Children should not carry the cost of this crisis

By Jenny Coles | 02 June 2020

Foster carers play a vital role in the care system, providing loving homes for the overwhelming majority of children in our care.

We are incredibly grateful to our foster carers all year round but now more than ever it feels important to pause and say thank you for the important contribution they continue to make to children’s lives in these challenging times. Often foster carers do not get the recognition they deserve, so I really welcome the recent letter from the secretary of state for education and children’s minister to foster carers acknowledging their vital role in supporting vulnerable children and young people during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The letter touched on several important areas such as PPE and testing for foster families and it reiterated the message that schools remain open for children in care unless they have underlying health conditions that put them at higher risk than others.

Local authorities and schools continue to work with parents and carers to encourage eligible children to attend school wherever possible. Following the Government’s announcement that schools can start to admit more pupils from this week at the earliest, local areas have been working towards this and continue to explore how it can be done safely. Building layouts, pupil numbers and the availability of outside space will differ in every school as will local and regional infection rates so it’s understandable that local arrangements will not look the same.

Central government is loosening the purse strings to support the UK throughout the outbreak, the emergency funding being made available to councils is very welcome, however, it falls well short of what is needed and this funding is for the full breadth of council services, not just children’s services. Local authorities remain committed to supporting those who have been affected by COVID-19, but tough decisions will have to be made about what they can and cannot do.

The Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) is absolutely clear in our conversations with the Government: more funding is needed to cover the costs incurred by councils to keep communities safe throughout the COVID-19 outbreak and children’s services need a long-term sustainable funding settlement to allow us to strategically plan and invest in services for children and their families. Children should not bear the brunt of this crisis, surely the UK has learned lessons from how austerity has already disproportionately affected them?

Jenny Coles is ADCS president 2020/21 and director of children’s services at Hertfordshire CC

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