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3.7.1 Fostering Panel

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This chapter explains the membership, purpose, functions and arrangements for meetings of the Fostering Panel. It should be read in conjunction with the following procedures:

Assessment and Approval of Foster Carers Procedure
Extensions and Exemptions / Variations to Foster Carers Approval Procedure
Persons Disqualified from Fostering Procedure
Review and Termination of Approval of Foster Carers Procedure

AMENDMENTS

This chapter was amended in December 2011 to reflect the Fostering Services (England) Regulations 2011, Associated Guidance and National Minimum Standards. Section 1, Membership has been revised significantly and should be re-read in its entirety. Section 2, Meetings has been amended to include reference to potential foster carers attending meetings which discuss their application, and revised timescales for the agenda to be sent to Panel Members.


Contents

  1. Membership
  2. Meetings
  3. Purpose and Function
  4. Role of Chair
  5. Role of Vice Chair/s
  6. Role of Professional Adviser
  7. Role of Panel Administrative Staff


1. Membership

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

The membership must be drawn from a Central List of persons with the appropriate qualifications and/or experience, including one or more social workers who have at least three years' relevant post-qualifying experience.

The Chair will be one of the independent members, appointed by the Designated Manager (Fostering Panel). See Section 4, Role of Chair below.

The Designated Manager will also appoint up to two Vice Chairs, whose role is to chair the Panel when the Chair is unavailable. See Section 5, Role of Vice Chair below.

All members of the Central List must have been the subject of satisfactory Criminal Records Bureau checks before taking up their appointment. These Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks should be kept up to date and recorded, including the date when the checks were made. Any member will be automatically regarded as unsuitable if they have any cautions or convictions which may deem them a risk to children.

At least 2 personal and work references will also be obtained in writing and must be satisfactory. 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 meet the Designated Manager (Fostering Panel) and 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 with respect to age, gender, race, culture, religion, sexuality and disability.

All members of the Central List will also be required to attend at least one Panel meeting as an observer before taking up their membership. They 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.

The quorum is five, provided that the following are present:

  1. Either the Chair or one of the Vice Chairs (in the absence of the chair). If the meeting is conducted by the vice chair who is not independent, there must be at least one other member of the panel who is independent;
  2. One of the social worker representatives with at least three years post qualifying experience;
  3. Three (or in the case of a joint panel, four) other members.

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.

There must be a process for review of the performance of Central List members (including of the Panel chair by the Agency Decision Maker) and for the performance management of members. Where necessary the termination of the appointment must be considered.

Where there are concerns about a Panel member's behaviour either inside or outside the meetings, this will raised by the Chair with the Designated Manager (Fostering Panel). The Designated Manager will decide whether someone is unsuitable to be on the Central List and therefore to end the appointment and if so, will advise the member in writing giving one month's notice and clear reasons for the decision.


2. Meetings

The Fostering Panel meets monthly. The Panel administrative staff will arrange additional special meetings, with the Chair's authority as necessary.

The Panel administrative staff must arrange for the Medical Adviser and/or Legal Adviser to attend the Panel if required by the Chair or by the worker presenting a report. 

All Panel meetings will be attended by a Professional Adviser, who will advise the Panel on regulations, policy and procedures, and take feedback about practice issues to social workers and their managers. See Section 6, Role of Professional Adviser below.

The Panel administrative staff may also arrange for observers to attend meetings, in consultation with the Chair, but no more than 2 observers may attend at any one time.

Applicants and foster carers can attend with a supporter and 'be heard' at Fostering Panel meetings that consider their approval.

The Panel administrative staff in consultation with the Chair will prepare the agenda for each meeting and send out the agenda to Panel members five working days before the meeting.

Those presenting reports to the Panel must send copies of the reports to the Panel administrative staff 10 working days before the date of the Panel meeting. The Panel administrative staff will arrange for the documentation to be copied for distribution to Panel members.

Panel members must declare where they know a person under consideration in a personal or professional capacity, in which case they should not participate in consideration of the relevant agenda item.

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

At the end of meetings, the Panel administrative staff will collect all reports and agenda from members.

The Panel administrative staff will prepare the minutes in which reasons for recommendations and any disagreements or dissent will be fully recorded.

S/he will send the minutes to the Chair for approval of their accuracy, and then submit them to the Designated Manager who is the Agency Decision Maker for approval of the recommendations made.

The Panel administrative staff will also ensure that applicants, foster carers and social workers are notified in writing of Panel recommendations and provide social workers with a copy of the relevant minutes.


3. 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.

As part of this function, the Panel advises on the procedures for reviews, oversees the conduct of assessments and advises on any relevant matters in relation to the Fostering Service.

