Brighton and Hove Logo


Top of page

Size: View this website with small text View this website with medium text View this website with large text View this website with high visibility

6.1.12 Allegations Against Foster Carers

SCOPE OF THIS PROCEDURE

This chapter deals with Child Protection procedures when allegations of Significant Harm are made against foster carers, including temporary and approved kinship carers.

RELEVANT CHAPTERS

Pan Sussex Child Protection & Safeguarding Procedures, Allegations Against People who Work with, Care for or Volunteer with Children

Review and Termination of Approval of Foster Carers Procedure

AMENDMENT

This chapter was updated in May 2015 to ensure the IRO is aware of the allegation and the outcome (see Section 4, Initial Response to a Referral) of any assessment or evaluation that is made (Section 10, Action Following a Criminal Investigation, Prosecution and or Section 47 enquiry).


Contents

  1. Scope
  2. Threshold
  3. Making a Referral
  4. Initial Response to a Referral
  5. Strategy Meeting
  6. Conducting the Enquiry/Investigation
  7. Independence of Staff Conducting the Enquiry
  8. Informing Parents and Those with Parental Responsibility
  9. Placements
  10. Action Following a Criminal Investigation, Prosecution and or Section 47 enquiry
  11. Review of the Foster Carer’s Approval
  12. Action on Conclusion of the Case
  13. Useful Contact Details

    Appendix 1: Managing Allegations of Significant Harm Against Foster Carers - Initial Response and Evaluation


1. Scope

For the purposes of these procedures, the term ‘carer’ refers to all formally approved foster carers in general and kinship, short break carers, supported lodgings carers and interim approved kinship foster carers. The carers may work for the local authority or work on behalf of private or voluntary organisations.

This procedure also covers approved adopters, where a child has been ‘placed for adoption’. It should be noted that adopters share Parental Responsibility where a child is placed with them under the Adoption Agencies Regulations, and that this needs to be taken into account in decision making and information sharing at each stage.

Whenever an allegation is made against a carer or approved adopter, involving a Looked After Child, these Child Protection Procedures must be followed.

Any allegation about abuse or neglect of carers’ own child/ren must be responded to in the same way as with any other child, (as detailed in the Pan Sussex Child Protection and Safeguarding Procedures) but there must be consideration of the implications for any placements.

Fostering/adoption staff should be informed and involved in Strategy Discussions to provide information and consider the implications for past, current and future placements, and the requirements of Panel procedures.

The response to Private Foster Carers should be as for any other member of the public.

Compliance with the requirements detailed below should ensure that where allegations of abuse are made or where there is suspicion; organisational responses are prompt, thorough, independent and proportionate to the issue of concern.

These procedures should be read in conjunction with the Pan Sussex Child Protection and Safeguarding Procedures, Allegations Against People who Work with, Care for or Volunteer with Children.

See also Appendix 1: Managing Allegations of Significant Harm Against Foster Carers - Initial Response and Evaluation.

Terms Used throughout this section

Standards of Care Procedures concern a review of a foster carer’s suitability to foster according to the Fostering Services Regulations 2002.

LADO refers to the Local Authority Designated Officer whose role is to give advice and monitor allegations against adults working with children.

IFA refers to an Independent Fostering Agency.


2. Threshold

Carers are prohibited by law from applying more than specified types and levels of restraint to those children for whom they are professionally responsible.

Allegations or suspicions of abuse or neglect by carers e.g. physical punishment use or restraint other than permitted by guidance, or other forms of abuse must be taken seriously and staff from all agencies must report any allegation concerning abuse by a carer.

An allegation may require consideration from 4 inter-related perspectives: Child Protection, Criminal Investigation, the Complaints Procedure and Standards of Care Procedures that may require the carer(s) to be brought back to the appropriate Panel for a review of their approval (see Review and Termination of Approval of Foster Carers Procedure).


3. Making a Referral

Recognition of concerns or an allegation may arise from a number of sources e.g. a report from a child or an adult within a placement, a complaint or information arising from a complaint investigation.

