STATEMENT OF PURPOSE

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1 GLOUCESTERSHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL Children and Young Peoples Services FOSTERING SERVICE STATEMENT OF PURPOSE 2014 / 2015 Delia Amos Service Leader Adoption and Fostering

2 CONTENTS INTRODUCTION AND LEGAL CONTEXT 2 PRINCIPLES AND VALUES Quality Care in a Family Setting 3-4 MANAGEMENT STRUCTURE AND STAFFING 5-6 SERVICES AND FACILITIES PROVIDED 6-9 KEY OBJECTIVES 10 FOSTER CARER RESOURCE 11 CAPACITY AND DEMAND 12 RECRUITMENT AND RETENTION OF CARERS 14 PROCESSES AND PROCEDURES FOR RECRUITING, APPROVING, TRAINING, SUPPORTING AND REVIEWING CARERS COMPLAINTS 25 MONITORING AND EVALUATION FAIRNESS AND DIVERSITY 28 PAGE(S) Appendix 1: Staffing

3 INTRODUCTION AND LEGAL CONTEXT Gloucestershire County Council Fostering Service s Statement of Purpose is prepared in accordance with the requirements of the Care Standards Act 2000 (CSA) for the conduct of Fostering Services. The National Minimum Standards for Fostering Services and Fostering Services Regulations govern the work of fostering services throughout England and are used in inspecting and registering fostering agencies. Standard 16 of the National Minimum Standards for Fostering Services and Regulation 3 (1) of the Fostering Services Regulations 2011 require a fostering service to produce a statement which contains a range of detailed information as set out in Standard 16. It is intended as a useful source of information for Foster Carers, Fostering Social Workers, Childcare Social Workers and young people. The aims and objectives of the Statement of Purpose should be child focused and show how the service will meet outcomes for children. PRINCIPLES AND VALUES Gloucestershire County Council s Children s Services overall vision and purpose is: To provide high quality care, timely support and interventions for children and families who are vulnerable or in high need so that their needs are met, reduced or prevented from escalating in order that they may have the same life experiences and life chances as children within their peer group. We will adhere to the following core principles: - Where it is safe to do so, we will support children living within their own family network. Where they cannot they will have a choice of flexible provision available to support a possible return to their family. Children s wider family and kinship networks will always be considered in meeting their short term or permanent substitute care needs. Permanence for children may, where appropriate, be supported by the provision of short breaks. Where a return home or home within their kinship network is not possible they will be offered high quality permanent substitute care. Where this occurs we will seek to ensure that children remain within or near to their home communities. Adoption will be the preferred route for permanence if this cannot be achieved within a child s own kinship network. Special guardianship may also be an option to secure legal permanence. In some circumstances long term fostering will provide stability and security for children and permanence through fostering will be supported by placement arrangements which encourage children and young people to feel secure, In very exceptional circumstances, when it meets the child s needs, the local authority may consider residential care for a child, which can be a transition to a fostering arrangement

4 QUALITY CARE IN A FAMILY SETTING Gloucestershire County Council s Fostering Service offers family placements at a local level to children and young people in the care of Gloucestershire County Council. We provide opportunities for children and young people in care to achieve their full potential and to live fulfilling lives in the community. We aim to provide: - High quality care in a family setting. A commitment to a child/young person centred approach. Stability in lives of children and young people to enable them to fulfil their potential. Respect for and promotion of the racial, ethnic, cultural, religious and linguistic backgrounds of children and young people. Consideration of the racial, ethnic, cultural, religious, linguistic background and the gender, sexuality or disability of fostered children and young people when making placement decisions. A commitment to the recruitment of foster carers from diverse backgrounds with diverse skills so that we can offer a range of placements for children and young people that enable genuine choice and maximum opportunities for appropriate matching in order to secure improved outcomes. 24-hour support for foster carers and children/young people. An inclusive partnership-based approach which embraces children and young people, their families, foster carers, the local authority and other agency colleagues, particularly, Health and Education. A commitment to ongoing learning and training of foster carers and staff via including opportunities for carers to achieve continuous professional development. MANAGEMENT STRUCTURE The Fostering Service is part of Children and Young Peoples Services. The lead manager for the service is the Service Leader who directly line manages the Fostering Team Managers. The Fostering Team Managers oversee the day-to-day management of the fostering service. Fostering Resource Structure The Fostering Resource is a countywide service, structured into task-specific teams: The Fostering Recruitment Team (FRT) recruits, trains, and assesses prospective carers. The staff team consists of a Team Manager and 5.5 full time equivalent staff. All Fostering Social Workers have a recognised social work qualification and are HCPC registered. The Placement Referral Service forms part of the FRT team a Deputy Team Manager manages two placement finding officers

