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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 approval is the subject of a review under the Independent Review Mechanism.

There are four fostering panels in Leeds.

See also: Fostering Service Statement of Purpose (2021)

AMENDMENT

In August 2022, this chapter was refreshed throughout in line with local guidance.


Contents

  1. Purpose and Function
  2. Membership
  3. Meetings
  4. Conduct of Panel Business
  5. Conflicts of Interest
  6. Agency Decision Maker


1. Purpose and Function

The function of Fostering Panel is to make recommendations on the suitability of those wishing to foster or on their continued approval as foster carers, this includes Kinship Carers.

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 assurance 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. 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;
  3. 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 Foster Carer Reviews and Changes to 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;
  4. 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;
  5. De-registrations;
  6. 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 Delivery 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 of each Panel will communicate any issues of concern to the Service Manager for Fostering and take part in six monthly meetings with him or her and Fostering Panel Advisors to review the Panel's functioning and report on the quality of work being presented to Panel, to ensure good standards are maintained.


2. Membership

Panel membership must be drawn from a Central List of persons with the appropriate qualifications and/or experience. The Panel will comprise of an independent panel chair, 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, a member from an independent agency and an adult care leaver. Each Fostering Panel has a Panel Advisor.

The Independent Chair will be appointed by the Head of Service (Children Looked After).

Independent Panel members are entitled to claim an attendance allowance, this is a set amount. All payments must be processed through the department's payroll service.

All Panel members must have been the subject 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 Panel Manager/Panel Advisor 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 for each Panel is five members, 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.

Panel members are required to attend at least 75% of meetings and 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 be raised by the Chair with the Fostering Panel Manager and/or SDM Fostering. Where a decision to end the appointment may be made, and if so, they will advise the member in writing giving clear reasons for the decision.

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


3. Meetings

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 or long term matches) 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. It is imperative that the Panel Chair is advised of a child or young person’s wish to attend panel prior to the meeting via the Panel Administrator or the Panel Advisor, to ensure that any necessary arrangements are made.

The Panel Administrator, 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 shared with Panel members.


4. Conduct of Panel Business

The Fostering Panel is required to make recommendations to the Agency Decision Maker.

It is expected that Panel members will have read all reports and carefully evaluated the information to identify issues where further information or explanation is required, before the meeting takes place.

The Panel chair will ensure that each Panel member is given the opportunity to raise comments and seek clarification about terminology in reports. 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.

Applicants attending the Panel meeting where their application is being considered will also have the opportunity to make comments and seek clarification about the assessment or review process and any issues that may emerge. The Panel's deliberations about an applicant's suitability will be carried out after the applicants have left the meeting.

The Panel is expected to try and reach a consensus of opinion discussing the strengths and concerns. All Panel members should be asked their views and no view should carry more weight than another.

The recommendations should be recorded having been previously summarised by the Panel chair. The Panel chair will advise the applicant of the Panel's recommendations following the meeting.

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 documents are  accessed by Panel members via  SharePoint site within the council’s computer system

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 then be sent out to the relevant workers attending Fostering Panel for any specific amendments or corrections. Any amendments must be received within 48 hours. The minutes are then sent to the Fostering Advisor for final checking and are 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 Fostering Panel Minutes will be available to Social Workers via Mosaic after a decision has been made by the Agency Decision Maker.

Also see Assessment of Foster Carers Procedure.


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


6. Agency Decision Maker

The Agency Decision Maker must have been qualified as a social worker and have at least three years' experience and have a working knowledge of childcare law and practice.

The Agency Decision Maker will take account of the Panel's recommendation before proceeding to make a decision. The Agency Decision Maker can choose to make a different decision.

The Agency Decision Maker receives the same information as Panel members prior to a Panel meeting, together with the minutes of the Panel meeting.

The decision and the date of the decision will be recorded by the Agency Decision Maker.

Applicants and carers should be advised verbally of the decision within two days and in writing within five working days of the receipt of the Agency Decision Maker's decision.

The Agency Decision Maker may defer any decision should there be any cause to do so until such time as any issues have been resolved.

End