View the Pan Lancashire SCB Manual
View the Pan Lancashire SCB Manual View the Pan Lancashire SCB Manual

6.1.2 Fostering Panel

REGULATIONS AND STANDARDS

See also Fostering Services (England) Regulations 2011 Regulations 23, 24, 25, and Fostering National Minimum Standards 2011, 14.

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

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

It is based on Regulations 23, 24 and 25 of the Fostering Services (England) Regulations 2011 and Standard 14 of the National Minimum Standards for Fostering 2011.

AMENDMENT

In July 2015, this chapter was updated slightly throughout in line with local processes.


Contents

  1. Function of the Fostering Panel
  2. Fostering Panel Membership and the Central List
  3. Meetings


1. Function of the Fostering Panel

  1. The functions of the fostering Panel in respect of cases referred to it by the fostering service are:
    1. To consider each application for approval and to recommend whether or not a person is suitable to be a foster parent;
    2. Where Panel recommends approval of an application, to recommend any terms on which the approval is to be given;
    3. To recommend whether or not a person remains suitable to be a foster parent, and whether or not their terms of approval (if any) remain appropriate:
      1. On first review carried out in accordance with Regulation 28 (2); and
      2. On the occasion of any other review, if requested to do so by the fostering service provider in accordance with Regulation 28(5); and
    4. To consider any case referred to it under regulation 27(9) or 28(10);
    5. To consider and promote the potential of relatives and friends as foster carers for those children who are unable to live with their parents (Connected Persons) (Regulation 24, Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010);
    6. To consider exemptions presented to Panel, from the limit to the number of children placed with foster carers;
  2. In considering what recommendation to make under paragraph (1), the Fostering Panel:
    1. Must consider and take into account all of the information passed to it in accordance with Regulation 26, 27 or 28 of the Fostering Services (England) Regulation 2011 (as the case may be);
    2. May request the fostering service provider to obtain other relevant information or to provide such other assistance as the Fostering Panel considers necessary; and
    3. May obtain such legal advice or medical advice it considers necessary;
  3. The fostering service provider must obtain such information as the Fostering Panel considers necessary and send that information to the Panel, and provide such other assistance as the Fostering Panel may request, so far as is reasonably practicable;
  4. The Fostering Panel must also:
    1. Advise, where appropriate, on the procedures under which reviews in accordance with Regulation 28 of the Fostering Services (England) Regulation 2011 are carried out by the fostering service provider, and periodically monitor their effectiveness;
    2. Oversee the conduct of assessments carried out by the fostering service provider; and
    3. Give advice, and make recommendations, on such other matters or cases as the fostering service provider refer to it;
  5. In this regulation "recommend" means recommend to the fostering service provider.

    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 Section 9, Representations / Independent Review Procedure of Assessment and Approvals Procedure.

    The Panel will receive annually the Service Leader’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 Fostering Service Manager and take part in - meetings with the Head of Service to review the Panel's functioning and report on the quality of work being presented to Panel, to ensure good standards are maintained.


2. Fostering Panel Membership and the Central List

2.1 General 

In its constitution and operation, Blackburn with Darwen’s fostering panel is set up to comply with:

  • Current legislation, e.g. The Children Act 1989;
  • Regulations (The Fostering Services (England) Regulations 2011);
  • Statutory guidance (Volume 4 Children Act Guidance for Fostering Services);
  • Fostering Services: National Minimum Standards 2011 (NMS);
  • Care Planning and Fostering (Miscellaneous Amendments) (England) Regulations 2015.

Account is taken of professional guidance on good practice from agencies (e.g. BAAF) and other credible sources, including research and the experience of other fostering panels.

The panel advisor maintains a list of persons – known as ‘the central list’ – who are considered to be suitable to be members of the fostering panel. This includes at least one social worker with a minimum of three years’ post-qualifying experience in child care social work (connected directly or indirectly with fostering). Reg 23(1), Guidance 5.7  Usually, there are around a dozen persons on the central list.  A specialist advisor – e.g. medical or legal – will attend a panel when necessary.

Each fostering panel is assembled in such a way as to ensure it has sufficient members who, between them, possess the range of experience and expertise necessary to effectively discharge the panel’s functions. Reg 23(7), NMS 14.8. The aim is for Blackburn with Darwen’s panel to be multidisciplinary and as independent as possible from the local authority. Guidance 5.2. In keeping with this, the chair is an independent member and the central list has representatives from education, legal, social work, psychology and health, along with independent members and foster carers from other fostering service providers. It is acknowledged that expertise in education and health is particularly valuable, as is input from elected members, as representatives of the corporate parent; and that each panel should be gender-balanced and reflect the diversity of the community. Guidance 5.8 

There is no requirement for a fostering panel to have a fixed membership, although the ability of the panel to function cohesively and with a level of consistency must be taken into account. This may be best achieved by having at least core membership. Guidance 5.4 Blackburn with Darwen fostering panels do have a core membership and only in exceptional circumstances does a designated member deputise for the chair.

