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Salford Children's Services Procedures Manual Salford City Council website

3.13.5 Fostering Health and Safety Guidance


National Minimum Standards

Fostering Regulations 2011

Safe Caring Policy and Practice Guidance


This chapter was fully updated in April 2014 and includes links to related areas.


  1. Introduction
  2. Safety in the Home
  3. Car Safety
  4. General
  5. First Aid
  6. Hygiene
  7. Diet and Nutrition
  8. Building and Contents
  9. Accommodation, Bedroom Space and Sharing
  10. Reducing the Risk of Cot Death
  11. Household and Motor Insurance
  12. Alcohol
  13. Smoking
  14. Pets
  15. Television and DVD Watching
  16. Internet Use
  17. Foster Carer and Firearms
  18. Health and Safety Form

1. Introduction

The National Minimum Standards for Fostering Regulations 2011 require fostering services to make available foster carers who provide a safe, healthy and nurturing environment.

To enable this process and as part of the foster carers approval, all agencies need to be satisfied that their foster carers provide suitable accommodation that is safe and nurturing to care for children in the looked after system. The family placement social worker will be required to complete a Health and Safety questionnaire during the assessment process and annually thereafter.

Family placement social workers should complete the recommendations and actions following the completed Health and Safety assessment with foster carers.

There is also a duty for family placement social workers to consider the Health and Safety Standards of any second homes including holiday homes.

The following guidance has been prepared to highlight some areas of concern, and to assist carers in providing a safe and healthy environment for foster children.

1.2 Facts

  • More accidents happen when people are in a hurry, under stress, or in unfamiliar surroundings;
  • Falls are the most common cause of accidental injury to children and young people. Every year, almost 400,000 children are rushed to casualty after a fall at home or in the garden. Whilst most falls are not serious, some can have long-term consequences;
  • Half of all childhood accidental injuries occur at home and in the garden. Ponds pose a particular risk for babies, toddlers and young children. 2”of water can be dangerous;
  • Collisions with a person or object are the second most common type of accidental home injury and the only one where injury rates are approximately the same for children of all ages. Typically these injuries happen when children run into objects, run into each other or are struck by a falling object;
  • Burns and scalds are the third most common type of home injury. Burns and scalds particularly affect babies and very young children, with scalds from hot drinks being the most common cause;
  • Children grow and learn new skills rapidly. It is important that the adults who care for them know what risks each stage brings. It is impossible to childproof a home but knowledge of the potential for accidents and of effective safety measures can reduce the risk of serious injury.

(See Child Accident Prevention Trust 2009)

1.3 The Risks to Foster Children

There are number of reasons why children in foster carer are particularly at risk of accidents. Carer’s own children will be aware of the potential hazards in their house, as they will have grown up with them. Most foster children joining the household will wish to investigate their new surroundings and the absence of good safety measures will increase the risk of injury.

Some foster children may be developmentally immature and if this is not taken into account and assumptions are made about their abilities, they are likely to be more at risk from similar hazards than their peers. Others will not have received appropriate guidance in this area from their own parents and will be unaware of potential dangers.

A smaller but not insignificant number will have a tendency to self-harm and particular attention will be needed to minimise the potential risk to such children and discussions held with their social worker and family placement social worker.

The National Minimum Standards for Fostering Services require that the foster home and immediate environment are free of avoidable hazards that might expose a child to risk of injury or harm and contain safety barriers and equipment appropriate to the child’s age, development and level of ability. There is a requirement that the foster home is inspected annually to make sure that it meets the needs of foster children. This process will be completed during the annual review process.

The family placement social worker will have completed a health and safety check list during the assessment as part of the foster carer’s approval process. Any significant issues identified will be considered by the family placement social worker and line manager.

Your family placement social worker will update the checklist during the annual review process, or when such time as you move house, or carry out any structural work, or changes to your existing property.

2. Safety in the Home

There are a number of precautions which should be taken to ensure the safety of all members of your household. The following is a basic guide:

2.1 Fire precautions

  • Install a smoke alarm on each floor of your home. These are relatively cheap and easy to install;
  • Every foster home should have a fire evacuation plan in place and this should be discussed with any child or young person in placement;
  • Exit routes should always be kept clear of prams, toys and other obstacles and keys should be accessible.

2.2 Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide (CO) cannot be seen, smelt or tasted so you don’t know when it is present.

A build up of carbon monoxide can be extremely dangerous and cause a variety of symptoms, or even death. Foster carers must have a carbon monoxide tester present in their home.

2.3 Gardens and outside play

  • All accessible areas should be safe and secure for all children and young people within the household;
  • All hazards should be reduced and appropriate storage for garden equipment and insecticides should be locked away;
  • Water butts, ponds or streams should be netted, covered or fenced off;
  • Extreme caution must be exercised when using barbecues; these should never be left unattended;
  • Carers need to ensure that good supervision takes place in the garden areas, including play equipment such as trampolines, sand pits etc.