When a member of staff is suspicious or has received allegations of abuse about a carer, or by a person living within a placement, s/he must report this to his/her line manager who should inform and consult with the LADO.

The recipient of an allegation should not attempt to determine its validity and failure to report it in accordance with procedures is a potential disciplinary matter.

If the allegation or Child Protection concern relates to a Brighton and Hove child placed in the area of another Local Authority, the referral must be made to that authority and dealt with under its local Child Protection Procedures. The referral should be made to both the LADO and the duty team in the relevant authority. In these instances Brighton and Hove Children’s Services would be expected to fully assist the enquiry.


4. Initial Response to a Referral

When a referral is received by Children’s Services of an allegation against a foster carer, the worker receiving this must ensure that the following people are notified immediately:

  • The LADO;
  • The child's social worker, Practice Manager and Team Manager;
  • The foster carer's supervising social worker, Practice Manager and Team Manager/registered manager of an IFA;
  • In the case of an IFA, a representative from the Agency Placements Team (APT).

The child’s IRO should also be informed of the allegation.

At this point, decision making responsibility for managing the allegation passes to the LADO. In the absence of the LADO or the person nominated to cover for the LADO, decision making will be the responsibility of the Head of Safeguarding and the Head of Service for the child.

It remains the responsibility of the child’s social work team to ensure the child’s immediate safety.

The LADO will carry out an initial evaluation and it may be that further information is required. It should be noted that situations may evolve as further information becomes available.

All allegations against foster carers must result in a Strategy Meeting unless demonstrably false, in accordance with the Pan Sussex Child Protection and Safeguarding Procedures, Allegations Against People who Work with, Care for or Volunteer with Children (Paragraph 8.2.57).

If the LADO decides that the situation does not warrant a Strategy Meeting, he or she must confirm this decision with the Head of Safeguarding and the Head of Service for the child. The decision to invoke the standards of Care Procedures must be authorised by the Head of Service for the Fostering Team.

Where the LADO decides that an allegation of Significant Harm, or likely Significant Harm, should be dealt with under Standards of Care Procedures, this must be agreed by the Head of Service for the Fostering Team. Decisions to invoke Standards of Care procedures for situations where there has not been an allegation of Significant Harm are not covered by these procedures. In the case of IFA carers the Service Manager, APT will recommend to the IFA that a Standards of Care investigation should be held and monitor compliance with this request.


5. Strategy Meeting

The LADO must convene a Strategy Meeting unless the allegation is demonstrably false (see above).

The strategy discussion process should comply with Pan Sussex Child Protection and Safeguarding Procedures, Strategy Discussions. A strategy discussion, in the form of a meeting, must be held within 48 hours of the referral. If emergency action is required immediately, the Strategy Meeting should be called as soon as possible after the action has taken place.

The Strategy Meeting should be chaired by the LADO, or in the LADO’s absence by a manager in Front Door for Families and Assessment Services.

Consideration should be given by the chair as to whether the sensitive case protocol applies as this may impact on who is invited to the strategy meeting. The following should be invited to the strategy discussion by the chair:

  • Police (all first strategy meetings);
  • Child’s social worker and manager;
  • Foster carer’s supervising social worker and manager;
  • APT representative in the case of an IFA;
  • Front Door for Families and Assessment representative;
  • Social workers for any other children in placement;
  • Relevant health and education or other representatives.

The child’s IRO should also be informed of the Strategy Meeting.

The Strategy Meeting must consider and record the following:

  • Whether to initiate a S47 Enquiry;
  • Whether a police investigation will take place;
  • Whether a Fostering Standards of Care enquiry should be initiated (for Brighton and Hove carers this decision must be authorised by the Head of Service for Fostering and in the case of an IFA carer the Service Manager, APT will make a recommendation to the relevant IFA);
  • Whether the  Complaints procedures should be used.

