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12.16 Transfer of Foster Carers Policy

This chapter was added to the manual in July 2015.


Contents

1. Introduction
2. Policy Aims
3. Policy Principles
4. Procedure
  4.1 Initial Enquiry and Visit
  4.2 Progressing Process of Transfer
  4.3 Sharing of Information
  4.4 Protocol Meeting
  4.5 Assessment On-going
  4.6 Panel
  4.7 Payments to Foster Carers
  Appendix 1: Sharing Information for the Purposes of Foster Carer or Adopter Assessments


1. Introduction

This policy refers to the movement of registered foster carers between fostering providers where carers are planning on transferring to Nottinghamshire County Council (NCC).

The Transfer of Foster Carers Protocol England (2014) re-issued 2015 was developed in partnership with the Fostering Network, the joint forum of independent fostering providers and the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, in order to explain and clarify the steps to be followed when a foster carer wishes to transfer between one fostering provider and another. This policy follows good practice identified in it.


2. Policy Aims

  • To ensure continuity of care for Notts children in placement during any transfer of foster carers between fostering providers;
  • To minimise the length of time taken in the transfer process;
  • To provide a framework for the negotiation of the financial implications of the transfer between providers;
  • To ensure that foster carers are not pressurised into changing their fostering provider.


3. Policy Principles

  • To recognise the principles of child care legislation and seek to ensure that safeguarding the welfare of children is at the core of fostering policy and practice. It recognises that the welfare of any child in placement is paramount;
  • Foster carers have the right to freedom of movement between fostering providers;
  • All fostering providers should be committed to increasing the overall pool of foster carers by the active recruitment of people new to fostering.


4. Procedure

4.1 Initial Enquiry and Visit

  • The applicant/s express their interest to NCC (contacting recruitment team on 0845 3018899);
  • Initial enquiry taken;
  • Allocated to supervising / assessing social worker (SSW) for initial visit/s;
  • Initial visits to the applicant/s should be used to gather relevant information;
  • The protocol should be explained clearly so that the applicant is fully aware of what to expect and the steps they should take;
  • The SSW should seek to obtain current table of fees and payments the foster carer receives.

4.2 Progressing Process of Transfer

If after the initial visit/s the applicant/s wishes to proceed and NCC wish to progress the transfer, the following steps should be taken:

  • The foster carer must write to their current agency to advise them of their intention to transfer to another agency, and give their consent for NCC to view their files;
  • Foster carer completes Registration of interest;
  • NCC writes to foster carer’s current provider, confirming the intention of the foster carer, and NCC’s awareness of this. The letter also requests a Reference and access to files. If there are child/ren in placement, NCC will also advise the current authority that it is their responsibility to notify the placing authority, where other than NCC. (Letter to Current Provider)  (Reference Request);
  • It is good practice for the SSW to contact the current provider directly at this stage in order to seek acknowledgement that they have received the letter and are aware of NCC’s intentions to proceed. This contact also provides an opportunity to set date for the Protocol Meeting (if child/ren in placement);
  • The SSW should now progress further checks with the applicant. These include:
    • Declaration of suitability – Foster Carer Application / Review;
    • Declaration of health;
    • DBS checks;
    • Medical forms (references from GP – not full medicals).
  • The SSW to obtain management approval to progress the assessment, and confirmation from Service Manager about level of fees.
  • The SSW should inform the IRO of any Nottinghamshire children placed about impending changes
  • SSW to inform the Placements team of the enquiry, and intention to progress the application, where child/ren are in placement.

The assessment process can now be started, but the Protocol Meeting (see Section 4.4 Protocol Meeting) needs to be arranged as a priority.

4.3 Sharing of Information

When a foster carer seeks to move to a new provider, the new provider seeks information from the previous provider about the foster carer, and the previous provider complies with such a request within one month of receipt of the written request. (NMS 26.9).

In the interest of safeguarding the welfare of children in placement, the onus will be on the current provider to prepare a comprehensive, accurate reference and on the recruiting provider to undertake a comprehensive re-assessment.

