The impact Covid-19 has had on the care sector

Covid-19 rattled through every industry in a devastating manner, some places of work were unable to reopen and many are still feeling the effects to this day. We hear about this every day. But we don’t talk about the places of work that remained open, to provide essential services to those who needed it. One industry that doesn’t get to clock out is the care industry.  

Key workers

Our key workers sacrificed so much during the pandemic, from isolating in care homes for weeks on end, unable to see their own families, and having to deal with the emotional trauma the entire pandemic created amongst young people. Caring for young people is no easy task, therefore, it is no surprise that over 5,0000 foster care workers left their employment, a 16% increase from the year before (UK Parliment, 2021). The impact on staffing levels following the pandemic is one of concern, without a fully staffed and resourced workforce, there is a risk of not being able to meet obligations as individuals, teams and care providers. 

Covid's impact on children

Despite the removal of lockdowns and masks in public places, children in care are still suffering from the consequences of such an isolating and uncertain period in history. For children in care, it was an exceptionally tough time. For many children living in care, school is their safe space, their opportunity to match their peers and to have a sense of ‘normality’. During lockdown, this safe space was taken away. Visits were cut in March 2020, remaining family, social workers, and friends were no longer permitted inside homes. Everyone was isolated, but for young people who have already been through so much, it was felt 10 times more.  The pandemic also brought an influx of cases to the system from young people in either unsafe situations or whose family situation deteriorated due to hospitalisation or loss of key carers. The impact of this influx is still felt today. More than 1 in 5 foster parents have considered quitting their role in fostering and 27% have expressed reluctance or inability to continue fostering due to fears of covid infection. With fewer foster carers and the backlog of court hearings, means more children are unable to leave the system.

Government focus

However, there is hope on the horizon. At the time of writing, England has lifted all covid related restrictions, with the rest of the U.K. looking likely to follow suit. This has provided an opportunity for policymakers’ minds to rightly begin to focus on the future. Specifically, the Governments notion on ‘levelling-up’. The pandemic has shone a light on, and widened, the inequalities that have been present in the UK for decades. Tackling these issues is complex and will require a focus on initiatives that can make a difference to the places and, importantly, groups, which have been left behind. Looked after children are one of these groups, and they deserve every opportunity as their peers receive.
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