Nottingham City Safeguarding Children’s Board Procedures Manual
Nottingham City Safeguarding Children’s Board Procedures Manual Nottingham City Safeguarding Children’s Board Procedures Manual

6.1.1 Fostering Panel

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This chapter explains the membership, purpose, functions and arrangements for meetings of the Fostering Panel.

AMENDMENT

Section 5, The Role and Function of the Panel, was revised in November 2013 to include short term and respite carers and should be re-read.


Contents

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


1. Aims and Objectives

The role of the Panel is to make recommendations regarding the approval, review and termination of approval of Foster Carers, Home from Home and Specialist Scheme Services. All recommendations will be made in accordance with the Children Act 1989, the National Fostering Service Regulations and Minimum Standards 2011 and departmental policy.

All placements will be made under the Fostering Regulations.

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.

The Panel will be committed to ensuring that the welfare of the child is paramount.

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


2. Membership of the Fostering Panel

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

The membership must be drawn from 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 Designated Manager (Fostering Panel Appointments) and will be a senior manager with responsibility for the fostering service or an independent person. (As from 1st October 2011 an Independent Chair must be appointed).

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

All Panel members must have been the subjects of a satisfactory Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks before taking up their appointment. These DBS checks should be kept up to date and recorded, including the date when the checks were made. Personal and work references will also be obtained in writing and must be satisfactory.

Each member must be provided with written information on appointment of their performance objectives, including their participation in induction and other training and safeguarding the confidentiality of records and information submitted to Panel. They will be asked to sign an agreement with the fostering service, in relation to his or her membership, covering the service expectations (including the requirement to report any involvement in criminal proceedings), confidentiality issues and commitment to anti-discriminatory practice.

All Panel members will also be required to attend at least one Panel meeting as an observer before taking up their membership. 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.

The quorum is 5 provided that the following are present:

  1. 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;
  2. One of the social worker representatives with at least three years post qualifying experience;
  3. Three (or in the case of a joint panel, four) other members.

Panel members may request any relevant information or assistance they require, including medical or legal advice, from the fostering agency and, if so requested, this must be provided by the fostering agency.

There must be a process for review of the performance of Panel members (including of the Panel chair by the agency decision maker) and for the performance management of members. Where necessary the termination of the appointment must be considered.

Where there are concerns about a Panel member's behaviour either inside or outside the meetings, and this cannot be dealt with by advice, training and/or information, this will raised by the Chair with the Designated Manager (Fostering Panel Appointments).

The Designated Manager will decide whether someone is unsuitable to be on the Central List and therefore to end the appointment and if so, will advise the member in writing giving one month's notice and clear reasons for the decision.

Panel members may resign by giving one month's notice to the Designated Manager (Fostering Panel Appointments).

A Professional Advisor and Panel Administrator will also be in attendance.

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.

Independent members who do not attend Panel as part of their employment will receive expenses. This will be paid on receipt of a claims form. This payment will cover all transport, parking, childcare and other costs associated with attendance.


3. Conflict of Interest

Panel members 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.

Clear explanation of the declaration should be made e.g. whether the Panel member has personal or pecuniary involvement.

It is anticipated that in many circumstances there may be professional knowledge of a case which should be notified to the Chair but which will not affect a member's capacity to participate in the Panel. In other circumstances there may be a personal interest or connection which would require the Panel member to refrain from participation. It may be less clear in some cases when advice should be sought.

In the case of a potential conflict of interest where advice is required, Panel members should consult the Chair or Legal Adviser, giving as much advance notice as possible particularly having regard to the implications for the quorum.


4. Advisors to the Fostering Panel

The Panel has a medical advisor who sits on panel and is part of the discussion and recommendation process regarding applicants/carers.

The Legal Advisor is a lawyer from within the local authority and attends Panel.

The Professional Advisor will usually be a Team Manager from the Fostering Service. The Advisor will give advice on protocol, 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.

The Professional and Legal Advisor to the Panel should not vote or take part in the decision making process.


5. Role and Function of the Panel

The Panel will recommend approval/non approval of applications from prospective Foster Carers and Family and Friends (Connected Persons), Home from Home and the Specialist Scheme. These recommendations will be made to the Agency Decision Maker (Fostering) for the Fostering Service. The decision-maker for the local authority will be the Director Children’s Services.

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

  • Short-term;
  • Breaks for mainstream carers (respite care);
  • Short breaks fostering- inclusive of contract caring;
  • Specialist Scheme;
  • Long Term & Bridging;
  • Regulation 24 placements;
  • Permanency.

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 Nottingham City Council 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.

The Panel will be notified of all resignations of Foster Carers no longer wishing/able to foster for Nottingham City Council.

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

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 Agency Decision Maker.

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

The Chair will communicate any issues of concern to the Fostering Service Manager and take part in quarterly meetings with him or her and the Vice Chair to review the Panel's functioning and report on the quality of work being presented to Panel, to ensure good standards are maintained. At the quarterly meetings, the Panel Administrator will provide statistical information in relation to the Panel business, together with information on the numbers of foster carers used by the local authority and the number of children looked after by the local authority. This will enable an appraisal of the extent to which the fostering service is meeting the demand for placements.

