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6.1.1 Fostering Panel

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This chapter is compliant with the Fostering Services National Minimum Standards and Regulations 2011, Standard 14 Fostering panels and the Fostering Service's decision-maker.


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Objectives
  3. Panel Membership and Composition
  4. Quoracy
  5. Membership Requirements
  6. Confidentiality/Conflict of Interest
  7. Meetings
  8. Panel Duties and Responsibilities
  9. Duties and Delegations
  10. Minutes of Panel
  11. Agency Decision Maker


1. Introduction

The Children's Act 1989 and the Fostering Statutory Guidance 2011 and regulations and the National Minimum Standards for Fostering sets out the authority's duties in establishing mechanisms for approving, reviewing and monitoring Foster Carers and plays keys a key role in the improvement of standards within the Fostering Service. This duty is delegated to the fostering panel although the Director on behalf of Wirral Council is ultimately responsible for all decisions. In agreeing the appropriate delegations the Director of Children’s Services maintains the authority, where appropriate, to make decisions on behalf of the Council.


2. Objectives

  • To act in the best interests of children and young people placed in foster care by Wirral Council;
  • To ensure that Foster Carers registered by Wirral Council are able to discharge the responsibilities placed on them, to provide children and young people with a safe, stable and caring environment where their individual needs can be met and their potential realised;
  • To discharge their responsibilities the foster panel will scrutinise and review all information gathered by Children’s Specialist Services officers to make sure that informed recommendations can be made on the approval or otherwise of prospective Foster Carers and other associated issues;
  • In making recommendations on the approval or rejection of prospective Foster Carers the panel will review all the information gathered during the assessment and ensure that it is complete.


3. Panel Membership and Composition

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

The Panel membership will be drawn from a Central List of people who have the appropriate qualifications and/or experience to serve as panel members, including one or more Social Workers who have at least three years’ relevant post-qualifying experience The Central List will be maintained by Wirral Fostering Service.

The Chair will be appointed by the Fostering Panel Decision Maker and will be an independent person with the necessary experience. The Fostering Panel Decision Maker must also appoint up to two Vice Chairs, whose role is to chair the Panel when the Chair is unavailable.


4. Quoracy

No business shall be conducted by a fostering panel unless at least five of its members, including the person appointed to be the independent chair the panel, or the vice chair, at least one Social Worker with 3 years post qualifying experience and there is at least one independent member meet at a panel.


5. Membership Requirements

Each panel member will have been subject to relevant identity, DBS, Local Authority checks and references obtained. These DBS checks should be kept up to date and recorded, including the date when the checks were made.

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.

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.

All Central List members would be expected to attend all meetings for which they are selected as panel members and apologies made in advance if they are not able to attend. Membership of the Central List will be subject to annual review against agreed performance objectives. Members will also be subject to review if they have not attended for three panels for which they were selected.

Where the Fostering Service identifies that a Central List member is not performing to the required standard they will be discussed with promptly and any development needs will addressed through advice and training.

Where the member’s performance remains below the required standard they will be informed that their services are no longer required. Notice of termination will be given in writing with the reasons for the decision.

A person included on the Central List may resign at any time by giving one month’s notice in writing.


6. Confidentiality/Conflict of Interest

All Central List members will be asked to sign a confidentiality statement which states that ‘all information received by me in the course of my duties as a member of the panel will be regarded as strictly confidential and shall not be disclosed or communicated to an unauthorised person under any circumstances’.

If a panel member is aware that a family is known to them in a capacity which may involve a conflict of interest i.e. personal friend, etc. the panel member concerned will notify the Chair prior to the panel, when a decision will be made on whether a substitute should take his/her place on the panel.


7. Meetings

The Panel welcomes the attendance of prospective Foster Carers at meetings during consideration of their applications for approval. Applicants can attend with a supporter and 'be heard' at fostering panel meetings that consider their approval - for the assessment and approval process in more detail - see Assessments and Approvals of Foster Carers Procedure.

The Panel Administrator, in consultation with the Chair, prepares the agenda for each meeting and sends out the agenda to Panel members five working days before the meeting.

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. The Panel Administrator will arrange for the documentation to be distributed to Panel members.

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.

The assessing Social Worker/Supervising Social Worker will 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.


8. Panel Duties and Responsibilities

  • To make recommendations on the approval or rejection of prospective Foster Carers having reviewed all the information gathered during the assessment and ensure that it is complete;
  • Agreeing the approval details e.g. age and number of children;
  • Matching children to long-term Foster Carers;
  • Considering any changes in Foster Carers approval;
  • Making recommendations about termination of a registration;
  • Considering Foster Carers annual reviews/changes to registration criteria (see Review and Termination of Approval of Foster Carers Procedure);
  • Referrals to the Independent Review Mechanism - see Section 9, Representations of the Assessment and Approval of Prospective Adopters Procedure;
  • Providing the quality assurance function in relation to the assessment process, in particular:
    • To ensure there is consistency of approach in assessment and reviews across the agency;
    • To monitor and review the work of assessors, identify problems, and provide feedback to children’s services management team (CSMT).
  • To monitor the range and type of Foster Carers available to the authority in comparison to the needs of children;
  • To receive management information about the outcome of Foster Carers’ annual reviews;
  • To play an active role in monitoring and developing local fostering Policy, procedure and practice and provide advice and recommendations.


9. Duties and Delegations

Duties
Delegations
Approval or rejection of applications from prospective Foster Carers Recommendation made by fostering panel either by full agreement or majority approval
Termination of approval of Foster Carers Recommendation by fostering panel either by full agreement or majority approval
Considering action required following the outcome of investigations in respect of foster carers Recommendation by the fostering panel either by full agreement or majority approval
Approval of the registration category of Foster Carer or alteration of registration category Recommendation by the fostering panel either by full agreement or majority approval
Consideration of continued approval as Foster Carer at 1st annual review Recommendation by the fostering panel either by full agreement or majority approval
Matching of children to long-term placements Recommendation by the fostering panel either by full agreement or majority approval
Agreement for extension extension of approval of connected person approved by Regulation 24 The Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010). Recommendation by the fostering panel either by full agreement of majority approval.
Agreement of an immediate exemption of placement. To be agreed by the Service Manager, and reported to the next panel.
Decision to suspend and resume foster placement after an investigation of a child protection nature. Recommendation by fostering panel.


10. Minutes of Panel

Minutes of panel will be taken by the designated minute taker and for each case will record the recommendation and reasons. Any disagreements or dissent will be fully recorded. The minutes will be circulated to members of the panel members for accuracy and to the o the Chair for approval of their accuracy, and then submitted to the Agency Decision Maker 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 verbally 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.


11. Agency Decision Maker

Following each panel the fostering panel agency advisor will meet with the Agency Decision Maker to ensure that the decisions are made within the required timescales of seven working days of receiving the panel minutes.

The Agency Decision Maker - the Senior Senior Manager for Children’s Resources - decides whether to accept the Panel recommendation.

The Foster Carer or prospective Foster Carer must be informed of the decision maker’s decision within 2 working days of the decision and written confirmation is given within 5 working days of the decision.

End