South West Safeguarding and Child Protection Procedures
South West Safeguarding and Child Protection Procedures South West Safeguarding and Child Protection Procedures

6.1.5 Supervision and Support of Foster Carers

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This document outlines the procedures to be taken in order to ensure that Foster Carers are managed, supervised and supported adequately.

References

  • Children's Act 1989;
  • Fostering Service National Minimum Standards and Fostering Service Regulations 2011;
  • Working Together to Safeguard Children (2015).

OTHER RELEVANT CHAPTER

Review and Termination of Foster Carers Procedure

AMENDMENT

This chapter was reviewed and updated in May 2016. There have been a number of clarifying amendments relating to titles of organisations e.g. National Vocational Qualifications replaced by BTEC. In Section 10, Foster Carers Training it is clarified that All carers will complete the Training, Support and Development Standards in their first year of approval.

This chapter is currently under review.


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Statutory Guidance
  3. The Role of the Fostering Team Managers
  4. Supervising Social Worker's Roles and Responsibilities following approval of Fostering Application
  5. Supervising Social Worker Roles and Responsibilities - General
  6. Planned Supervision Visits
  7. Unannounced Visits
  8. The Relationship between the Supervising Social Worker and the Child's Social Worker
  9. Frequency of Visits
  10. Foster Carers Training
  11. Payment for Skills
  12. Band 4 Foster Carers Support
  13. Other Support
  14. Temporary Variance and Change of Approval and Exemptions
  15. Making a Complaint
  16. Conflicts of Interest
  17. Foster Carer Role and Responsibilities


1. Introduction

Foster Carers provide a quality service for children in care on behalf of Plymouth Foster Care. Foster Carers are to receive the training, support and supervision they need in order to care for children placed with them. Foster Carers are entitled to expect a high standard of supervision and support, which reflects their valued status and the often complex and challenging nature of their work.


2. Statutory Guidance


3. The Role of the Fostering Team Managers

The Fostering Team Managers are to:

  • Oversee the support, supervision and development of Foster Carers through regular supervision of employees, Supervising Social Workers and Family Support Workers;
  • Ensure the training and development standards are met through a wide ranging programme of training and development opportunities;
  • Ensure that all children are safely cared for within fostering households and take any action necessary when concerns are raised;
  • Undertake monthly file audits to ensure quality case recording and that all checks and agreements are in place for every fostering household.


4. Supervising Social Worker's Roles and Responsibilities following approval of Fostering Application

Newly approved Foster Carers must be allocated a Supervising Social Worker who must be a qualified Social Worker within the Fostering Service who visit at least every 4 weeks in the first year and undertake at two unannounced visit per year.

Following approval of a Foster Carer the Supervising Social Worker will ensure that and induction takes place. Please follow the supplementary procedures relating to Training and Personal Development of Foster Carers.

The Supervising Social Worker must ensure the Form SS120 and SS120a are completed. This enables the Foster Carers to receive their Payments.

Supervising Social Workers will advise Foster Carers to notify their household and motor insurers of their approval as Foster Carers and when required to make claims to these insurers in the first instance.

Where the Foster Carer's own insurers will not meet the claim or there is an unmet excess, Plymouth may, in exceptional circumstances, ensure that Foster Carers are reimbursed for the costs of any claims in relation to the actions of children in placement or arising from the Foster Carers carrying out their duties as a carer appropriately.

Plymouth maintains a public liability and professional insurance policy for all staff and Foster Carers that covers costs arising as a result of child abuse claims against any staff or Foster Carer.


5. Supervising Social Worker Roles and Responsibilities - General

The primary role of the Supervising Social Worker is to ensure that Foster Carers have access to adequate social work and other professional support, information and advice, and to enable them to provide consistent, high quality care for a child or young people placed with them and to monitor the care provided to ensure safeguarding of any child within the placement. This is in addition to the advice and support provided by each child's individual Social Worker.

The Social Worker must support Foster Carers to ensure that they provide children in care with the care that reasonably meets those children's needs, takes the children's wishes and feelings into account, actively promotes individual care and supports the child's safety, health, enjoyment, education and preparation for the future.

In addition the Supervising Social Worker must also ensure that Foster Carers understand the nature and level of support that they will receive from the Fostering Service.