The Strategy Meeting must consider the following issues:

  • The significance of any other previous allegations/Standards of Care investigations/complaints made against the carers or their family;
  • Whether the child/ren remain in placement (removal of child/ren should not be an automatic course of action the decision making should be in the context of the best interests of the child and the information available);
  • Other children currently living in the carer’s household, including their own children, and those previously placed with the carers (including the need for strategy discussions/meetings with regard to any of these children) and what information to be given;
  • The status of the carers, as co-workers and individuals who have a right to be heard;
  • Who will inform the carers of the allegation and when;
  • The support to be provided to the child/ren in the placement, including the carer’s children;
  • The support to be provided for the carers from the Supervising Social Worker and Fostering Service;
  • How, and when, will the parents be informed of the allegations;
  • Whether to initiate complex abuse procedures;
  • Provision of independent support to the carer who is the subject of the allegations to be considered;
  •   Whether a media strategy meeting should be called.

The Strategy Meeting must be minuted and recorded on the child’s and the foster carer’s CareFirst record using the Strategy Discussion assessment document. (NB: A different version of the minutes may be required for the child and the carer’s records, removing confidential information about the other party).

OFSTED must be notified by the Fostering Team Manager (or in the case of an IFA carer the relevant manager of the agency) of any allegation against a temporary or fully approved carer that proceeds to a S.47 Investigation.

Other Local Authorities may need to be alerted e.g. if they have a child placed with the carer.


6. Conducting the Enquiry/Investigation

The S.47 enquiry and any police investigation will take place in accordance with Pan Sussex Safeguarding Procedures.

Enquires must be conducted in the strictest confidence so that information can be given freely without fear of victimisation, and in a way that protects the rights of carers and their families.


7. Independence of Staff Conducting the Enquiry

The close inter-relationship between carers and Children’s Services and the need to ensure the investigating social worker’s independence should be taken into consideration in the allocation and management of any enquiries / investigation.

The person undertaking the enquiries should not be the child’s social worker.

It is not permissible for a member of staff to conduct an enquiry about a suspicion or allegation of abuse with respect to a:

  • Relative;
  • Friend;
  • Colleague or someone who has worked with her/him previously.

It would normally be expected that the LADO will refer the matter to Front Door for Families and Assessment Services for allocation.


8. Informing Parents and Those with Parental Responsibility

Parents of relevant children should be given information about the concerns, advised on the process to be followed, and the outcomes reached. The provision of information and advice must take place in a manner that does not impede the proper exercise of the investigation or fact finding processes as to standards of care.


9. Placements

No further placements of any kind will be made by Brighton and Hove with the foster carers until the enquiry has been concluded.

The Head of Service for Fostering will need to decide on the nature of payments to be made to carers during the enquiry.

In the case of an IFA, the Service Manager for APT will liaise with the IFA and agree any payments.


10. Action Following a Criminal Investigation, Prosecution and or Section 47 enquiry

The Police should inform the LADO who will immediately inform the Head of Service for Fostering or in the case of an IFA carer the relevant manager from IFA and the Service Manager, APT and the Head of Safeguarding when a criminal investigation and any subsequent trial are complete, or if it is decided to close an investigation without charge, or not to prosecute after the person has been charged. In those circumstances the LADO and the Head of Service for Fostering should agree whether any further action is appropriate and, if so, how to proceed.

A Review/Outcome Strategy Meeting chaired by the LADO should be convened in accordance with paragraph 8.2.68 of the Pan Sussex Child Protection and Safeguarding Procedures, Allegations against Carers. The meeting should ideally comprise the same membership. The agenda should follow paragraph 6.2 and ensure all the tasks have been completed, agree any appropriate action plan and consider any practice implications based on lessons learned.

The information provided at the Review Strategy Meeting by the Police and/or any Section 47 Enquiries should inform the decision making. Action in relation to the continuing approval as a foster carer within the Fostering and Adoption Service Regulations to Panel is not ruled out in any of these circumstances. The range of options open will depend on the circumstances of the case and the consideration will need to take account of the result of the Police investigation or trial, as well as the different standard of proof required for criminal proceedings (beyond all reasonable doubt) as those applied by the civil standard of proof and the 'balance of probability'.

