Why staff being laid off should be signposted to fostering

With many firms currently making job cuts, Helen Gardner explains why the option of becoming a foster carer should be highlighted and offers tips on how HR professionals can broach the idea

As economic, employment and mental health crises gather pace as a result of the Covid pandemic, organisations across all sectors are being forced to deal with redundancies, downsizing, pay cuts and outplacements – at speed and on an unprecedented scale. 

As a result of this volatile environment, employees will be feeling extremely vulnerable and will be looking for job and income security. In contrast to most sectors of the economy, which are contracting, demand for foster carers is on the rise as the pandemic continues and more young people enter the care system. According to Department for Education figures, looked after children numbers increased by 4 per cent in 2018-19. And, anecdotally, experts predict another rise this year.

Once the downturn subsides, organisations will be known – and judged – for how well they supported their employees’ emotional wellbeing throughout the crisis. HR professionals have a duty to demonstrate that they care about the staff they are exiting and that their wellbeing is at the heart of the business. They have a duty to ensure their self-esteem remains intact and that they are informed of the options available for securing an alternative career.

So how can HR professionals appropriately signpost fostering as an option at this difficult time?

Becoming a foster carer may be an ‘unknown’ that employees have never considered before, so make a point of widening their thought processes through open discussion. Video calls are the next best thing to face-to-face meetings, so allow time for ‘options’ discussions to be scheduled and be clear about what these will cover.  

Help individuals to explore their skillset, motivations and how they feel about different alternatives. If they are a parent, they are likely to have developed skills such as resilience, organisation, communication and entertaining – if they love doing this, could they consider fostering as a potential career?

Knowledge is power, so include a factsheet about fostering in a company-wide redundancy package for employees, highlighting foster care as a viable option.

Some benefits worth highlighting to people include:

  • Fostering provides the opportunity to make a real difference to young people and transform their futures.
  • It provides a steady income. While the primary motivation for people to become foster carers is to make a difference to the lives of vulnerable children and young people, nevertheless payments of around £22,000 per looked after child make fostering a viable alternative. A generous fostering tax allowance of £10,000, in addition to the personal tax allowance, plus around £200-£250 per week per child, makes the role of foster carer equivalent to earning £25,000 per annum per child looked after.
  • Foster care is a vocation that comes with huge personal rewards – nine out of 10 carers would willingly recommend the National Fostering Group. 
  • Fostering provides a work/life balance and allows people to spend more time with their children at home – this is important to highlight given the pandemic may have prompted them to re-evaluate what is important. 
  • It comes with fantastic opportunities for personal and professional development. The National Fostering Group provides ongoing training, professional and peer support networks and excellent benefits.

Employers will need to provide realistic timescales for this transition, however. Changing career direction often entails new training, which can take time and money – a luxury many employees are unlikely to have in the current crisis. 

However, the National Fostering Group has developed a fast-track application programme to reduce the assessment time to eight or 12 weeks from 28 weeks. It’s designed specifically for candidates who can dedicate the necessary time to the registration process – those who have been furloughed, lost their job because of the pandemic or retired, or are contemplating an alternative career. It uses virtual platforms to speed up the process and give the prospective carer more flexibility to join assessment sessions and training at a time that suits them. It also incorporates visits, preparation, foster training, home visits and local authority and police checks and references, so the safety and protection of children is not compromised.

To find out more visit fostercarers.com 

Helen Gardner is an HR business partner at Outcomes First Group