5 The Fostering Support Team is responsible for the supervision and support of the majority of approved carers. There is a Team Manager and a Deputy Team Manager and 14.5 fte fostering social workers. The Fostering Friends and Family Team - assesses kinship or connected carers in regard to the foster placement of specific children. The team is also responsible for the suitability of and visiting requirements to private fostering arrangements. The manager oversees Special Guardianship applications and support arrangements. There is a Team Manager, a Deputy Team Manager, 5.5 Social workers and 1.5 support workers. The Family Link Team - In addition to these mainstream fostering functions, GCC operates a Family Link Scheme (family based short breaks for children with disabilities). The Family Link Scheme is managed through the Fostering Service and carers are approved within the framework of fostering regulations and standards. In view of its specialist function, the Family Link team has its own Statement of Purpose (see Appendix 1). SERVICES AND FACILITIES PROVIDED The core functions of the teams in relation to foster care are To recruit, train and assess a sufficient number of prospective carers as specified in the business plan. Maintain a high quality group of carers to ensure the full range of needs can be met to deliver high quality outcomes for children in care. Ensure an appropriate range of placements is available in the interests of matching assessed need, including racial, ethnic, religious and cultural factors. Provide preparation and on-going training to carers linked to skills level and the need to improve outcomes for children in care. Deliver good quality supervision and support to foster carers. Carry out an Annual Review of each foster carer. Work in partnership with other professionals, teams and agencies To deliver high quality placement support commensurate with children s needs and focused on improving the full range of outcomes. Service Users The Fostering Resource provides services to several interest groups: Children and young people and their families Those seeking information about fostering Prospective foster carers Approved foster carers Field social work teams Specific Foster Carers Requests for Information - The Fostering Recruitment Team provides the point of contact for members of the public seeking information about fostering or adopting - 4 -

6 Prospective Foster Carers - The Fostering Recruitment Team uses a Competency Based Assessment Framework and carries out a professional process of assessment to ensure the suitability of those seeking to foster. The assessment and preparation of prospective carers accounts for a large proportion of the Fostering Recruitment Team work. The same team offers support to newly approved carers and identifying and making suitable placements. Approved Foster Carers - Once approved, foster carers receive supervision and support from the fostering support team. Connected (Family and Friends) Carers -If the assessment of a child s needs determines that a specific foster placement with a person connected to the child is the most appropriate resource for a young person, the child s social worker works closely with a worker allocated from the Fostering Family and Friends Team. A fostering assessment of the carer is undertaken, and, if approved, the team undertakes the supervision and support of the carers, and provides specialist training and support groups. Gloucestershire County Council aims to make the same resources available to connected carers as to generally approved carers while recognising their specific support and training needs. Social Work Teams - If the Assessment of Need determines that a foster placement is the most appropriate resource for a child or young person, the child s social worker will seek authorisation from the relevant senior manager prior to making a referral to the Placement Referral Service. Children and Young People and their Families - The aim of Children s Services is to provide children and young people who need to be in care with placements that best meet their needs. The range of placement needs is broad, and includes the following: Short-term fostering Emergency care Long-term care Teenage placements Unaccompanied asylum seeking children placements Care for children with special needs Remand fostering Pre-adoption placements Fostering for adoption Sibling placements Parent and child assessment and support Short breaks Support care - 5 -

7 KEY OBJECTIVES The fostering service is committed to implementing the wider objectives of Gloucestershire s Children and Young People s Plan; Children are protected/safeguarded from harm Families are supported in remaining together Where it is necessary for a child/young person to leave their family, this is for as short a time as needed to secure a safe supported return home, or if they cannot return home, plans are made for permanent substitute alternative care with birth family members or wider family members for preference, and where this is not in the child s best interests, with adoptive parents. The child s need for permanence may also be met by long-term foster carers in some cases. Residential group living is provided only when a clear need for this is identified within the care plan and when substitute family care is not appropriate. Where it is clear that families and children are unable to live together, planning will be swift and clear to identify permanent substitute settings. Wherever possible, care is provided locally unless clearly identified as inappropriate. Contact with the family and extended family will be facilitated and promoted (unless clearly inappropriate). If care placements are needed that do not meet the above objectives, they will be for as short a duration as possible. The Fostering Service will work in partnership with parents/families to meet the above objectives. The objective of achieving permanence for children underpins the work of the fostering service and is at the core of everything it does. If the plan for the child or young person is for them to stay in foster care, consideration needs to be given to securing their permanence by supporting the foster carers to apply for a Special Guardianship Order or a Residence Order, with financial allowances paid where applicable. CAPACITY AND DEMAND The Fostering Service responds to planned and unplanned admissions. The structure of the Service recognises that unplanned admissions will occur and seeks to proactively address this need. Carers are specifically recruited and approved on the basis of the service they will provide. During the assessment process and final approval consideration is given to the impact placements will have and the capabilities/skills of carers. Thus emergency and unplanned admissions are directed towards carers with appropriate skills and capabilities. Where the Fostering Service is unable to meet the placement needs of a child, the commissioning of placements from independent agencies is managed and monitored by the Commissioning Team. The Fostering Service aims to ensure that each child or young person placed in foster care is carefully matched with a carer capable of meeting her/his assessed needs. In matching children with carers, account is taken of the child s care plan and recent written assessments of the child and their family and the carers. Particular - 6 -