3. Car Safety

It is the driver’s responsibility to ensure that all passengers in the car use seat belts or appropriate child restraints. It is also the responsibility of the driver to ensure that passengers are carried safely and vehicles should not be overloaded. (See Safe Caring Policy and Practice Guidance)

Cars must be well maintained, regularly serviced, adequately insured and covered by a current MOT certificate if the age of the car requires it.

Car keys should not be accessible to children and young people and should always be stored safely and securely.

4. General

  • Matches and sharp knives should be stored safely;
  • Bleaches, disinfectants, aerosol sprays and other dangerous substances must be kept out of the reach of small children, or locked away. Cupboard locks should be used - age appropriate;
  • Medicines, tablets, cigarettes and alcohol should also be securely stored in a locked cupboard;
  • Stair gates must be fixed securely where appropriate;
  • Windows should be fitted with lock restrictors and keys should be kept at hand in case of emergencies;
  • Pull cords on window blinds can be a hazard to children and therefore should be reduce in length.

5. First Aid

Any accident or injury involving a foster child must be reported as soon as possible to the child’s social worker, family placement social worker and emergency duty team if it occurs outside of office hours. All accidents or injuries should also be recorded on a specific incident sheet and a copy should be given to the family placement social worker.

Most childhood accidents can be dealt with fairly easily although medical advice should be sought if carers have any doubts. It is advisable to keep a small first aid kit, which should ideally contain the following:

  • Assorted adhesive plasters;
  • Antiseptic wipes;
  • Safety pins;
  • Sterile eye pad;
  • Disposable triangular bandages.

Some children are allergic to certain ointments and lotions in common use and carers are advised to find out whether a child has any specific allergies at the beginning of a placement.

First aid training is provided by the family placement team and is being made more widely available for all foster carers to attend.

6. Hygiene

There is an expectation that the household and cleanliness of all adults and children in the foster home is an acceptable standard. Good hygiene standards prevent the spread of illness and infection. The risks of cross infections are higher for children moving between homes and this need to be recognised, particularly in relation to young children.

Hygiene standards should be maintained for all looked after children and young people, e.g. cuts and sores on the hands should be kept covered with waterproof, adhesive dressings. Hands need to be washed thoroughly or disposable gloves used when carrying out first aid procedures.

It is also important to keep cot mattresses clean and ensure that they fit well. Guidance suggests that cot mattresses should be changed wherever a new placement is made.

Where older children require assistance with personal care this should be discussed with the child or young person’s social worker and family placement social worker to agree an appropriate safe care plan.

7. Diet and Nutrition

It is important to promote a healthy lifestyle and for foster families to eat a varied and balanced diet. Food and meal times can be a source of tension for foster carers and eating disorders can create a great deal of worry. It is important for carers to recognise that foster children may come from different cultural backgrounds in terms of diet, and to recognise the need to be flexible and introduce new foods appropriately. Carers own attitude towards food, mealtimes and eating habits are extremely important and influential.

8. Building and Contents

Carers are expected to keep their homes in good repair, adequately insured and safe and hazard free for children. All glass that can be reached by children should be toughened to relevant British Safety Standards, or fitted with protective safety film. Electrical equipment should be well maintained and checked every five years. Gas fires, boilers and all other gas appliances should be regularly serviced by an appropriate qualified person. Portable electrical equipment should be safe and adequately maintained. Doors, windows and floor coverings should be safe and secure.

9. Accommodation, Bedroom Space and Sharing

See National Minimum Standard 10 and Section 4.15 in Safe Caring Policy and Practice Guidance.

Perhaps the most obvious consideration when assessing the appropriateness of the accommodation is the proposed sleeping arrangements for foster children. All children must have their own bed and bedrooms should be large enough to accommodate sufficient storage for the child’s personal possessions. It should also be large enough for the child to retreat for some private time if they wish, or to meet any specific need resulting from a disability.

Bedroom sharing is possible but will need to be carefully considered and a risk assessment completed. When considering the possibility of sharing bedrooms, social workers and foster carers will need to consider the ages and genders of children who will share, their relationship (e.g. siblings) the beds themselves (e.g. if it is proposed that bunk beds are used is this appropriate for the age of the child to be fostered?). The specific needs of children to be placed will also need to be considered - does one child practice a musical instrument, or is a child regularly waking up in the night distressed?

All carers will need to provide a safe care plan which will be reviewed during their annual review process.

