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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 Fostering Panel

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

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

AMENDMENT

This chapter was updated in May 2020 and should be reread.


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 and Agency Determination / Decision
  9. Representations
  10. Training
  11. 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, including Connected Carers. All recommendations will be made in accordance with the Children Act 1989, the National Fostering Service Regulations and Minimum Standards 2011. And all other relevant legislation, regulation and guidance including:

  • Fostering Services (England) Regulations 2011;
  • The Children Act 1989 Guidance Volume 4 (2011) Chapter 5;
  • Assessment and Approval of foster Carers: Amendments to The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations, Volume 4: Fostering Services, July 2013;
  • Fostering National Minimum Standards 2011, Standard 14;
  • The Care Planning, Placement and Case Review and Fostering Services (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2013;
  • The Care Planning and Fostering (Miscellaneous Amendments) (England) Regulations 2015;
  • Hofstetter v LB Barnet and IRM (2009).

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 a just and fair process including 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.

Recruitment to the fostering panel will be undertaken by the Fostering Panel Advisor and the service role description, person specification and agreement will be applied.

The Chair is appointment by the Head of Service in accordance with regulation 23 (4) the Chair must be independent of the fostering service.

The Head of Service also appoints two Vice Chairs, whose role is to chair the Panel when the Chair is unavailable. The Vice Chairs will also be independent of the fostering service.

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, verified 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 Panel Advisor and Head of Service (Fostering Panel Appointments).

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. Panel members may resign by giving one month's notice to the Panel Adviser.

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.


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 and Panel Advisor, giving as much advance notice as possible particularly having regard to the implications for the quorum.


4. Advisors to the Fostering Panel

Although not prescribed in regulation, Nottingham has a professional panel adviser. The primary role of the professional panel adviser is to advise the panel on regulations, policy and procedure; and to assist panel in its quality assurance function in respect of all reports provided to panel.

The panel adviser shall be a social worker who has at least five year’s relevant post qualifying experience and relevant management experience. In Nottingham, one Panel Adviser acts as a professional adviser to fostering panel. The Fostering Panel adviser is line managed by the Fostering Service Manager.

The duties of the Fostering Panel Adviser are:

  • To assist the agency with the appointment, termination and review of appointment to the Central List of panel members;
  • To be responsible for the induction and training Central List panel members;
  • To share the joint responsibility with the panel chair for the annual performance review of panel members;
  • To discuss all issues pertinent to fostering panels with the Fostering Service Manager;
  • To be responsible for liaison between the agency and the fostering panels, monitoring the performance of the fostering panels and the administration of the fostering panels;
  • To brief the panels on policy, practice and procedural issues and identify training needs;
  • To ensure that the panels are consulted about relevant developments in fostering practice within the agency. This may be achieved through the quarterly panel steering group meetings (which consists of all panel chairs, vice chairs, senior and operational managers across the fostering and fieldwork services and medical advisor to the agency. The panel adviser will also provide regular written and verbal updates for panel members of service developments.
  • To act as the professional adviser to panels, providing such advice as the panels may request in relation to any case or generally;
  • To deal with complaints arising from the business of the panels, in consultation with the Fostering Service Manager where necessary.

The panel adviser will not vote nor take part in the decision-making process.

The Agency appoints a Medical Adviser to the Fostering Service. Panel receives a summary of the Fostering Services’ Medical Adviser’s report on applicants and carers. The medical advisor to the service is not a panel member and is not part of the discussion and recommendation process regarding applicants/carers. This function of the medical advisor to the fostering service fulfils the requirements of National Minimum Standards 14.6 that requires fostering panels have access to medical expertise. Legal Advice will be made available to panel, the panel adviser and chair if felt necessary and appropriate. This advice can be made in writing or verbally. The availability of legal advice fulfils the requirements of National Minimum Standards 14.6 that requires fostering panels have access to legal advice. The legal advice is provided by a lawyer from within the local authority.


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), and Specialist Scheme. These recommendations will be made to the Agency Decision Maker (Fostering) for the Fostering Service. Recommendations regarding the approval of carers must include the terms of approval, which will be specified as follows:

  • All Fostering Tasks;
  • Short Term /Bridging;
  • Long Term;
  • Respite;
  • Emergency;
  • Parent Child/Child Specific;
  • Remand Carer;
  • Number of Children;
  • Ages of Children;
  • Gender: Male / Female / Any Gender / Stated other.

The specified role of the fostering panel as determined by Regulation 25 is to:

  1. Recommend whether or not a person is suitable to act as a foster carer and the terms of approval therein. This recommendation is made within eight months of receipt of the prospective foster carer's application to be assessed;
  2. Recommend whether or not a person is suitable to continue to act as a foster carer and whether or not the terms of approval remain appropriate;
  3. Consider any case referred to it under Regulation 27 (approvals) or Regulation 28 (reviews and terminations of approval);
  4. Give advice and make recommendation on any such matters or cases as the fostering service may refer to it and to monitor the range and type of foster carers available to the authority in comparison with the needs of children. The panel should inform the fostering service where it is deemed that the foster carer population is not adequate to meet the needs of children;
  5. Monitor the quality of all reports referred to it and give advice/feedback/make recommendation to the fostering service provider as appropriate.