8 attention is paid to the child s existing networks and preserving educational continuity. The Fostering Service aims to achieve matches by means of information sharing and consideration involving all professionals, the child and her/his family and potential carers, their families and other children in placement. Carers have available an Information Checklist to assist them in gathering information that is essential to their task of providing safe care. The Fostering Service is clear that in order to practice safe caring, foster carers need to be provided with as much information as possible, preferably before or as soon as possible after the child is placed, in order to help them provide a safe environment for themselves, their own family and the foster child. The supervising Fostering Social Worker has a responsibility to ensure carers have as much information as is available. Where practicable, each child has the opportunity for a period of introduction to a proposed foster carer so she/he can express an informed view about the placement and become familiar with the carer, the carer s family, any other children in placement and the home, neighbourhood and any family pets, before moving in. RECRUITMENT AND RETENTION OF CARERS THE PROCESSES AND PROCEDURES FOR RECRUITING, APPROVING, TRAINING, SUPPORTING AND REVIEWING CARERS. Recruiting and Approving Foster Carers The Fostering Recruitment Team depends upon a variety of methods to attract interest from members of the public, including: Word of mouth Local press and radio advertisements General publicity via posters and leaflets in public places News releases Information on Gloucestershire website - GlosNet Advertising on public transport Specific recruitment campaigns Specific advertising of children/sibling groups Event stands Monthly Drop ins Twitter Facebook and Google advertising The following is an extract from publicity information about fostering with Gloucestershire, posted on its website; People from all walks of life and ethnic and religious backgrounds can apply to become foster carers. We welcome enquiries from single people, married couples and couples in partnership. You do not need to own your own home to - 7 -

9 be approved as a foster carer. However, you do not have a right to be a foster carer and we assess all applicants to make sure that they are suitable to take on this rewarding but demanding task. Response Strategy The standards of service offered to adults who wish to foster are:- Information Pack about fostering sent within one week of first contact. Invitation to an information evening following confirmation of interest. (Information evenings run monthly) Completion of application form/commence Stage 1 process to include statutory checks. Visit by Fostering Social Worker to assess suitability Offer of a place on the next available preparation-training course if preliminary discussions indicate potential suitability. Confirmation of the name of social worker who will carry out assessment within one week of completing preparation training on receipt of an indication of wishing to proceed. Arrangements for contact with an experienced foster carer during the assessment process if required. Assessment report completed and invitation to attend Panel. Written confirmation of the decision within 7 working days. Decision on most applications within 4/5 months of the date of preparation training. The Assessment Process In line with the Fostering Service Regulations 2013 the assessment process consists of two parts. These can be carried out concurrently, but the information required for Stage 1 of the process must be sought as soon as possible. This assessment process is explained to applicants during the information evening and then again in a face-to-face meeting (the first initial visit). Statutory Checks and References The first stage is the completion of a detailed application form which seeks information about the applicant(s) and other members of the household. This form also requires the applicant(s) to give permission for checks to be made in relation to their suitability. The applicant s details will be checked against local authority information systems. Applicants, and any household members over the age of 18, must consent to an Enhanced Disclosure by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) LAC (97) 17 specifies offences that automatically exclude an individual from becoming a foster carer and the service has a process for dealing with other grey area situations where it is not clear if an application should proceed

