised by their experiences. And this is challenging. It is why we train and support our foster carers to be consummate professionals in their outlook and approach. Because we do this so well, Ofsted has rated us ‘Outstanding’ in all areas.
Call 0330 311 2845 to start your fostering journey.
New foster carers needed in London; Rainbow Fostering Birmingham; Rainbow Fostering Manchester and Rainbow Fostering Hampshire – contact one of our offices to start your fostering career today
The rules and guidance in relation to the coronavirus pandemic are changing – especially now the lockdown is slowly being eased. To make sure you and your family remain safe please visit – https://www.health-ni.gov.uk/coronavirus Also, people considering fostering always have a great many questions: we recommend visiting our FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) page – http://rainbowfostering.co.uk/frequent-asked-questions/ And for an interesting blog, we can recommend – http://rainbowfostering.co.uk/fostering-teenage-experience/