The Supervising Social Worker must also ensure:

  • Safer Caring Agreements are in place, and when a child is placed a Safer Caring Individual Agreement has been put in place;
  • The Foster Carer is aware of support from other relevant service such as Health Services, the child's Social Worker, the Virtual School and the Children in Care Child and Adult Mental Health Service (CAMHS);
  • They are given their work mobile number, for use during working hours;
  • Access to a support group relevant to their individual needs;
  • Details of their Foster Talk Membership;
  • Login details and an understanding of Plymouth Foster Care website and how to access and book online training;
  • The telephone number of the Out of Hours Service which operates during the evenings, weekends and Bank Holiday periods and is available to support Foster Carers in an emergency.


6. Planned Supervision Visits

A programme of supervision visits should be set up and agreed between the foster carer and the supervising social worker from the time of the foster carer's approval, and endorsed by the supervising social worker's line manager.

Visits to Foster Carers during the first year after approval must take place at least every four weeks when a child is in placement.

For Foster Carers approved for more than one year visits must be at least once every six weeks whilst a child is in placement. Where a child has been matched for a long term placement these visits, in agreement with the Fostering Team Manager and Independent Reviewing Officer, will have a visiting pattern of three months.

Supervision is essentially a supportive and enabling two way process to:

  • Ensure the foster carers understand how they contribute to the local authority's services for children;
  • Enable foster carers to contribute effectively to the plans for the children for whom they are caring;
  • Provide appropriate monitoring and feedback on the foster carers' work to ensure National Minimum Standards and Training, Support and Development are fully met;
  • Complete personal development plans for each carer, which are linked to their training and their annual review;
  • Support foster carers by providing advice or making this available from elsewhere as appropriate;
  • Give foster carers an opportunity to raise any problems and make sure they are addressed appropriately;
  • Acknowledge the challenges and demands that the fostering tasks make on foster families and ensure appropriate support is available;
  • Recognise and address any difficulties the foster carers' own children may be experiencing arising from fostering;
  • Assist foster carers to work in an anti discriminatory way that respects and promotes individual differences.

The agenda for each meeting should cover:

  1. Matters arising from the last supervision;
  2. Personal issues, e.g. effect of a placement on the foster carer's own family;
  3. Child(ren) in placement - their health, cultural, educational, leisure and contact needs - and any support needs;
  4. Training/development issues for the foster carers and family;
  5. Safe caring and health and safety issues;
  6. Foster carer's recording which is to be reviewed by the supervising social worker who should sign the foster carers' diary.

The supervision visits should be recorded on a pro forma Foster Carer Supervision Record, signed by the foster carer and the supervising social worker, and should include:

  • Any concerns expressed;
  • Any support needs expressed by the foster carers and how they will be met;
  • Any financial issues.


7. Unannounced Visits

The visits must be unannounced and not part of any supervision visit. Unannounced visits should take place between 8am and 8pm, and on a weekday.

For Foster Carers during their first year of approval or who are receiving six weekly supervision visits a Supervising Social Worker must make two unannounced visits a year.

For Foster Carers on a three monthly visiting pattern a Supervising Social Worker must make at least one unannounced supervising visit a year.

The main purpose of unannounced visits will be to look at the home environment that a child is living in.

If someone other than the Foster Carer is looking after the foster child, the Supervising Social Worker should seek to identify that person but should not continue with the visit.

If the Foster Carer is not at home, the Supervising Social Worker should leave a note to say they have visited.

Within the unannounced visit, the Supervising Social Worker must check:

  • The foster child's bedroom;
  • Communal areas available to the child such as the bathroom, kitchen and living rooms;
  • Who is in the home;
  • If the carer is not at home, who is looking after the child and what arrangements have been made for the care of the foster child.

N.B. The Supervising Social Worker does not need to see the Foster Carer's bedroom or Foster Carers own children's bedrooms.

Unannounced visits must be recorded on CareFirst and authorised by the Team Manager within seven working days. The Supervising Social Worker will send copies within one week for signature. Foster Carers are required to return the signatory page which must be filed in the paper file. Where the signatory page is not returned the Supervising Social Worker is to assume that the Foster Carers are in agreement with the recording.


8. The Relationship between the Supervising Social Worker and the Child's Social Worker

The Supervising Social Workers must understand the role of the child's Social Worker and work effectively with them by maintaining regular and effective communication.

Supervising Social Workers do not have case accountability for children. This remains the responsibility of the child's Social Worker who will generally be the first port of call for Foster Carers requiring advice or support in respect of a specific child.

Both Supervising Social Workers and the child's Social Worker share the responsibility of safeguarding the child and must respond to the needs of the child or Foster Carer, especially where they have concerns about the child's safety or well being.


9. Frequency of Visits

Visits to Foster Carers during the first year after approval must take place at least every four weeks when a child is in placement.

