Protect children and young people by prioritising foster carer vaccination

The UK’s foster carers should be prioritised in the roll out of the Covid-19 vaccination programme to be able to keep providing the best possible care for the children that they look after.
With the coronavirus vaccine rollout underway The Fostering Network is urging UK governments to make sure foster carers are near the front of the queue. 
Foster carers are required to meet social workers and other professionals as part of the care they offer to young people. Most fostered children also meet with birth families on a regular basis to ensure relationships can be maintained. As a result, many foster carers and their families are exposed to multiple households which increases the risk of contracting the virus. However, despite this risk, the vast majority have continued to provide loving, stable and nurturing homes for some of society's most vulnerable children.
More than a third (35 per cent) of foster carers are under 50 years old and therefore won’t be covered by the initial stage of the vaccination programme. However, they, alongside their social care colleagues, provide an essential role in our society and need to be protected.
Kevin Williams, chief executive of The Fostering Network, said: ‘We believe foster carers should be part of the second phase of vaccinations given to those at ‘high risk of exposure and/or those delivering key public services. 
‘Throughout the pandemic, governments in the UK have taken steps to ensure foster carers can continue to care for children, such as giving foster carers access to priority testing, so we don’t see why offering vaccination should be any different?
'The number of children entering the care system has increased dramatically in the last few years. Foster carers look after the vast majority (78 per cent) of children in care, so recruitment and retention of foster carers is vital. This ensures that children who cannot live with their own families are placed in a loving and stable home where they can thrive.
‘We are getting worrying reports from local authorities in our membership that they are currently struggling to place children in foster care, and this is directly due to the pandemic.
‘Foster carers perform a vital role that we as a society, but most importantly the children coming into care, simply cannot do without.’