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. i. The continued approval of any Foster Carer where a significant complaint, allegation of abuse or standards of care issue has been raised which has been referred to the LADO and/or led to a foster care review. Termination of approval will be recommended where necessary;
  2. ii. 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; which has led to a foster care review.

The Panel will be notified of all resignations of Foster Carers no longer wishing/able to foster for Nottingham City Council. This will include resignations that have arisen in the course of the agency investigating an allegation / concerns regarding the quality of care provided by the carer. In these circumstances the panel will be asked to note the resignation and to consider if they would have given serious consideration to recommending termination. The carers will be invited to attend panel at which their case is considered, and asked to respond to the concerns, allegations or complaints about their practice. Panel may also express a view as to whether the foster carer’s name should be referred to the Disclosure and Barring Service and Ofsted. The panel’s views and those of the agency are then held on the carer’s file and can be provided in references to other agencies if necessary. Panel

The Panel will provide a quality assurance feedback to the fostering service provider on the quality of reports presented to Panel. Although it is not required by regulation panel provide such quality feedback on all applications/ assessments presented to panel in writing via the panel adviser.

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 Advisor will provide statistical information in relation to the Panel business The Fostering Manager will provide 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's annual report on the Panel's business, including statistical information about approvals, reviews, termination of approvals, the number of children in placement and Other relevant information.

The panel chair’s with the assistance of the panel advisor will produce a yearly report detailing relevant qualitative and statistical information, analysis of trends and to comment on 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 agreed and signed by the Panel 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.

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 Fostering Service Agency Decision Maker.

Panel paperwork is distributed electronically. At the end of meetings, the Panel Administrator will collect any paper reports, panel member’s notes and agenda from members (for shredding).

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. The Social Worker presenting the application and applicants will attend Panel following discussion and consideration of the papers by panel members.- including the formulation of questions for the applicants and social worker. Where appropriate the applicant and social worker will remain in panel to hear the observations and recommendations of panel. See Practice Guidance for Applicants/ Carer’s and Social Workers attending Panel.

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 considered. Carers are welcome to bring a friend or other support with them if they so wish. Carers and their supervising social worker will, where appropriate, remain in panel to hear the observations and recommendations of panel. See Practice Guidance for Applicants/ Carer’s and Social Workers attending Panel.

The Supervising Social Worker should, prior to the Panel, make the applicant/carer 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.

Where applicants/carers, for whatever reason, are not present in panel to hear the recommendations of panel then the Chair and the Panel Advisor will provide immediate feedback to the applicant/carer of the Panel's recommendation.

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 following distribution to all Panel members for correction and then submit the minutes for cases where a recommendation has been made to the Agency Decision Maker (Fostering) for a decision.

The assessing social worker/supervising social worker will also ensure that applicants, foster carers and social workers –(when, for whatever reason, they were not present in panel for the panel’s recommendation) are notified orally of Panel recommendations within one working day of the Panel. The Panel Administrator will provide social workers with a copy of the relevant minute-decision after the Agency Decision Maker has made a decision. The decision must be made within 7 working days of receipt of the panel’s recommendation and final set of panel minutes and must be recorded, together with reasons.

The Fostering Manager will arrange for the applicants to be given verbal notification of the decision within 24 hours and written notice of the decision, with reasons, signed by the Agency Decision Maker, within 5 working days of the decision.


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 and Agency Determination/ 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 assessing social worker/supervising social worker will also ensure that applicants, foster carers and social workers –(when, for whatever reason, they were not present in panel for the panel’s recommendation) are notified orally of Panel recommendations within 24 hrs of the Panel.

The Panel Administrator will provide social workers with a copy of the relevant minute-decision after the Agency Decision Maker has made a decision. The decision must be made within 7 working days of receipt of the panel’s recommendation and final set of panel minutes and must be recorded, together with reasons.

The Fostering Manager will arrange for the applicants to be given verbal notification of the decision within 24 hours and written notice of the decision, with reasons, signed by the Agency Decision Maker, within 5 working days of the 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.


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).

Applicants /carer’s are sent an explanation of their rights if they disagree with the decision including a link to the IRM.

If within 28 days no representations are received and no application is made to the IRM, the Decision Maker may proceed to make their decision. If however representations are received, the ADM can seek further information as they consider necessary and the matter must be referred back to the Fostering Panel for a further recommendation in light of the representation. This recommendation is a fresh one. The Decision Maker can then make their decision taking into account the panel’s fresh t recommendation.

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. Training

The Professional Advisor to the Panel will take responsibility for the co-ordination of a minimum of 1 annual training event for Panel members in liaison with the Chair. The training should consider both practice and process issues.


11. Review

The Chair, Service Manager 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