10 During the assessment, each adult applying to foster completes a basic medical questionnaire. Medical information is sought from the G.P who sends a report to the County Medical Advisor, Fostering and Adoption. Six referees (four of whom are not a relative) and an employer are also required and two are personally interviewed by the assessing social worker. The interviews are confidential and will not be shared with the applicant. A full employment history must be completed. Stage 1 of the process is completed once we have clearance in respect of enhanced DBS certificates for all members of the household over eighteen years of age, the medical reports and written reports of interviews with 2 of the 6 referees. We will then confirm in writing whether we will proceeding to Stage 2 of the process or not. Stage 2 of the process starts following receipt of an indication of wishing to proceed with the assessment following satisfactory completion of the Skills to Foster training course The Assessment The assessing social worker will complete a Report using the Fostering Network Competency-Based Model. This requires a series of home visits to gather information, including personal background, relationships, values and beliefs, parenting experience, family lifestyle, employment, etc. Each applicant will be seen separately at least once, and children of the household will be involved in the assessment and preparation process. A Health and Safety check is also undertaken to identify any potential hazards, including consideration of whether any pets in the household are likely to pose a risk to a foster child. The assessor will also look closely at the applicant s motivation to foster, and whether this is likely to be compatible with the fostering task. Throughout the process, the primary focus will be on whether the applicant is a safe and suitable person to care for a child in care. The background checks will include contact with the applicant s previous partner and with previous employers where the applicants have held positions that involved children. The process also requires the social worker to assist applicants to demonstrate the skills and abilities they possess and that they will need when they are fostering. A portfolio is assembled to provide evidence of competence and areas of further training needs identified. An integral part of the assessment process is the preparation course that applicants are expected to attend. The Skills to Foster course is held 4 or 5 times a year over a 2/3 week period, on weekday evenings or weekends led jointly by an experienced Social worker and foster carer. The trainers use the Skills to Foster material published by The Fostering Network. Topics covered include What is fostering about? Listening to young people Working together - 9 -

11 Education of looked after children Health of looked after children Fostering skills Fostering and your family Moving on Valuing heritage Safer Caring Team work Managing difficult behaviour Once the assessment report is complete, the applicant will read and endorse the document to confirm the content is accurate and they agree with the recommended terms of approval. The application is then ready for a recommendation to be made at Panel. The Service Leader Fostering and Adoption makes a final decision. Within Stage 2 of the process if your application does not proceed to presentation of your report to the foster care panel, either by you withdrawing or by the service deciding not to proceed, a short report will be presented to the foster care panel outlining the reasons for this. Approval Process The role of the Fostering Panel in respect of initial approval of carers is as follows: a) To assess the qualities of applicants and determine whether or not they should be recommended for approval as foster carers. b) To provide a wider, more objective view of applicants: to level out any biases and to put the application in the context of fostering within Gloucestershire generally. To ensure that the proper process has been carried out in terms of the assessment and preparation of the applicants, and that the requirements of law have been adhered to. c) To set quality standards and to check that these standards are being reached in respect of a particular application. d) To make a recommendation on the approval details, e.g., number and age range of children, types of children, and whether an approval is in respect of a particular named child. All applicants are invited to attend Panel meetings when their application is being considered but are asked to withdraw whilst the Panel makes its recommendation. The decision maker considers the panel recommendations within 7 days of receipt of the panel meeting minutes, and applicants are always informed of the decision in writing. Supervision, Training and Support

12 Training opportunities in a group setting are made available to all foster carers on an ongoing basis and it is an expectation that when there are two carers both partners will take part, although they may attend separate courses. Some core subjects are considered to be mandatory, others are optional, although recommended. E- learning opportunities are also available. Post-Approval Courses (Please refer to most recent training programme if required) Children s Workforce Development Council (CWDC) Training Support and Devlopment Standards - These were introduced in 2008 with the expectation that foster carers would complete the standards (evidenced in a workbook) within their first year of approval. GCC foster carers have been assisted in the completion of their standards through workshops and mentoring programmes. Skills Level training opportunities include Working together as a team. First Aid Training. Personal and Sexual Health Care for looked after children. Working with difference and diversity. Recognising signs of abuse in the looked after child (strategies and techniques). Managing behaviour. Contact, endings and transitions. Attachment, loss and Child Development. Strategies for managing difficult behaviour. Safe Caring Child Protection, dealing with abuse/legal framework Trans racial placements Mandatory Courses Safe Care/development of Safe Care Family Policy Foster Carer role and responsibilities in relation to Education of Children in Care. Foster Carer role and responsibilities in relation to Health of Children in Care. Valuing Diversity and promoting equality A Foster Carer Training Proforma is on each Foster Carer File. All carers are issued with a training portfolio. The Fostering Service believes that every foster family is entitled to a high quality of supervision and support, and this is provided in the following ways: Each foster carer is linked with a specific supervising Fostering Social Worker who will be responsible for delivering day-to-day support and supervision. The visits are purposeful, with a clear agenda, and are recorded on a pro forma

