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3.11.10 Allegations Against Foster Carers Procedure

SCOPE OF THIS PROCEDURE

This procedure applies where allegations are made or concerns are raised that indicate that an approved foster carer has:

  • Behaved in a way that has harmed a child, or may have harmed a child;
  • Possibly committed a criminal offence against or related to a child;
  • Behaved towards a child or children in a way which indicates that they may pose a risk to children;
  • Behaved towards a child or children in a way that indicates that they may not be suitable to work with children.

It should be read in conjunction with West Yorkshire Consortium Safeguarding Procedures Manual, Allegations Against Persons who Work with Children Procedure and Leeds Safeguarding Children Partnership Guidance.

AMENDMENT

In August 2020, this procedure was reviewed and refreshed, and terminology was updated where required.


Contents

Caption: contents list
   
1. Policy
2. Introduction
3. Procedure
  3.1 Initial Action
  3.2 Allegations Management Meeting
  3.3 Investigation and Action
  3.4 Concluding the Investigation


1. Policy

All allegations of harm made against foster carers should be investigated through the Section 47 Procedure and this will identify whether a child has suffered or is likely to suffer significant harm.

Alongside this, the Managing Allegations Procedure will provide advice and guidance, liaison with the police and other agencies, monitor the progress of cases to ensure that they are dealt with as quickly as possible consistent with a thorough and fair process.

The Allegations procedures will consider whether a foster carer has:

  • Behaved in a way that has harmed a child, or may have harmed a child;
  • Possibly committed a criminal offence against or related to a child;
  • Behaved towards a child or children in a way that indicates they may pose a risk of harm to children; or
  • Behaved or may have behaved in a way that indicates they may not be suitable to work with children.

Through the process, the Supervising Social Worker (SSW) will work sensitively with the carers and child and ensure that appropriate support is given.

Although there may be insufficient evidence to support a Police prosecution, this does not mean that action cannot be taken to protect a child or that the termination of a foster carer's approval cannot be considered.

It may be necessary to consider during an investigation what action, if any, should be taken with regard to other children the foster carers have contact with, including their own children.


2. Introduction

The expectation is that:

  1. All foster carers will receive information, preparation, training and guidance to help them provide a safe environment for the child and all members of the foster family;
  2. All foster carers will have received information about the managing allegations procedure, the role of the Designated Officer in the local authority (LADO) and the West Yorkshire Consortium Safeguarding and Child Protection Procedures;
  3. All foster carers will be familiar with and adopt the procedures for recording on a daily / weekly basis the progress of children placed with them, including any accidents, incidents or complaints and understand that these procedures are in place to protect all those involved in the child’s placement, particularly at times of high stress, particularly at times of high stress and will provide important evidence if an allegation is made.


3. Procedure

3.1 Initial Action

Any person who receives information or suspects that a child has suffered or suffer significant harm in a foster placement must ensure that plans are made to safeguard child in the household. The supervising social worker and the child’s social worker and their team managers should agree the arrangements for informing relevant professionals and family members. The following people must be made aware of the allegation within 1 working day:

  • Child's Social Worker (SW) and their manager;
  • Supervising Social Worker (SSW), and their manager;
  • Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO);
  • Fostering Reviewing Officer (FRO); and
  • Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO) (for more information see the LADO One Minute Guide).

The SW and team manager must consider for the need for a strategy meeting under section 47 of the Children Act 1989. The outcome of the strategy meeting will be communicated to the LADO within one working day. The decision regarding the need for a strategy meeting or not should be recorded in the child’s record.

If a strategy meeting is not needed decisions will be made through the allegations process about who will objectively assess the allegations (i.e. this could be a professional who is not the SSW for the foster carers) On occasions this will need to be an independent assessor

Consideration also must be given to managing the safety of other children in the household or those children who are in contact with the carers. Supervising social work team to liaise with relevant professionals and carers to develop a safe plan for all children in the household during the allegations process.

The supervising social worker will:

  • Inform the social workers for any other child in the placement;
  • Inform any other local authority with an interest in the foster placement.

