PRAISE has been given to foster carers in Hartlepool for standing up and doing a ‘valuable and important job’ despite increased pressures due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Councillors on Hartlepool Borough Council Children’s Services Committee said they were fortunate to have so many dedicated foster carers in the town, after receiving an update on fostering numbers from July to September 2020.

They also agreed to write to the authority’s fostering panel, who have to examine and approve any new carers who come forward, to thank them for their continued work during the time.

Council officers said Covid-19 continues to have a significant influence on the foster service, with an increase in children becoming looked after during this time, rising from 328 in June, to 360 in September.

Cllr Lesia Smith, chair of the children’s services committee, praised the work of foster carers in the town, especially during this difficult time.

She said: “I do take my hat off to the foster carers, the way that they’ve been able to deal with the pandemic and put the children first, I think it’s an absolutely fantastic organisation.”

She also backed calls to write a letter of thanks to the fostering panel for the ‘valuable and important job’ they have done, especially during this time.

Cllr Brenda Harrison, who sits on both the children’s services committee and the fostering panel, also praised the work of all those involved.

She said: “It’s a privilege to be on the panel, there’s an awful lot of reading to do, but it’s really worth all the work and effort that’s put in, they are a very committed group.

“The whole fostering service needs acknowledging for the fantastic work that they do anyway, but they have stepped up to the plate, social workers have had to be very creative in the ways they’ve dealt with families and children.

“It’s really a privilege to be part of that, but a big acknowledgement to the whole service for the fantastic work that they do.

“The fact that they [foster cares] are still coming forward at this time is a credit to those people.”

Council officers said there had been ‘positive movements in terms of foster carer recruitment’ during the period with campaigns being run, and new potential carers starting to go through the process of enquiring and applying.

Jane Young, council assistant director for children’s and families, said it has been a busy year for everyone involved with caring for children.

She said: “It’s been a very busy year for children looked after, we’ve certainly felt the impact of Covid.

“It’s been a challenging year for children’s services as a whole but in particular for children looked after.

“It’s credit to our foster carers, they’ve definitely stood up during this pandemic and supported us really well.

“Despite a significant increase of children looked after, the vast majority have remained within our in-house fostering service, which is something that we’ve always tried to achieve.”