13 We aim that all carers receive a visit by their Fostering Social Worker monthly. In some circumstances a more frequent pattern of visiting may be needed, and in other cases a less frequent pattern may be agreed with the relevant manager. This contact is both supportive and supervisory so as to ensure the foster carer is operating within fostering standards, policies and guidelines. Carers are able to contact the Emergency Duty Service in an emergency. Carer Support Groups are arranged to encourage mutual support and networking amongst carers. Respite care is provided if carers are experiencing substantial difficulties which would, without the provision of respite, lead to a placement disrupting. Gloucestershire Fostering Service pays the annual membership subscription to the Fostering Network for each fostering family, which entitles them to additional levels of support, advice and information, legal advice and insurance cover. Foster carers are given a handbook that covers policies, procedures, guidance, safe caring and other essential information. When a child is placed, the carer is given the information necessary to care for the child and the Care Plan specifies any particular arrangements for the support of the placement. Referrals can also be made by the social worker for any children or carers to receive additional ongoing planned support from other professionals. Annual Reviews of Foster Carers Legislative Context - Fostering service providers have a duty to conduct Foster Carer Reviews under the National Minimum Standards for Foster Care and Fostering Service Regulations The first review of approval should take place not more than a year after approval, and thereafter whenever the fostering service provider considers it necessary, but at intervals of not more than a year. The report of the first review goes to Fostering Panel. Other reviews may subsequently go to panel. FOSTER CARER ANNUAL REVIEW PROCESS 1. The Annual Review is conducted using an agreed format, the review of Approval of Foster Home 2. The fostering social worker will complete the basic information section of the review form and instigate the consultation process. 3. Consultation forms are sent out to i. The social worker of any child who is or has been in the placement for the last year ii. The foster carer iii. The carers own children

14 iv. The child in placement (depending on their age and understanding) The social worker(s) responsible for children placed are required to comment on the competencies of the foster carers and to seek the views of fostered children and their parents, and include such views in the consultation document. These comments are shared with the carer(s). The foster carer(s) are encouraged to engage in the consultation process fully. This is their opportunity to comment on the service they receive, how they are assisted in the fostering task, and to identify any perceived gaps in service provision, resources, training or support. Carers may also wish to comment on the service provided for the children in their care. Subject to age and understanding, the children of foster carers are invited to comment in their own consultation document. Their experience of fostering during the last year, together with their views and opinions, are taken into account as part of the review process. Upon receipt of the completed consultation documents, arrangements for the date of the Annual Review can be confirmed between the fostering social worker and the foster carers 4. Where one of a fostering couple is employed full time outside the home, it is likely that they have had little opportunity to be present at supervisory or support visits. It is therefore essential that the employed foster carer is present at least for part of the review to allow him/her to contribute and to allow the fostering officer opportunity to comment on their continued suitability or otherwise. This also applies to any other member of the fostering household. 5. Subject to age and understanding, the children of foster carers should be welcomed to join in part of a review meeting to enable their views to be sought directly. 6. The review meeting will take the form of a joint discussion between the fostering social worker and carer(s), using the Review of Approval of Foster Home template to guide the process. All sections must be completed. 7. The UK Minimum Standards, along with the Code of Practice on recruitment, assessment, approval, training, management and support, outline four areas of competency needed for foster care. Prospective foster carers are assessed in terms of their existing or potential ability to meet these competencies. The review process is an integral part of the competency system as it continues to monitor new and existing carers in their acquisition of skills and identifies any areas that may need to be developed. During the Annual Review, the fostering social worker will comment on the skills and abilities carers have needed to draw upon in the previous year and invite them to contribute examples of practice, training and experience that provide evidence of carers competencies and outcomes for looked after children

15 8. The skills appraisal, together with any specific training issues identified, inform the completion of the Training Needs section of the Review form. Carers should be asked to comment on the relevance and effectiveness of training attended. 9. Ensuring compliance with the following statutory requirements is also part of the Annual Review process. This includes the completion of: - Health and Safety Audit using the health and safety checklist as guidance. Safe Caring Family Policy ensuring that the family policy is up to date and being implemented. Statutory Checks DBS checks must be renewed every three years for all household members aged over 18. Medical Checks A full medical questionnaire required every three years and a letter from GP confirming medical fitness to continue fostering. 10. In some cases, the Fostering Social Worker, the Fostering Team Manager or the Foster Carer may consider that an independent social worker should conduct the review meeting. A reviewing officer, or a manager or worker in the service may then chair the review meeting. Independently chaired reviews can be very valuable in giving a fresh view on a situation. Best practice would be to ensure all reviews had an independent element. Conclusion and Recommendation Upon completion of the Annual Review, the fostering social worker, or independent reviewer, is required to make a written statement setting out whether the carer(s) continue to be suitable to foster, the household continues to be suitable in terms of health and safety, and if the terms of approval continue to be appropriate. The fostering social worker, or independent reviewer, must state: any recommended changes to approval skills level any significant change of circumstances the training action plan any other identified action needed If areas not covered in the report have been raised during the Review, a brief written summary should be appended to the form. PROCEDURE FOLLOWING AN ANNUAL REVIEW Upon completion of the review, the foster carer(s) read, sign and return the report to the fostering social worker. Carers may add their own comments if they feel they do not agree with a comment in a consultation document, or wish to challenge the summary or recommendation in the review report. The Annual Review Report, together with the consultation documents and statutory checks are then passed to the Fostering Team Manager who will ensure that all aspects of the Review have been fully completed and determine whether there are circumstances that require the Review to be submitted to Panel

