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6.2.4 Fostering Panel Guidance

AMENDMENT

This chapter was amended in May 2012 relation to the Fostering Services Regulations and National Minimum Standards 2011. It should be re-read in its entirety.

RELATED CHAPTER

Fostering Panel Procedure

Also see the Brighton and Hove Fostering and Adoption website.


Contents

  1. Aims and Objectives
  2. Membership of the Central List
  3. Advisors to the Fostering Panel
  4. Role and Function of Fostering Panel
  5. Operation of Fostering Panel Meetings
  6. Confidentiality
  7. Notification of Panel Decisions
  8. Representations
  9. Decisions Regarding Approval Outside the Panel
  10. Training
  11. Review


1. Aims and Objectives

The aim of the Brighton and Hove Fostering Panel is to oversee the provision of quality Fostering, Family and Friends (Connected Person) Care, Supported Lodgings and Family Link Services to children and young people Looked After by the local authority.

The role of the Panel is to make recommendations regarding the approval, review and termination of approval of foster carers, and Supported Lodgings and Family Link Carers. All recommendations will be made in accordance with the Children Act 1989, the Fostering Services Regulations and National Minimum Standards 2011 and departmental policy.

The Panel will be rigorous in monitoring quality standards and will contribute to the development of good practice.

The Panel will be committed to anti-discriminatory practice and to ensuring that the welfare of the child is paramount.

The Panel will be transparent in its decision-making processes.


2. Membership of the Central List

As a joint Fostering Panel, the membership must satisfy the Fostering Services Regulations 2011.

There is no fixed panel membership or maximum number of members or tenure of office.

Membership of the Fostering Panel must be drawn for a Central List of persons with the appropriate qualifications and/or experience, including one or more social workers who have at least three years’ relevant post-qualifying experience.

Where it is considered that someone is unsuitable to be on the Central List, they must be given one months’ notice in writing and reasons for the decision to end their inclusion on the list.

The chair will be appointed by the Agency Decision Maker, and an Independent Chair must be appointed.

The Agency Decision Maker must also appoint up to two Vice Chairs, whose role is to chair the Panel when the Chair is unavailable.

The Panel will aim to have a balance in terms of gender, race, culture and religion and should reflect the diversity of the community it serves.

The Panel shall conduct no business unless at least six of its members are present– and provided the following are present:

  • Either the Chair or one of the Vice Chairs (in the absence of the Chair) If the meeting is conducted by the vice chair who is not independent, there must be at least one other member of the panel who is independent;
  • One Brighton and Hove Social Worker with at least three years post qualifying experience;
  • Four other members.

Those on the Central List will be recruited, by the Agency Adviser (and for the Independent Chair Person, The Agency Decision Maker), via advertisements either within the agency (for agency nominated representatives) or via relevant publications (for independent members). The exception to this is the Health representative who will be nominated by the Agency Medical Adviser. Applicants will be required to submit a completed application form and attend a competitive interview. Verbal and written references and an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service enquiry will be obtained for each member of the Central List prior to being appointed. The DBS checks should be kept up to date and recorded, including the date when the checks were made.

All those on the Central List will have suitable qualifications and/or experience and are expected to comply with the Panel protocol. Each panel member will have an annual review meeting with the Chair and Agency Adviser. The Chair will be reviewed for both agencies by the Agency Adviser and the Agency Decision Maker. Where necessary, the termination of appointment must be considered (see Section 5, Protocol for Members of the Central List, Fostering Panel Procedure).

Those on the Central List should always declare an interest where they have direct knowledge of a matter being presented. The Chair will decide whether that interest is such as to debar the Panel member from discussion or decision making in respect of that item.

Those on the Central List who do not attend Panel as part of their paid employment will receive an expenses payment of £110 plus parking costs, travel costs where agreed and childcare costs where agreed, per Panel attended, which must be claimed monthly, on receipt of an invoice. This sum covers all costs associated with Panel attendance.