The Panel makes recommendations as to the following:

  1. Approvals of foster carers and any relevant conditions of approval (including where written representations are received from prospective foster carers after a decision to refuse an application has been made);

    See Assessment and Approval of Foster Carers Procedure;
  2. First 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;
  3. Any other special matters relevant to a foster carer which the Chair of the Panel considers appropriate to be referred.

The Panel will also receive reports at each meeting on the number of Exemptions from the usual Fostering Limits granted by the Designated Manager (Foster Carer Exemptions).

See Extensions and Exemptions / Variations to Foster Carers Approval Procedure.

The Panel will receive annually the Manager of the Fostering Service's annual report on the Panel's business during the preceding year.

The Chair will communicate any issues of concern to the Designated Manager (Fostering Panel) and take part in quarterly meetings with the Designated Manager, Vice Chair/s and Professional Adviser to review the Panel's functioning. At the quarterly meetings, the Panel administrative staff will provide statistical information in relation to the Panel business, together with information on the numbers of foster carers used by Southwark. This will enable an appraisal of the extent to which the Fostering Service is meeting the demand for placements.


4. Role of Chair

  1. To provide an independent perspective on the work of the Panel;
  2. To have the knowledge and ability to chair a complex meeting, where a wide variety of views may be expressed;
  3. To lead a meeting with diplomacy and authority;
  4. To maintain sensitive regard to a fair and transparent process for foster carers whilst ensuring that the Panel keeps the child's welfare paramount;
  5. To ensure all Panel members participate fully and obtain consensus where possible;
  6. To ensure that all disagreements and dissent are fully documented. (Where there is a clear majority of dissent then the decision will go with the majority.);
  7. Where the decision is evenly balanced, additional action is likely to be required from the social worker to enable the Panel to make a clearer consensual decision. The Chair will arrange a further Panel date for the matter to be discussed again;
  8. The Chair does not have a casting vote;
  9. To ensure the Panel is clear about the reasons for its recommendations and that these have been accurately recorded;
  10. To be involved in the recruitment and induction of new panel members;
  11. To communicate issues of concern to the Designated Manager (Fostering Panel);
  12. To take part in the quarterly review meetings of Panel functioning with the Designated Manager (Fostering Panel) and Professional Adviser;
  13. To ensure a system of feedback for applicants' comments is devised, used, collated and reviewed;
  14. To ensure that meetings run on time.


5. Role of Vice Chair/s

  1. To deputise for the Chair when the Chair is unavailable;
  2. To use an occasion to chair when the Designated Manager (Fostering Panel) can be present to provide a learning opportunity and receive feedback;
  3. To take part in the quarterly review meetings.


6. Role of Professional Adviser

  1. To advise the Panel administrative staff on who from the Central List of members should be invited to attend each Panel meeting and to be present at meetings to advise the Panel on regulations, policy and procedures and to take feedback about practice issues to social workers and their manager;
  2. The Professional Adviser has no voting rights and cannot make recommendations;
  3. The Professional Adviser should avoid attending the Panel when a supervisee is presenting a report.


7. Role of Panel Administrative Staff

  1. To invite an appropriate number of members of the Central List to each Panel meeting; prepare Panel agenda; and coordinate and ensure that paperwork for Panel meetings is sent out at least five working days before and in good time after meetings;
  2. To ensure that applicants, approved foster carers and social workers are notified in writing of Panel decisions;
  3. To provide the social worker with a copy of the relevant minutes;
  4. To maintain full records of Panel business, including agenda, reports and minutes;
  5. To maintain statistical records for performance monitoring, governments returns and the annual report;
  6. To produce an annual schedule of meetings;
  7. To maintain a Panel booking system;
  8. To notify social workers of schedules and deadlines;
  9. To arrange accommodation and refreshments for meetings and a private waiting area for applicants attending Panel meetings;
  10. To maintain records of Central List members and their confidentiality agreements;
  11. To work with the Professional Adviser, liaising with social workers and their managers to ensure that Panel requirements are met;
  12. To respond accurately and promptly to enquiries by social workers and foster carers about the Panel, its procedures and requirements;
  13. To receive reports for the Panel and point out any gaps to the Professional Adviser;
  14. To ensure sufficient attendance of Central List members so that Panel meetings are quorate. Where this is in doubt, to draw this to the attention of the Professional Adviser in advance of the meeting;
  15. To liaise with the Chair about request from observers;
  16. To ensure that name badges are ready, that spare reports are available and that recording equipment, if used, is functioning;
  17. To take minutes at the meeting, noting in particular recommendations and reasons;
  18. To draw any matter to the attention of the Chair as necessary;
  19. To collect papers at the end of the meeting;
  20. To draft minutes after the meeting, including recommendations and reasons;
  21. To submit draft minutes to the Chair or Professional Adviser as appropriate;
  22. To ensure that the Agency Decision Maker receives the minutes and any other papers required for a decision to be made.

End