The Panel will receive annually the Fostering Service Manager's annual report on the Panel's business, including statistical information about approvals, reviews, termination of approvals, the number of children in placement and complaints received about foster carers during the preceding year.

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.


6. Operation of Fostering Panel Meetings

The Fostering Panel will meet on a monthly basis or more often as required.

The designated Fostering Panel minute taker (Admin Assistant) will minute Panel meetings, which must be agreed by Panel Advisor and Chair. The Professional Advisor will hold a central record of all minutes of the Fostering Panel and the Panel Administrator will collect the relevant statistical data.

Those presenting reports to the Panel must send their reports to the Panel Administrator at least 10 working days before the date of the Panel. Panel members will receive copies of the agenda and all reports/papers at least 5 working days in advance of the meeting. Fostering Panel must make its recommendations within 8 months of the receipt of the fostering application.

Applicants (and a supporter if required) are always invited and encouraged to attend and be heard at panel when their assessment is being considered; it is the applicant's choice whether to 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 friend or other support with them if they so wish.

The Supervising Social Worker should, prior to the Panel, make the applicant aware that they may be asked questions in relation to their suitability as potential foster carers.

The Panel Administrator may arrange for observers to attend meetings, in consultation with the Chair, but no more than 2 observers may attend at any one time.

Panel members will deliberate each case and identify issues for discussion before inviting practitioners, applicants and/or carers to join the meeting. The Panel may request the Social Worker and where appropriate, a Team Manager to meet to respond to additional questions. The Panel will then adjourn in order to make a recommendation.

The Chair's role is to ensure that all members participate fully in the meetings (unless an interest has been declared - see Section 3, Conflict of Interest above) and that each member has an opportunity to raise questions or offer comments on each matter considered, that sensitive regard is paid to foster carers while keeping the child's welfare paramount, that consensus is achieved wherever possible and that the Panel has clear reasons for its recommendations.

Where there is a serious difference of opinion among members, the Chair may ask for more information to be made available to the Panel before a recommendation is made. Serious reservations expressed by individual Panel members about a particular recommendation must be recorded in the Panel minutes for consideration by the Agency Decision Maker (Fostering).

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

At the end of meetings, the Panel Administrator will collect all reports and agenda from members (for shredding). Panel members who are unable to attend meetings will be asked to return papers to the Panel Administrator (for shredding) as soon as practicable.

The Panel Administrator will prepare the minutes in which reasons for recommendations and any disagreements or dissent will be fully recorded.

S/he will send the minutes to the Chair for approval of their accuracy, and then submit them to the Agency Decision Maker (Fostering) for approval of the recommendations made.

The assessing social worker/supervising social worker will also ensure that applicants, foster carers and social workers are notified of Panel recommendations within one working day of the Panel. The Panel Administrator will provide social workers with a copy of the relevant minute after a decision has been made by the Agency Decision Maker.


7. Confidentiality

All information presented to the Panel is confidential and Panel members must respect this.

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

The Nottingham City Fostering Service currently based at Gate House will keep a full set of all documentation.


8. Notification of Panel Decision

All recommendations made by the Fostering Panel must be notified, via draft panel minutes and a verbal briefing session, to the Agency Decision Maker (Fostering) within five working days of the Panel meeting. The Decision-Maker will write to the applicants/carers within seven working days of the Panel meeting confirming his/her decision.

Applicants and or 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 Agency Decision Maker.

The final decision should be made as promptly as is practicable. This should be communicated without delay.


9. Representations

Where an applicant/carer is not in agreement with the decision of the Fostering Panel’s recommendation he/she should write directly to the Agency Panel Advisor within 28 days of the date of notice and either submit any written representation to the decision maker or apply to the secretary of state for a review of the determination by the Independent Review Mechanism (IRM).

The applicant will be sent a copy of the process for challenging the authority’s decision.

If within 28 days no representations are received and no application is made to the IRM, the Decision Maker is free to determine whether or not to approve the applicant as a foster carer. If however representations are received, the matter must be referred back to the Fostering Panel, and a decision then made taking account of the Panel’s future recommendations.

If the application is referred to the IRM, the fostering service must within 10 days of notification of this supply the IRM with the documentation submitted to the Fostering Panel and any relevant information received subsequently, along with copies of the notices of determination. The decision maker must take account of the recommendation of the IRM, as well as that of the original Fostering Panel, in reaching a decision about approval.

Once a decision is made this must be conveyed to the applicant in writing, including, if applicable, the reasons that approval has not been given.

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 their line manager and the Chair of the Fostering Panel informed.


10. 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 Manager 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 may be agreed by the Service Manager, Fostering and Adoption and reported back to Panel within 6 months for agreement and monitoring purposes.


11. Training

The Professional Advisor 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 members join, the training will necessarily need to be more frequent than when the Panel becomes mature in its process.


12. Review

The Chair, Service Director and Professional Advisor will monitor the operation of the Fostering Panel and its effectiveness. The Policy, Procedure and Terms of Reference will be formally reviewed annually in the yearly report.

End