10. Reducing the Risk of Cot Death

The Lullaby Trust (formally The Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths (FSID)) and the Department of Health and Social Care, provide the following advice to reduce the risk of cot death:

  • Do not let anyone smoke in the same room as the baby;
  • Do not let the baby get too hot (or too cold);
  • Keep the baby’s head uncovered;
  • Place the baby with their feet to the foot of the cot;
  • The safest place for a baby to sleep is in a cot in a room with the main carer for the first six months;
  • Do not share a bed with a baby;
  • If a baby is unwell, seek medical advice promptly.

Up to date advice is available from the Lullaby website, or you’re health visitor.

11. Household and Motor Insurance

Foster carers must ensure they have adequate household and motor insurance and notify their insurers they are fostering. Insurance companies will generally provide the same cover as for any other member of the household, but this will usually exclude cover for deliberate acts of damage by children. If such damage occurs and is not covered by your own insurers or there is an excess payment on the policy, you should advise your family placement social worker immediately after the damage has occurred, so that reimbursement can be requested.

12. Alcohol

(See Salford Community Alcohol Team)

It is expected that foster carers alcohol intake does not exceed current recommended safety limits of no more than 21 units of alcohol per week (and no more than four units in any one day) for men, and no more than 14 units of alcohol per week (and no more than 3 units in any one day) for women. One unit is equivalent of half a pint of ordinary strength beer, lager or cider, a small glass of wine or single pub measure of spirits.

Children and young people may have experienced trauma and abuse associated with alcohol use so it is vital that carers have full background knowledge of the child, and are sensitive to the child’s perception of adult drinking patterns and behaviour. We expect foster carers to understand their responsibility for modelling sensible use of alcohol at all times to children and young people.

13. Smoking

Due to the high health risks associated with smoking, the department has a clear smoking policy for foster carers. It states that children under 5 will be placed with non-smoking families and foster carers homes must be smoke free environment. Cessation support is available for foster carers and looked after young people who smoke. Please see Salford’s fostering smoking policy for more details.

14. Pets

Pets can be important members of the household and can bring benefits for children of all ages who grow with them. There is however a number of health risks associated with household pets. They can also injure and cause emotional distress to children unfamiliar with animals or who have had negative experiences of them.

Children and animals are unpredictable. Household pets are expected to be well looked after and children should be taught to behave responsibility towards animals. Foster children must not take responsibility for pets or be left alone with them.

It is expected that basic animal welfare such as regular worming of domestic pets will be undertaken. Pets’ housing, sleeping and toileting arrangements, routines and training must be carefully considered, and good hygiene standards observed.

Information about your pets is important when it comes to making decisions about placements, e.g. if a child or young person has asthma. You must keep your family placement social worker informed of any changes.

The presence of certain dogs in a household will need to be carefully considered and may be incompatible with fostering. See Dangerous Dogs Guidance. It will be necessary for family placement social worker to undertake an assessment of foster carer’s pets.

For more information please refer to “Child abuse, Animal Abuse and Domestic Violence,” information for Professionals (NSPCC)

15. Television and DVD Watching

Carers have a responsibility to all children in their care about the content and amount of television they view, in the same way as you take responsibility for other important and influential aspects of a child’s life. Establishing house rule about viewing will help reduce conflict.

Guidelines for carers

  • Be alert to the programmes children are watching and ensure they do not watch programmes rated for older children;
  • Limit the use of all media, such as no TV or video games before school, during meals, or before homework is done;
  • Don’t make TV the focal point of the house;
  • Cable viewers should ensure that parental controls are implemented to stop children and young people accessing inappropriate content.

NB The use of CCTV within the foster home is not acceptable.

16. Internet Use

(See also Section 4.9 in Safe Caring Policy and Practice Guidance)

Whether children in your care are experienced computer users or just getting started they need your involvement, experience and guidance so that you can make sure their experience of the internet is educational and enjoyable while safeguarding them from potential hazards. Not all of us are familiar with computers and the internet. As a responsible carer you should know about the possible hazards and how to deal with them. Remember that it is important to be aware of how many devices have internet access within the foster home such as mobile phones, tablets, T.Vs and games consoles etc, so its not just the computer you need to consider.

Salford City Council have their own policy on internet usage, they also provide foster carers with training to promote safe usage and encourage children and young people to remain safe.

17. Foster Carers and Firearms

Prospective foster carers must disclose if they hold or have access to firearms. The family placement social worker must see where all guns and ammunition are stored. These must be separately secured in such a way that they cannot be accessed by children or young people. Foster carers must not involve children or young people in their care in any activities involving the use of firearms. As part of the foster carer’s review of approval, the security of arms and ammunition and the ownership of a current firearms certificate will be verified. The inspection of storage of firearms must be part of any unannounced visit.

18. Health and Safety Form

This will need to be updated for every new placement to represent the individual child in placement or annually as part of the foster carer review.