16 Reviews to be submitted to Panel Regulation 28 (5) (Fostering Services (England) Regulations 2011), requires the Foster Carer Review to be referred to the Fostering Panel in the first year following approval. Reviews are also presented to Fostering Panel if there is: Any significant change of circumstances of the carer Any significant incident that may affect suitability to foster A change of approval Recommendation of termination of approval A review following an allegation or complaint Unresolved disagreement regarding the Review recommendation Where placements have been made outside the terms of approval (variations or exemptions to the normal limit of three) if these arrangements are more than very short duration. Foster Carers will be invited to attend Panel at the time their review is presented. Resignations or withdrawal of carers are taken to Panel for information with an exit report completed rather than an Annual Review The Fostering Panel also has a quality assurance function to monitor the effectiveness of the Annual Review process. Notification to Foster Carers of Review Outcome Following consideration of the Review by a team manager or the Panel, foster carers will be informed in writing. If the recommendation is to renew approval, the foster carer must be given written notification of the precise terms of the renewed approval, age range, number of children, skills level etc. This must be completed within 5 working days. If the decision following Fostering Panel is that the carer(s) are no longer suitable to foster, or the terms of approval are no longer appropriate, notice will be given in writing of the decision and the reasons for this, together with details of the appeals and complaints procedures. This is called a qualifying determination. Carers who are not satisfied about the qualifying determination may made written representations to the fostering service within 28 days or they may make an application to the Secretary of State for a review by an independent review panel (IRM), also within 28 days.. Information to carers about the Independent Review Mechanism (IRM) must be made available. If no representation is received within 28 days, the Agency Decision- Maker can proceed to a decision and notification will be sent to the foster carer of termination of approval or revision of the terms of approval

17 If representation is received within the specified period, this may be considered by the Panel, which makes a further recommendation. The Agency Decision-Maker will then make a decision taking into account any recommendation by the Panel. Written notice of the decision must be given to the foster carer as soon as practicable, stating the decision, the reasons for the decision and the date on which the decision comes into effect. A copy of the Annual Review and the Review outcome will be placed in the Foster Carer file and a copy of the Review Report provided to the Foster Carer. More detailed information about all relevant fostering policies are available on COMPLAINTS Gloucestershire County Council wants to listen to the views of those people who use its services and to respond quickly We aim to ensure that:- Complaint investigations are completed promptly. All Foster Carers have access to the Corporate Complaints procedure and action taken and outcomes monitored corporately. Full details of the corporate complaints procedures can be found through

18 MONITORING AND EVALUATION Monitoring The Business Plan framework is monitored via a range of reporting mechanisms. The Services for Children and Young People Performance Report presents information to the management team about the range of key indicators for Children s Services. The Corporate Parenting Group considers information about all aspects of provision for children looked after. The Members Scrutiny Committee also monitors this information. Other monitoring includes staff supervision, linked to the appraisal system, monthlyrecorded visits to Foster Carers, Annual Reviews, and feedback from training sessions. Team Managers monitor data about incidents of concern in foster care, including restraint, allegations, complaints, unauthorised absence etc. Ofsted Inspection The Fostering Service is inspected under the Care Standards Act 2000 and an assessment made in relation to compliance with the National Minimum Standards and Regulations for Fostering Services. The inspection of a local authority fostering service is undertaken as part of an overall inspection of the provision for children in care. FAIRNESS AND DIVERSITY The Fostering Service works within GCC s Equality Objectives 2014/15. The Service aims to ensure:- Employees and service users alike are treated equally with fairness and respect and that their diversity is both valued and celebrated. That our working practices are characterised by flexibility, efficiency and excellence, the results of a supportive management style that enables its diverse work force to realise their full potential in serving our customers. That our employee profile reflects diversity at every level of the organisation, and posts will be filled through a fair system of recruitment and promotion

