View Safeguarding Procedures View Safeguarding Procedures

3.11.3 Fostering Panel

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

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

This chapter does not include the arrangements when a Foster Carer’s Assessments are the subject of a review under the Independent Review Mechanism.

There are four fostering panels in Leeds.

See also: Fostering Service Statement of Purpose

AMENDMENT

This chapter was updated in December 2016, information was added in relation to the process to be followed when a child or young person directly affected by the item being heard at panel (for example, in kinship care cases) wishes to attend the panel meeting to give their views. See Section 3, Meetings for further details.


Contents

  1. Purpose and Function
  2. Membership
  3. Meetings


1. Purpose and Function

The Fostering Panel monitors the range and type of foster carers available to the local authority in comparison with the needs of children, and plays a key role in the improvement of standards within the fostering service.

As part of this function, the Panel oversees the conduct of assessments and annual reviews of approved foster carers, advises on any relevant matters in relation to the fostering service and makes recommendations to the Children's Social Work Service about quality issues and performance standards.

In particular, the Panel makes recommendations as to the following:

  1. The suitability of applicants to act as foster carers and the terms of their approval, this includes kinship carers (sometimes known as Regulation 24 placements);
  2. Exemptions from the limit to the number of children placed with foster carers for monitoring;
  3. Permanent placement matching where this is combined with a change in the nature of the foster carer’s approval or where the applicant is being considered as a kinship carer;
  4. The continued suitability of the foster carers and whether the terms of the approval remain appropriate (after the first annual review of foster carers and any other review where significant changes or termination of approval is recommended. See Review and Termination of Approval of Foster Carers Procedure) - including all initial reviews and reviews following: a child protection (Section 47) enquiry; a review following a complaint investigation or a review where Payment for Skills are not being met;
  5. Initial six-month reviews, reviews following three incidents of concern noted on a foster carers' file;
  6. Any other special matters relevant to a foster carer which the Chair of the Panel considers appropriate to be referred, for example reports may be presented to panel for guidance on criminal convictions, health concerns or other similar matters;
  7. Disruption Reports;
  8. Deregistrations;
  9. Sanctions where Payment for Skills requirements are not being met;
  10. Review following three incidents of concern noted on the fostering file.

The Panel will also receive and consider any representations challenging a decision not to approve an applicant as suitable, or to terminate or revise the terms of a foster carer's approval - see Assessment of Foster Carers Procedure.

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 Chair will communicate any issues of concern to the Head of Service (HoS) and take part in six monthly 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 six monthly 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.


2. Membership

The Fostering Panel will have a maximum of 10 members. This will include an independent panel chair, a vice chair and a social worker with a minimum of 3 years post qualifying experience in child care, including direct experience of fostering. Other panel members may include a fostering social worker, an education representative, a health professional, a foster carer from another agency, an elected member, kinship foster carer, a CSDM or team manager to act as Vice Chair, a member from an independent agency and an adult care leaver.

The Independent Chair will be appointed by the HoS (Children Looked After).

The HoS must also appoint a Vice Chair, whose role is to chair the Panel when the Chair is unavailable.

Independent Panel members are entitled to claim an attendance allowance on the same basis as elected members. Reasonable expenses relating to attendance can be met, including travelling expenses and childcare; there is an allowance for attending training sessions plus travel expenses. All payments must be processed through the department's payroll service.

All Panel members must have been the subjects of a satisfactory Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks before taking up their appointment. Two references will be required and a short application form must be completed.

Each member 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), declaration of interest in respect of any case presented to panel, confidentiality issues and commitment to anti-discriminatory practice.

Fostering Panel members will receive a written induction pack and will have a meeting with the professional adviser to the panel to discuss the role of the panel.

All Panel members will also be required to attend at least one Panel meeting as an observer before taking up their membership and to attend an annual training day and be kept up to date with relevant changes to legislation and guidance.

The quorum is five, one of whom must be the Chair or Vice Chair, a social worker with three years relevant post qualifying experience and at least three other members. In the event the chair is not present the panel must include at least one member who is independent of the fostering service.

Members are expected to hold office for terms of three years. They must attend at least 75% of meetings in any calendar year and may not continue in office for more than three consecutive terms.

Panel members will be subject to an annual appraisal undertaken by the fostering panel chair. The annual appraisal of the independent chair should be carried out by the agency decision maker and be based upon feedback from other panel members, foster carers and social workers attending panel.

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 HoS. The HoS will decide whether to end the appointment and if so, will advise the member in writing giving clear reasons for the decision.

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


3. Meetings

The Panel Administrator, with the Chair's authority, will arrange additional special meetings as necessary.

The Panel Administrator will arrange for the Legal Adviser to attend the Panel if required by the Chair or by the worker presenting a report.

The Panel's Medical Adviser will provide medical advice on matters to be brought to the Panel by telephone or an exchange of correspondence on individual cases in advance of the meeting as considered appropriate.

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

The Panel welcomes the attendance of prospective foster carers at meetings during consideration of their applications for approval - for the assessment and approval process in more detail - see Assessment of Foster Carers Procedure.

In some instances, children or young people directly affected by the item being heard at panel (for example, in kinship care cases) may wish to attend the panel meeting to give their views. In such cases, it is important for the child’s social worker to prepare the child in advance of the meeting, and for the child to have sufficient support from their social worker or another appropriate person when attending the meeting. Where possible, it is also helpful for the Panel Chair to be advised of a child or young person’s wish to attend panel prior to the meeting via the Panel Administrator or the professional advisor to the panel, to ensure that any necessary arrangements are made.

The Panel Administrator, in consultation with the Chair, prepares the agenda for each meeting and sends out the agenda to Panel members one week 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.

The Chair's role is to ensure that all members participate fully in the meetings (unless an interest has been declared - see below) 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).

Panel paperwork is distributed electronically using a secure SharePoint site within the council’s computer system. At the end of meetings, the Panel Administrator will collect any paper reports and the agenda from members (for shredding). Panel members who are unable to attend meetings will be asked to return any 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. Minutes will be sent for accuracy checking to the chair within three working days of the panel. The minutes will be sent out at the same time to all panel members for any specific amendments or corrections. Any amendments must be received within 48 hours. The minutes can then submitted to the Agency Decision Maker (Fostering) (within five days of the panel meeting) for decision making within the next two days. This will allow for decision making to be made within seven days of the panel meeting.

The assessing social worker/supervising social worker will also ensure that applicants, foster carers, young people and social workers are notified of Panel recommendations within two working days of the agency decision and a letter confirming the decision must be sent within five working days. The Panel Administrator will provide social workers with a copy of the relevant minutes after a decision has been made by the Agency Decision Maker.

Also see Assessment of Foster Carers Procedure.

Minutes must be kept on foster carer files and in the panel minutes folder, detailing panel discussions and recommendations (both electronic and paper).

Conflicts of Interest

Panel members should consider any conflicts of interest in relation to Panel agenda items. A potential conflict arises if an interest may be seen to adversely affect a Panel member's capacity to act without prejudice or preference in a matter.

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.

End