For Foster Carers approved for more than one year visits must be at least once every six weeks whilst a child is in placement. Where a child has been matched for a long term placement these visits, in agreement with the Fostering Team Manager and Independent Reviewing Officer, will have a visiting pattern of three months.

In addition to the pattern of visiting outlined above, Supervising Social Workers must always visit when reasonably requested by the Foster Carer and contact can be maintained by telephone and or email.

When there is no child in placement, but the Foster Carer is available to take placements then visits must take place at least every three months.

Each meeting will have a clear purpose and provide an opportunity to supervise the Foster Carer's work as well as provide the Foster Carer with support.

At these supervisory visits the Supervising Social Work must discuss:

  • Actions arising from last visit;
  • Each individual child in placement;
  • Issues relating to Fostering household;
  • The learning and development needs of the Foster Carer;
  • The Foster Carers recording relating to any child in placement.
Every supervisory visit must be recorded on CareFirst by the Supervising Social Worker within five working days. The Supervising Social Worker must send copies of the Supervision Record to the Foster Carer within one week for signature. Foster Carers are required to return the signatory page which must be filed in the Foster Carers paper file. Where the signatory page is not returned the Supervising Social Worker is to assume that the Foster Carers are in agreement with the recording.


10. Foster Carers Training

The Fostering Service is committed to providing comprehensive and ongoing training for Foster Carers. All carers will complete the Training, Support and Development Standards in their first year of approval.

The Department provides training to Foster Carers in line with their experience and needs. This involves Foster Carers attending courses and workshops arranged by the Fostering Service, with opportunities to take part in departmental and multi-agency training. Satisfactory attendance is a condition of continued approval. Training needs will be identified from an audit of Foster Carer annual reviews.

Foster Carers have access to BTEC Qualifications and will be invited to indicate that they wish to take part. A selection process to optimise Foster Care resources will be used.

Other forms of learning may also be accepted as part of the learning and development of Foster Carers.

Please follow the supplementary Procedures relating to the Training and Personal Development of Foster Carers, for more information on:

  • Pre-approval Training;
  • Induction for newly approved Foster Carers;
  • Induction Standards for Training, Support and Development Workbooks;
  • Post approval training and Payment for Skills;
  • Training Portfolios.


11. Payment for Skills

The Fostering Service has a 'Payment for Skills' career ladder with four payment levels.

Foster Carers can progress through the levels as they develop their skills and care for children with more complex needs. Below is a brief summary of the Banding Levels.

Band 1 includes newly approved Foster Carers who have met the eligibility criteria and can demonstrate the minimum skills. They must have successfully completed a competency based assessment and preparation training and been approved following recommendation by the Fostering Panel and ratification by the Agency Decision Maker.

Band 2 includes Foster Carers who meet all the relevant criteria for Band 1 and who have gained experience and demonstrated specific competencies after one year of Fostering.

Foster Carers within Band 3 will have the skills, knowledge and experience to work with most children who are in care. They will have the confidence and skills to manage most behavioural issues and situations, referring to other professionals for support and guidance as appropriate. The ability to work to, and comply with, agreed Care Plans will be essential at all times.

It is anticipated that Band 4 Foster Carers will look after children and young people who might otherwise require specialist residential placements. The level of risk management that these Foster Carers undertake will distinguish them from Foster Carers on other payment levels. Band 4 Foster Carers will be likely to care for children with extremely challenging behaviours and backgrounds. The Foster Carers will be expected to be skilled and resilient in working with and living with children with these behaviours and backgrounds.

For more details around Banding Levels and an overview of the Payment Levels please refer to Plymouth City Council's Website where these details are published.


12. Band 4 Foster Carers Support

Please see Section 11, Payment for Skills for information relating to all banding levels.

In relation to Band 4 Foster Carers there are two Supervising Social Workers designated to the Band 4 Scheme. They will:

  • Provide regular supervision and support;
  • Invite Band 4 Carers to Business Meetings;
  • Facilitate Individual CAMHS support;
  • Facilitate allocation of a Fostering Support Worker;
  • Arrange respite provision;
  • Ensure that the training and development standards are maintained via learning and development opportunities.

Business Meetings

The Supervising Social Worker will invite Foster Carers to attend monthly Band 4 Business Meetings to share information and provide mutual professional support. The Supervising Social Worker will chair and minute these meetings.

Individual Child and Adolescent Mental Health Support (CAMHS)

The Supervising Social Worker must contact CAMHS to advise the identified worker that a band 4 Foster Carer requires individual consultation and support.

