Keep foster families together through Covid-19, grant sick pay to foster carers.
Working on lockdown in our homes, a hidden army of 55,000 foster care workers care 24/7 for around 65,000 children. With nearly all fostered children no longer in school and all respite cancelled, we have been left alone on the frontline, charged with seeing the UK’s most vulnerable children through the Covid-19 pandemic. We are stepping up to the task but we need sick pay provision and we need it now.
Every day the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) is receiving phone calls from foster carers ill with this virus and having to make the terrible decision to ask for help with the care of their fostered child. This will usually mean that the child will be moved to another household on a temporary basis and their main carer will lose all their pay. Choosing between your own health, the wellbeing of your foster child and the need to pay their bills is a choice too many foster carers are faced with in this pandemic.
Foster care workers are amongst the lowest paid workers in the UK. We have not been identified as key workers and are classified as self-employed. We will not benefit from any of the government’s financial support schemes. The vast majority of fostering providers do not pay us when we are ill and that’s why we’re demanding access to Statutory Sick Pay.
With lockdown placing increased stress on all families and reports of increasing abuse, many more children will enter the care system over the coming weeks. Foster care workers will be expected to take more children into our homes, intentionally exposing ourselves and our families to the virus. We want to rise to that challenge, we know our work is not just more challenging but more important now than ever – but we need at least the support of sick pay if we fall ill. There is already a severe national shortage of foster care workers and the lack of sick pay provision is driving even more people out of the sector.
“In this pandemic, the denial of sick pay to foster care workers threatens to plunge us into poverty and rob the children in our care of a home to come back to. With a six week wait for universal credit, any foster care workers who become ill and self-isolate risk destitution. They may be unable to pay essential bills and if they lose their home, where is that fostered child going to go home to?” – Jane Wright
The Foster Care Workers Branch of the IWGB has long campaigned for rights for foster care workers. It’s not just a job, it’s one of the most important jobs in the world. Those who do it deserve basic employment rights like a guaranteed minimum wage, holiday pay and sick pay.
Help guarantee stability for the UK’s most vulnerable children and security for those who care for them. Please sign and share to help foster families get through this crisis, together.