3. Advisors to the Fostering Panel

The Fostering Panel will have access to medical advice from the Agency Medical Adviser, regarding applicants and Carers via the Family Placement Team. The Panel will see all medical reports and be given the opportunity to comment on these.

Legal advice will be sought from a lawyer within the local authority as necessary. A nominated representative from the Legal Section will link with the Fostering Panel, and where appropriate will be invited to join specific meetings.

he Agency Advisor will usually be a Agency Decision Maker (Fostering) from the Fostering & Adoption Service. The Advisor will give advice on protocol and procedure, legislation and policy. They will sift through the reports tabled for the Panel meeting and will recommend withdrawal or deferral of cases where there are serious outstanding matters and where appropriate inform the relevant Service Manager and/or the Chair.

Any Advisor to the Panel is not on the Central List and should not vote or take part in the decision making process.


4. Role and Function of Fostering Panel

The Panel will recommend approval/non approval of applications from prospective foster carers, family and friends (Connected Persons) carers, Supported Lodgings and Family Link Carers. It will also consider exemption from the limit to the number of children placed with foster carers, and referrals to the Independent Review Mechanism (see Assessment and Approval of Foster Carers Procedure). These recommendations will be made to the relevant decision-maker for each Fostering Service Provider. The decision-maker for the local authority will be the Assistant Director, Quality and Performance and for Barnardo's Link Plus will be the Children's Services Manager.

Recommendations regarding the approval of carers must include the terms of approval, which will be specified as follows:

  • Fostering;
  • Respite care;
  • Family and friends / Connected Person;
  • Supported Lodgings;
  • Barnardo's Link Plus.

The recommendation regarding the terms of approval must also include:

  • Age range;
  • Gender;
  • Number of placements.

The Panel will make recommendations regarding the continued suitability of all Brighton and Hove City Council Children's Services and Barnardos Link Plus foster carers following their first annual review.

The Panel will also make recommendations concerning:

  1. The continued approval of any foster carer where a significant complaint, allegation of abuse or standards of care issue has been raised. Termination of approval will be recommended where necessary;
  2. Any foster carer review where there has been a significant change in the carer's circumstances and/or which highlights particularly complex or contentious issues;
  3. Any proposed change to the original terms of the foster carer's approval;
  4. Any case or matter referred to it by the fostering service provider under Fostering Services Regulations.

The Panel will be notified of all resignations of foster carers no longer wishing/able to foster for Brighton and Hove City Council Children’s Services or Barnardo's Link Plus.

The Panel will consider and make recommendations regarding exemptions from the usual fostering limit, which exceed sixteen weeks.

The Panel will monitor the quality of assessments and foster care being offered and give feedback where appropriate to the relevant Service Manager and/or Fostering Service Provider decision maker.

The Panel will monitor the range and type of carers available in comparison with the needs of children.

The Panel will produce a yearly report detailing relevant statistical information, analysis of trends and evaluation of the quality of the Fostering Service being provided to children and young people.


5. Operation of Fostering Panel Meetings

See also Section 14, Administration of the Panel, Fostering Panel Procedure.

The Fostering Panel will meet every four weeks and will normally last up to seven hours.

The designated Fostering Panel Administrator will minute Panel meetings. Minutes must be agreed by those on  the Central List who attended the Panel. The Agency Advisor will hold a central record of all minutes of the Fostering Panel and the Panel Administrator will collect the relevant statistical data.

Tabling of reports and agenda items must be agreed between the Fostering Service Provider and the Agency Advisor. Those on the Central List will receive copies of the agenda and all reports/papers at least one week in advance of the meeting.

Applicants should attend the Panel meeting, with a supporter if required, and can ‘be heard’ when their assessment is being considered; only in exceptional circumstances will the Panel make a recommendation regarding the suitability of applicants who do not attend.

Approved foster Carers will be encouraged to attend the Panel meeting when their first foster carer review, subsequent review or any other relevant information regarding the care they provide is being considered. Carers are welcome to bring a representative or friend with them if they so wish.