The number of people sitting on a panel is influenced by the need to have the necessary mix of experience and expertise without the panel being so large as to be unwieldy to chair and/or intimidating to prospective or established foster carers who attend. Guidance 5.6  The regulatory quorum of the panel is five members, which must include the chair (or vice chair), a social worker with the requisite experience and an independent member (where the chair is absent and the vice chair is not independent).

2.2 Recruitment to the Central List

In recruiting members to the central list, account is taken of the aforementioned functions and responsibilities of each fostering panel, as these determine the qualities, experience and expertise required of panel members, both individually and collectively. NMS 14.8, Guidance 5.8

2.3 Recruitment Process NMS 14.1

Professional and lay people known to, and highly regarded by, Children’s Services may be invited to apply to become members of the central list. This is recognised as an acceptable way of identifying potentially suitable members.  At the same time, it is acknowledged that open advertising for members may help to broaden the collective experience on the central list. There is no fixed duration of membership (though there will be a degree of turnover which needs to be anticipated in maintaining the list). Guidance 5.13

All applicants are required to complete an application form and provide the information necessary for references to be taken up and checks made. An interview will be conducted by the panel chair and panel advisor.

All panel members must have an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check and receive satisfactory clearance 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 and must be satisfactory.

2.4 Appointment

A person’s appointment to the central list is subject to signing an agreement with the fostering service in relation to membership, which covers the service expectations (including the requirement to report any involvement in criminal proceedings), confidentiality issues and commitment to anti-discriminatory practice.

2.5 Induction and Training Guidance 5.14 

On appointment, members must be provided with written information on their performance objectives, including their participation in induction and other training; and the requirement to safeguard the confidentiality of records and information submitted to panel.

All new members to the central list are required to attend at least one panel meeting as an observer before acting as a member of the panel. Panel members should read the - induction pack -within ten weeks of joining the central list. They will have access to appropriate training and skills development and, at least annually, have opportunities to attend joint training with fostering team staff. The panel advisor and panel administrator will arrange at least one panel training day per year.

2.6 Annual Review

Each panel member is subject to an annual review undertaken by the panel chair and panel advisor.  (The panel chair is reviewed by the agency decision-maker.) 

2.7 Termination Guidance 5.16

If underperformance by a member of the central list cannot be resolved, the panel member will be given written notice of termination and the reasons for this. Termination will take immediate effect if warranted by the circumstances. Guidance 5.17 

2.8 Resignation Guidance 5.17

Anyone on the central list may resign by giving at least one month's notice in writing to the Head of Service (Placements) and sending a copy to the panel chair.

2.9 Fees Guidance 5.18

A reasonable fee may be paid to members.

2.10 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 may 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, so 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,  having regard in particular to the implications for the quorum.


3. Meetings

The Panel administrator organises the dates for monthly Panels, 12 months in advance. All Panel members have an attendance list and each member is expected to achieve at least 75% attendance unless there is advanced notice.

The Panel administrator will agree with the Panel advisor the agenda and paperwork to be submitted.

The Panel administrator has a range of duties and tasks including making sure that:

  1. The Panel is quorate;
  2. Panel paperwork is collated at least 10 days before Panel;
  3. Paper work is sent out - to member’s tablets at least five days before the panel.
  4. The Panel administrator confirms attendees at Panel: prospective carers; approved carers and observers. Applicants can attend with a supporter and ‘be heard’ at fostering Panel meetings that consider their Panel paperwork;
  5. The minutes are accurate and signed by the chair and agency decision maker;
  6. Panel Administrator sends out feedback sheets to attendees.
  7. Letters of approval and agreements are sent out.

The assessing social worker/supervising social worker will also ensure that applicants, foster carers and social workers are notified of Panel recommendations within two working days of the Panel. If they are not recommended for approval, the applicants will receive a letter detailing options, which are to:

  1. Accept the decision;
  2. Appeal against the decision within 28 days;
  3. Submit an application to the Secretary of State for a review of the decision by an independent review Panel. The letter outlines and explains the process. 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.

Letters in regard to Qualifying Determination are sent to those who are not recommended for approval as carers or whose approval status has changed.

A Fostering Panel must make a written record of its proceedings and the reasons for its recommendations.

The Chair's role is to ensure that all members participate fully in the meetings (unless an interest has been declared) 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, which are recorded in the minutes.

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).

The Panel administrator will advise if there are any observers. The Panel administrator will keep a record of Panel members DBS's, references, training and reviews.

The Panel administrator will send out a questionnaire to all those who have attended the Panel and collate the responses, these will be fed back at subsequent panels.

End