Once this relationship with the CAHMS worker is established then the Foster Carer can contact directly when support is required.

The Supervising Social Worker will also be provided with individual consultation on a fortnightly basis. This will be arranged by the Supervising Social Worker and CAMHS worker.

Support Workers

The Supervising Social Worker will discuss the need for a Fostering Support Worker to be linked with the Foster Carers. All Band 4 Foster Carers will be entitled to receive a minimum of six hours per week from a Fostering Support Worker. Additional support may be available depending on the child's needs.

Respite

All Band 4 Foster Carers are entitled access to twenty eight days respite per year. This can be used flexibly, e.g. as a number of weekends or as one or two longer breaks of up to fourteen days.

Additional support breaks can be agreed depending on the child's needs. Support breaks can be used flexibly, e.g. for a support worker to stay overnight in the foster home instead of a day's respite.

The Supervising Social Worker will look to identify a consistent long term respite Foster Carer and the needs of the child will be carefully matched with an appropriate Foster Carer.

The Child's Social Worker will be contacted when an appropriate respite Foster Carer is identified and the approval for plans for respite are gained.

Procedures set out in Respite Provision of this document are to then be followed.


13. Other Support

Fostering Support Workers

The Supervising Social Worker may request the allocation of a Fostering Support Worker from the Fostering Service. Any requests for additional support must be submitted to Team Manager to check they meet criteria and for allocation on a priority basis.

Foster Talk

Plymouth subscribe to Foster Talk. Foster Carer's membership fees will be paid for by Plymouth City Council.

Foster Carers Forum

The Foster Carers Forum is held once a month for an exchange of information between Foster Carers and Fostering Service Managers including The Fostering Team Managers, Service Manager - Permanence and Placements, the Agency Decision Maker and the Director for Services for Children and Young People.

Support Groups

The Supervising Social Worker must identify appropriate support group(s) for the Foster Carers and facilitate the plan for a new Foster Carer to join. The Supervising Social Worker must then introduce the new Foster Carer to the support group.

Children in Care Individual Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) Support

The Supervising Social Worker must contact the Children in Care CAMHS service if individual advice and support is needed to enable the Foster Carer to meet the needs of the child placed with them. This support must continue until the Supervising Social Worker has discussed with the CAMHS worker and decided that the service is no longer required.

Children of Foster Carers

Regular events are organised for the Foster Carers own children.

Access to the Named Nurse for Children in Care

A named Nurse is available for consultation with Supervising Social Workers and Foster Carers when requested.

Access to Education Support

The Virtual School are available for consultation and support with issues relating to education of Children in Care. The Virtual Head Teacher for Children in Care must provide an Education Policy as required by National Minimum Standard 8.5

Respite Provision

Fostered children, who by definition have had at least one significant disruption in their lives, need consistency and stability. Foster Carers who take on medium to long-term placements should understand this and be committed to meeting the child's needs. However there may be circumstances relating to the Foster Carer's situation (e.g. illness or family crisis) where a temporary move to another placement is appropriate.

In addition there will occasionally be a need (as part of the Child's Care Plan) for respite to be offered to Foster Carers in exceptional circumstances, for example:

  • Children with severe challenging behaviour;
  • Children where contact arrangements impose heavily on the main Foster Carer;
  • Children whose special needs demand high levels of input.

If the Foster Carer requires a break from their fostering task, the Supervising Social Worker is to encourage the Foster Carers to do this during breaks between placements.

Where it is necessary to take respite during placements, this should be discussed with the Supervising Social Worker and the child's Social Worker or Fostering Duty if they are not available, so that suitable respite provision can be made available.

Foster Carers can access up to fourteen days respite per year.

The need for additional respite care must be discussed and agreed on a case by case basis by the Child's Social Worker, Foster Carer and Supervising Social Worker, taking account of the needs of both the Foster Carer and the child and approved by the Fostering Team Manager. This must form part of the child's care plan.

When respite care takes place the matching process should be undertaken in respect of the child and respite Foster Carer. Please follow Section 4, Placing a Child with their Approved Carer of the Matching and Placement Procedure.