19 Appendix 1 PRINCIPLES AND VALUES FAMILY LINK Statement of Purpose Gloucestershire County Council s Services for Children and Young People s overall purpose is to:- Support vulnerable children in their families wherever possible and support them in reaching their potential Make sure children maintain and develop secure and appropriate attachments whether this is in their birth family or permanent alternative Make sure children are safe and protected from harmful situations or circumstances: - Assess the needs of children quickly and fairly Maximise the life chances of children who are supported by Children and Young People s Services, specifically: Children in Care Children Leaving Care Children with Disabilities Children assessed as in need This will include supporting them in their education, helping them to live and achieve healthy lifestyles and make positive and enriching use of their leisure opportunities. The Family Link service supports this overall purpose by supporting parents in their caring role, giving increased opportunities to children and young people with disabilities and reducing the risk of children and young people being accommodated. In doing this the service follows these principles To recruit, assess and approve carers from a wide range of backgrounds, who are able to offer a range of experiences to children placed with them, appropriate to the age, gender, race and culture of the children using the scheme. To match children with carers as carefully as possible to reduce the likelihood of breakdown of links. This involves close working with the young people involved, parents, carers and assessing field social work team, use of the About Me document, matching and Risk Assessment documents and careful introductions. To ensure that all carers complete the Children s Workforce Development Council s Short Break carers workbook and have a development plan. To offer ongoing support and training to carers to enable them to maintain links by developing skills and to ensure the dignity, choice and independence of the children using the scheme

20 To develop the scheme so that children with a wide a range of disabilities can use it. This involves working closely with Occupational Therapy and health colleagues, making clear assessments of risk and using the Medication in the Community and Invasive procedures policies. To support the parents and carers of children with disabilities through flexible use of the scheme. QUALITY CARE IN A FAMILY SETTING Gloucestershire County Council s Family Link service offers family based short breaks to children and young people with disabilities assessed as being in need of short breaks. In doing so we will maintain the following standards of care:- All young people using the scheme are treated with respect and dignity. All young people are able to express their feelings and their views should be listened to and taken into consideration when using the scheme. All young people using the scheme are treated equally, regardless of their race, ethnicity, culture, religion or any other factor. A young person s needs in regard to disability, ethnicity, culture and religion are taken into account when matching with a carer. A young person s wish/ right to receive services within the community is considered with their need for aids and adaptations and our responsibility of care to carers when assessing if a child can receive Family Link. Links will be made working in partnership with young people, their families, link carers and other professionals involved with the child or young person. There is an expectation that carers will receive training in First Aid, safe caring, behaviour management and, if appropriate, Moving and Handling. Carers who have completed such training in their employment will be asked to provide documentary evidence. THE STAFF TEAM Team manager / Assistant Team Manager 30 hours Social Worker 30 hours 1 full time and 2 half time qualified social workers. 1 part-time equivalent level 3 Family Support Workers. All staff receive monthly supervision to ensure a high quality of work and equality of service across the scheme. The manager is supervised by the Service Leader Fostering and Adoption. The social workers and Family Support Staff are supervised by the Team manager and deputy team manager. All staff receive an annual appraisal and a review of the appraisal after six months. This ensures that all staff work towards targets that are determined by the different levels of the County Council s Business Plan. It reviews previous targets, how far they have been achieved and any barriers to their achievement. It allows staff to jointly review their training and learning needs as related to their

21 work role and for wider personal development goals. The ongoing achievement of appraisal goals and development opportunities are monitored in monthly supervision. Team development days are held at least once a year to discuss developments of the service, review progress towards business plan targets and improve communication within the service. WHAT WE DO The Family Link scheme offers family based short breaks to children and young people with disabilities. The short breaks can be anything from a few hours a week after school or at weekends to a three night weekend a month. Exceptionally more care a month can be agreed, if this is assessed as best meeting the needs of the child After an introductory period as long as is right for the young person concerned, the child or young person is linked with a particular carer and visits are arranged between parents, child and carers up to an agreed number of hours a month. Care takes place within the carers home or on trips or community activities with the carers. Carers do, with agreement, on occasion, offer a longer break to a child they know well, usually to allow the family to take a holiday. The children are generally aged 3-18, although Family Link can be considered for a younger child if it is felt to be more appropriate than community based breaks. Carers are carefully assessed and references and statutory checks taken up, in accordance with Fostering Services Regulations Statutory checks are repeated every three years. The Fostering Panel recommends approval of carers; the final decision is made by the Fostering Service Leader as the Agency Decision maker. Carers reviews are done every year. The first review after approval is presented to the Fostering Panel. Great care is taken in linking children to appropriate carers, matching the child s needs with the carers skills, family and physical environment. Possible placements begin with anonymised information being given to the carers for consideration. If the carer wishes to proceed, the carers are discussed with the young person s parents. If both sides wish to take it further an introductory meeting between parents and Family Link carers is arranged, which considers the young person s About Me, risk assessment (which covers behaviour, medication, physical care needs and invasive procedures) and the carers Health and Safety audit and Safe Care policy and agrees any necessary actions, including the timings and dates for introductions. A period of introductory visits takes place, before the placement starts. When all parties are happy that the placement is working well a placement meeting is held to ensure that all are clear about ongoing arrangements and in agreement about the parameters of the placement and to finalise any paperwork. Carers are offered ongoing support throughout the placement. Carers are encouraged to take up training to meet gaps in their experience or knowledge or