All safeguarding concerns and allegations in respect of foster homes must be clearly and accurately recorded by the SSW on the foster carer file, and fully investigated. It is expected that information gathered would be added by the SW to the child’s file under section 47 workflow (SIOC) and chronology.

Where there are three or more recorded, low level concerns about a foster carer's abilities to deliver basic practice this should trigger a review and referral to Fostering Panel for consideration.

The identified assessor must implement the West Yorkshire Consortium Procedure for dealing with Allegations Against Persons who Work with Children.

The Head of Service should consider if the allegation / incident is notifiable to the Regulatory Authority (Ofsted) and relevant senior managers, this should be undertaken by the fostering team manager. There may be cases where immediate action may be necessary to safeguard the welfare of the child where significant harm may have been identified, For example the child's social worker and their manager may decide to request that a new placement is identified.

3.2 Allegations Management Meeting

The Allegations Management Meeting must consider whether the foster carers has:

  • Behaved in a way that has harmed a child, or may have harmed a child;
  • Possibly committed a criminal offence against or related to a child;
  • Behaved towards a child or children in a way that indicates they may pose a risk of harm to children; or
  • Behaved or may have behaved in a way that indicates they may not be suitable to work with children.

The Regulatory Authority must be notified of the decision and the outcome.

The record of the meeting must contain clear action points and clear time-scales for each action. The action points and timescales will be circulated to relevant professionals following the meeting. Actions agreed must be recorded and be the responsibility of named individuals.

Copies of the action points and the minutes will be recorded on the local authority central electronic recording system under LADO.

Any decision to take no further action following the Allegations Management Meeting must be clearly recorded, and reported to the Regulatory Authority if required.

3.3 Investigation and Action

The actions agreed at the Allegations Management Meeting should be implemented by those responsible within the agreed timescales.

Unless there are circumstances when the details or nature of the allegation cannot be shared immediately, the foster carers should be advised of the allegation as agreed at the Strategy Meeting or the Allegations Management Meeting and of the process to be followed in the investigation. This may include the possibility that a referral to Children’s Social Work Services Duty and Advice Team may be considered in respect of other children in their care.

Where considered appropriate by those at the Allegations Management Meeting, the foster carers should be given the opportunity to respond to the allegations during the course of the enquiry.

Any decision to suspend making further placements with the foster carer whilst enquiries are ongoing should be communicated in writing to the foster carer by the manager of the fostering service.

Those supporting the foster carers must contact them as soon as practicable after they have been made aware of the allegation, and explain their role to them. They must make clear their responsibility to report to the local authority, the Police and in some circumstances to the Court if any information relevant to the process comes to their attention. They must ascertain and of any implications for the foster carer's financial allowances particularly where placements have been suspended.

They should confirm that the foster carers are aware of the following.

  1. The contents of this procedure West Yorkshire Consortium Allegations Against Persons who Work with Children Procedure;
  2. Information regarding independent support.

3.4 Concluding the Investigation

It is expected that all professionals will agree a plan to feedback any actions from the plan developed in the Allegations meeting and consider whether any further reviews are required and to report conclusion of their enquiry.

It will be agreed with the LADO who will provide feedback to relevant parties including foster carers child and guardians.

Taking advice from those involved in the LADO process the Fostering Service Manager will need to consider whether there is a duty to refer to the Disclosure and Barring Service's (DBS) Children's Barred List.

Following the allegations process there should be a foster carer review, the outcome of which may be a recommendation to return to Fostering Panel.

The SSW will complete a report to the Fostering Panel commenting on the outcomes of the Allegations meeting and the implications for the Carers continued involvement in their fostering role.

This report will be shared with the foster carer and their representative in advance of the Panel.

All relevant documents regarding the allegation, irrespective of the outcome, must be retained on the child's and the foster carer's records. Permission for this will need to be sought from the chair of the allegations management meeting.

at the final allegations management meeting, consideration should be given to holding a debriefing meeting for all involved as to the impact of the allegations and the investigation, whatever the outcome, and any necessary assistance should be made available as necessary. 

End