When a child is moved for respite between Foster Carers the Supervising Social Worker must ensure that following information is passed to the respite Foster Carer:

  • Placement Plan;
  • Placement log;
  • Details of contact arrangements;
  • Medical consent form;
  • Any health or educational appointments;
  • Any arrangements if a child is hospitalised during the respite period such as:
    • Who should be contacted, e.g. Foster Carers, parents, child's Social Worker, Supervising Social Worker or Fostering Team Manager, school, health professionals;
    • Who will attend and stay with the child for the duration of the hospitalisation;
    • Who has the legal authority to give permission for any treatment;
    • Who will liaise with the health professionals, including the School Nurse, GP, and Consultant etc;
    • If a child has complex health care and communication needs, the Supervising Social Worker, child's Social Worker and respective Foster Carers must put a plan in place to detail the above but will also need to include who will take responsibility to ensure the child has all the necessary equipment when being admitted e.g. wheelchair and who will ensure the child's care plan is with the child when they are being moved from hospital to hospital.
  • Any other specific considerations in relation to individual child;

Supervising Social Workers must record the names of family or friends who may occasionally care for fostered children on the Safer Caring Family Agreement.

In some cases it would be appropriate for Foster Carers family and friends to provide breaks for the Foster Carers. If Foster Carers consider it appropriate in individual circumstances, children can stay overnight, holiday with friends or relatives of their Foster Carer, or go on school trips, subject to requirement of the care/placement plan, Enhanced Vetting and Barring Scheme Adult First checks are not normally sought as a pre-condition.

Where a child is going to stay with a Family or Friend of a Foster Carer the following details must be given to them (available in a standard format for completion by the Foster Carer):

  • Foster Carers contact details;
  • Name and contact of the Supervising Social Worker;
  • Name and contact for the child's Social Worker;
  • Contact number 'Out of Hours' team;
  • Name and Contact of GP, Health Visitor or Hospital Ward contact;
  • Contact details of the Designated Teacher at the child's school;
  • Any other important information i.e. food allergies, medication;
  • Arrangements for contact or appointments;
  • Indicate whether the health book for children 0-11 years is included.

The Supervising Social Worker must visit the family or friend and apply for and Enhanced DBS and ISA Adult First check before the respite can be agreed.

All arrangements for respite must be reviewed regularly at the Foster Carers Annual Review and the Child's Statutory Review.

Holidays

Where practicable and appropriate Foster Carers will be expected to take children in placement with them when going on holiday.

Any exceptions should be discussed with the child's Social Worker and Supervising Social Worker as part of the Placement Agreement/Annual Review or at any other stage of the placement.

Holiday allowance is available for individual children. Holiday allowances must only be paid after Foster Carers have demonstrated to the Supervising Social Worker that they have booked their holiday.

Holiday allowances may be paid for Foster Carers who holiday "at home" confirmation from the Supervising Social Worker is required


14. Temporary Variance and Change of Approval and Exemptions

A child may be placed in an emergency with a Foster Carer who has been approved even if the terms of that approval are not consistent with the placement provided that the placement is no longer than 6 days, (Care Planning Regulations 23). In such cases the Supervising Social Worker must complete an 'Outside of Approval Category form' for approval by the Service Manager, Permanency and Placements.

If the placement is to continue, the Foster Carers approval must be reviewed and presented to the Fostering Panel for recommendation regarding change of approval.

No Foster Carer is to be matched over and above the usual limit of three children, any exemption must be agreed by the Agency Decision Maker and an action plan is to be put in place to reduce to the limit of three children (four if siblings are placed together) in advance of the placement taking place.

If a Foster Carer exceeds the usual limits and lives in another Local Authority arrangements must be made for the exemption to be issued by that Local Authority.


15. Making a Complaint

All complaints are to be made using the Children's Social Care Complaints and Representations Procedure.


16. Conflicts of Interest

All Foster Carers, Fostering Team Managers and Supervising Social Workers need to remain aware of potential conflicts of interest and their responsibility to declare them.

Foster Carers must declare conflicts of interest to their Supervising Social Worker or Fostering Team Manager as soon as they are aware of a potential conflict.

Fostering Service employees should declare conflicts of interest to their Line Manager as soon as they are aware of a potential conflict.

Examples of potential conflict include but are not limited to:

  • A Foster Carer and a member of staff forming a relationship;
  • Where a relative of a member of staff from Plymouth Children's Social Care becomes a Foster Carer;
  • A member of the household/relative of a Foster Carer or Fostering Service employee becoming a service user of Children's Social Care services;
  • A member of the household, or relative of a Foster Carer, or Fostering Service employee being arrested or prosecuted.


17. Foster Carer Role and Responsibilities

The specific roles and responsibilities of Foster Carers fall into four main categories, details of which can be found in the Foster Carers Handbook and are linked to the CoramBAAF competencies for Foster Carers.

  • Caring for children;
  • Providing a safe, secure, and caring environment;
  • Working as part of a team;
  • Commitment to their own ongoing learning and development

End