22 to develop their caring skills. All training available to mainstream foster carers through the County Council is available to Family Link carers. Communication between all those who care for the child is of vital importance. Family Link carers are encouraged to have regular contact with parents and, by agreement with parents, with the young person s school. Parents retain parental responsibility throughout Family Link placements and all decisions outside those concerning the young person s daily care while in the link placement, are taken by parents/guardians. The Family Link service also offers a day care only service to children with high supervision or personal care needs. We always try and be as flexible and creative as possible. Contract Carers scheme This service contracts carers to offer Family Link full time in return for a fee payment equivalent to a wage. The carers are self employed. Some of the carers homes have been adapted to enable them to take young people with significant physical care needs. This has enabled Family Link to place young people with higher care needs. Gloucestershire Family Link Scheme is an active member of Shared Care Network and Shared Care South West, the national and regional umbrella groups for family based short breaks for children and young people with disabilities. The Family Link service works with social workers and the relevant services to manage the transition to family based adult services according to the assessment of need. Where young people receiving Family Link are assessed at 18 as needing adult short breaks and the Family Link carers are willing, the two services work closely together, through joint visits and sharing information, to allow an assessment for Adult Placement to be made. ACCESS TO THE SCHEME A social worker, Family Support Assessor or Community Lead Professional carries out an assessment of needs; this is supported by a carer s assessment completed by the parents/carers. Access to Family Link is agreed via the social worker presenting the request to the Personal Budgets Exceptional Needs Group (PBENG) panel. Children referred to the Family Link scheme are placed on a waiting list, while appropriate links are considered and introductions made. The waiting list is monitored closely while possible links are explored. RISK ASSESSMENT All Family Link carers receive a Health and Safety audit of their home and compile a Safe Care policy as part of the assessment process; if relevant they also complete a dog and/or pet assessment. Carers driving/vehicle documents are checked in the initial assessment. These documents are reviewed at each annual review of carers. Where there has been a change of address for a Family

23 Link carer, Family Link workers will assess the accommodation for possible dangers to children placed using the Health and Safety audit and make recommendations for changes that will reduce risks to an acceptable level. All placements will be risk assessed, giving consideration to transport needs, medical needs, medication, physical care needs and behaviour/supervision needs. Medical protocols will be completed in liaison with medical colleagues according to the Clinical Tasks policy before a placement of a child requiring such a protocol can take place. Medical colleagues provide training for carers in relation to medical protocols. Possible placements for children who have significant physical care needs will be jointly assessed with an Occupational Therapist and if a placement can be facilitated by the provision of equipment or adaptations this will be provided if resources are available. RECRUITING, APPROVING, TRAINING, SUPPORTING AND REVIEWING CARERS. Carers are recruited by word of mouth from existing carers, through advertisements and other publicity, by direct approaches to possible carers by parents or staff, by talks and informal contacts and through the use of stalls and posters with parents consent. Family Link takes an active part in the annual Share the Care week, designed to raise the profile of family based short breaks and to recruit carers. Family members, who do not live in the same household as the child, are welcome to be considered as Family Link carers, they are assessed in the same way as all potential carers. In the same way people who know a young person on the waiting list are welcome to be considered as possible Family Link carers. All carers go through the same assessment and approval process. A Family Link Family Support Assessor makes an initial visit to explain the scheme and answer questions. If the applicants are still interested a qualified social worker pays several visits to the carers, takes up two personal references by letter and visit, does DBS checks on all members of the household over 18, asks for a health check on everyone over 18 and statutory checks with probation, educational welfare, NSPCC, and the County Council. The social worker also completes a health and safety check of the property and develops a Safe Caring policy with the carers. Pet assessments are completed. Prospective carers children are actively involved in the assessment process. The Social Worker writes a report, which is considered at the Fostering Panel. Applicants attend panel with the social worker. The panel, if satisfied with the application, recommends the terms of approval, number of children, number at one time, ages, gender, day and/or overnight care

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