Panel members will consider each case and identify issues for discussion before inviting practitioners and applicants/carers to join the meeting. If a practitioner has any information that needs to be shared with the Panel confidentially he/she should inform the Agency Advisor of this prior to the meeting. When necessary, time will be allocated for the practitioner to address the Panel without the applicant/carer being present.

The Chair will facilitate the discussion and provide immediate feedback to the applicant/carer of the Panel's recommendation.

The Panel will carry out its role and functions by making recommendations on the basis of consensus. Minutes of the meeting will state whether the recommendation was unanimous or not. Any dissenting views will be clearly detailed and communicated to the agency decision-maker for consideration. The Chair has the power to defer a decision if, in his/her view the Panel is not in a position to make a proper judgement on the information before the Panel.

In addition to making recommendations on approvals, reviews and terminations the Panel may make recommendations on practice, procedures, or other matters relevant to the provision of a high quality fostering service.


6. Confidentiality

All information presented to the Panel is confidential and those on the Central List must respect this.

All documentation and reports should be returned to the Panel Administrator at the end of the meeting.


7. Notification of Panel Decisions

All recommendations made by the Fostering Panel must be notified, via draft Panel minutes and a verbal briefing session, to the relevant Fostering Service Provider decision-maker within five working days of the Panel meeting. The decision-maker will write to the applicants/carers with six working days of the Panel meeting confirming his/her decision.

Applicants/carers will be told verbally of the Panel's recommendation immediately. However, it should be made very clear that the Panel can only make a recommendation and that the final decision rests with the relevant decision-maker.

The Panel must make its recommendations within eight months of the receipt of the fostering application.


8. Representations

Where an applicant/carer is not in agreement with the decision of the fostering service provider, and/or the Fostering Panel's recommendation he/she should write directly to the Agency Decision Maker (Fostering). The relevant Fostering Service Provider decision-maker will meet with them to discuss their concerns.

Where the applicant/carer is still dissatisfied, the matter will be referred back to the Panel within 28 days of the original written notification of the decision. The Panel will re-consider the matter taking into account the applicant's/carer's comments and concerns and will make a further recommendation. This recommendation will be communicated to the Assistant Director (Children's Social Care Services) who will make the final decision.

Where a practitioner is not in agreement with a recommendation made by the Fostering Panel and wishes to pursue the matter, this should be directed through to their Line Manager and the Chair of the Fostering Panel informed.


9. Decisions Regarding Approval Outside the Panel

Agreement to extend a foster carer's approval range (i.e. age range, gender or number of places) may be made by the Fostering Service Provider decision-maker where the circumstances of individual children require this. The Panel Advisor must report these decisions back to the next Panel.

Exemptions to the usual fostering limit not exceeding sixteen weeks may be agreed by the Head of Service (Fostering & Adoption) or the Assistant Director, Children's Services, Barnardo’s respectively and reported back to the next available Panel.


10. Training

Panel members should complete induction training within 10 weeks of joining the Central List, have access to appropriate training and skills development and have the opportunity to attend joint training with fostering staff at least annually. They will be provided with a copy of the CoramBAAF guidance- Effective Fostering Panels.

Those on the Central List are expected to keep up to date with developments in fostering and to avail themselves of training opportunities. The Agency Adviser will offer advice and support on this.

Those on the Central List will be kept informed about current practice, issues and legislation in relation to fostering by means of updates from the Agency Adviser, consultations etc. and will also be provided with free access to the Members page of the CoramBAAF website.

A minimum of 2 annual training events are offered. There is an expectation that those on the Central List will attend 50% of the training events. They will be consulted on the content and format of the training.

The Agency Advisor (Fostering) to the Panel will take responsibility for the co-ordination of training events for Panel members in liaison with the Chair. The training should consider both practice and process issues. When the Panel is first established or a number of new people join the Central List, the training will necessarily need to be more frequent than when the Panel becomes mature in its process.


11. Review

The Chair, relevant Assistant Directors and Agency Advisor (Fostering) will monitor the operation of the Fostering Panel and its effectiveness. The Constitution and Terms of Reference will be formally reviewed annually in the yearly report.

End