The Strategy Meeting should agree and record a professional judgement, based on the information available at the time, on whether the allegation falls into one of the following categories:

  • Substantiated - A substantiated allegation is one which is supported or established by evidence or proof;
  • Unsubstantiated - An unsubstantiated allegation is not the same as a false allegation. It simply means that there is insufficient identifiable evidence to prove or disprove the allegation. The term, therefore, does not imply guilt or innocence;
  • Unfounded - This indicates that the person making the allegation misinterpreted the incident or was mistaken about what they saw. Alternatively they may not have been aware of all the circumstances. For an allegation to be classified as unfounded, it is necessary to have evidence to disprove the allegation;
  • False - A false allegation may be made by a pupil following an altercation with a teacher or a parent who is in dispute with a school, however there is sufficient evidence to disprove the allegation;
  • Deliberately invented or Malicious - This implies a deliberate act to deceive. For an allegation to be classified as malicious, it is necessary to have evidence, which proves this intention.

At the conclusion of the Strategy Meeting it is essential that agreement is reached on the following:

  • What information will be given to the child/ parents and persons affected by the investigation and how and by whom this will be done;
  • What information will be placed on files relating to children and foster carer(s);
  • What further action in relation to the child is required, including whether or not a child(ren) who has/have been removed should return to the carer when the enquiry has concluded.

The Chair / Pod Team Manager responsible for the Section 47 Enquiry must write to all parties following the concluding Strategy Discussion including the parents, those who hold Parental Responsibility and the foster carer, to formally notify them of the conclusion of the enquiries and the decisions of the Strategy Meeting. The concluding Strategy Discussion/Meeting minutes should be put in writing and placed on both the child and carers' file.

The child’s IRO should be informed of the outcome.

Any disagreements about the outcome of the Strategy Meeting and/or use of these procedures must be referred in a timely manner to the Head of Safeguarding and Head of Service responsible for the child for resolution.


11. Review of the Foster Carer’s Approval

If the threshold of Significant Harm is not considered to be reached and it is clear that continuing investigations by Police and / or Section 47 Enquiries are not necessary, the Fostering and Adoption Service or the relevant IFA may want to review approval of the foster carer. When a decision is taken that a review of a carer’s approval is required, it should be conducted by the Supervising Social Worker who will prepare a report for the Fostering Panel with recommendations on:

  • The carer’s suitability and competence to foster;
  • Any variation on the terms of approval.

Any needs they may have for further training and development or other assistance.

The review report should aim to be completed within 4 weeks commencing from the date of the Review/Outcome Strategy Meeting. The report should be passed to the Practice Manager who will arrange for it to be presented at the next available Panel. The Professional Advisor to the Fostering/ Panel will be able to offer advice on this process.


12. Action on Conclusion of the Case

In the case of Brighton and Hove carers, the Head of Service for Fostering will inform the LADO of the outcome of the allegation including the outcome of the review of the foster carer's approval.

In the case of IFA carers, the LADO should be informed by the IFA outcome of the investigation and should ensure that APT is also notified.

If the allegation is substantiated and the person is no longer approved to foster, the LADO/Head of Safeguarding should consider if referring the foster carer to the Disclosure and Barring Service for inclusion on the Children’s Barred list is required. The review report for the Fostering Panel will be used as evidence for the referral to the Independent Safeguarding Authority.

On conclusion of an enquiry into allegations against foster carer’s within these procedures, an Outcome Meeting will be arranged between representatives from the Fostering Services or IFA and the carers to review the investigation, the findings and decisions made, and to inform the carers of any further action.


13. Useful Contact Details

East Sussex LADO: Paul Startup
Telephone: 01323 466 606
Mobile: 07825 782 793
E-mail: paul.startup@eastsussex.gov.uk.

West Sussex LADO:
Telephone: 0330 222 3339

Brighton and Hove LADO: Darrel Clews
Telephone: 01273 295 643
Mobile: 07795 335 879
E-mail: darrel.clews@brighton-hove.gcsx.gov.uk.


Appendix 1: Managing Allegations of Significant Harm Against Foster Carers - Initial Response and Evaluation

Click here to see Appendix 1: Managing Allegations of Significant Harm Against Foster Carers - Initial Response and Evaluation.

End