  • The SSW must therefore request a Reference from the current provider. On receipt of that request, the current provider will complete and send to NCC a comprehensive written reference within 28 days. (Reference Request) (request is actioned through Letter to Current Provider)
  • The current provider must give the foster carer a copy of this reference, unless there are reasons relating to the safeguarding of children which prevent this.
  • The reference should include the areas in the guidance within the Transfer of Foster Carers Protocol 2012.
  • The provider must also make the carer’s file available for NCC’s SSW to read. Arrangements should be made at the protocol meeting for this to happen.
  • The current provider should keep the recruiting provider updated, in writing, of any significant developments between the issue of the reference and the foster carer's approval by the recruiting provider.
  • An assessment by the recruiting provider should be postponed if the foster carer is subject to a current investigation of allegations, or if there is an investigation relating to significant concerns about their practice, until the outcome of the process is known.

See Appendix 1: Sharing Information for the Purposes of Foster Carer or Adopter Assessments for further information.

4.4 Protocol Meeting

The Protocol Meeting is held to ensure that each party is fully aware of what is happening and when (takes place if child/ren are in placement).

Within 28 days of the written notice from the foster carer, the NCC SSW should convene a meeting to include:

  • The child/children's social worker(s);
  • The current fostering service (manager and/or supervising social worker);
  • The recruiting fostering service (manager and/or supervising social worker);
  • The foster carer/s;
  • Placements Commissioning Officers (if child is not from Nottinghamshire)
  • Any other Local Authority representatives relating to other children placed;
  • Any other key professional deemed appropriate to the meeting and agreed by the chair.

The agenda for the meeting is in the Protocol for the Transfer of Carers. It is designed to ensure that there is no disruption to the current placement as the needs of the child remain paramount, and to ensure that the foster carers are not disadvantaged by the move.

The meeting will consider the following (using the Protocol Meeting with Existing Provider):

  • Any decisions made during the child's latest case review, particularly in respect of whether it is in their best interests to continue in their current placement and how their Care Plan will continue to be followed;
  • How the move of the foster carer to another fostering provider may affect each child in placement;
  • The particular support needs of the child and the foster carer and how they will be provided by the new fostering provider;
  • The circumstances in which the recruiting provider may use any other placement vacancy once the transfer has been completed;
  • The arrangements for approval by the recruiting provider and termination of the foster carer's approval by the current provider. The arrangements should be coordinated to ensure continuity of approval, and that transfer is made on a mutually agreed date;
  • Parallel arrangements for timing a transfer of responsibility for the payment of fees and allowances to the foster carer. (See Section 4.7 Payments to Foster Carers);
  • The views of the child, parent and any other interested parties. (These views should be sought and represented by the child/children's social worker).

Additional circumstances

  • Where the placement is not to continue, the arrangements to move the child/children to an alternative placement, including a time-frame for such a move, should be made;
  • Placing authorities will need to consider who the best people to attend are. This may include representatives of children’s services and the commissioning/contracting officers of the fostering services.

4.5 Assessment On-going

  • The expectations are that assessment and training will be completed within two to four months of the Protocol Meeting (or receipt of the Registration of interest if no children in placement);
  • As part of the assessment, the SSW should ensure the following are completed:
    • DBS on all relevant members of Household;
    • Framework records checked;
    • Safe Caring;
    • Pet Assessment;
    • Declaration of Health;
    • GP report;
    • Declaration of Suitability;
    • 2 personal references;
    • Employer reference;
    • Views of previous partners;
    • Financial circumstances.
  • The SSW, his/her Team Manager, representatives from the Placements team, the Child’s social worker and the current fostering provider should all agree to liaise with each other to keep all parties informed of any issues that arise and how the assessment is progressing.

4.6 Panel

In order to help in planning the timescales within the Protocol Meeting (see Section 4.4 Protocol Meeting), the SSW should obtain a date for Fostering Panel at the earliest opportunity. The Fostering Panel should make its recommendation on the suitability of a prospective foster carer within eight months of receipt of their application. (NMS 14.4).

  • The report for panel is prepared, and presented by the SSW, using the Report to Fostering Panel;
  • Fostering panel will make a recommendation about the application, and the Agency Decision Maker will make the decision within 14 working days after panel;
  • The Fostering panel must make a recommendation regarding the foster carer’s approval whilst they are still approved by their original fostering provider;
  • Once the foster carer is informed formally by NCC that they intend to approve them as a foster carer, the foster carer should give written notice of resignation to their current provider;
  • The fostering regulations state that an approval will be terminated 28 days from a written notice of resignation being received from a foster carer (The Fostering Services (England) Regulations 2011, Reg 28 (13); The Fostering Services (Wales) Regulations 2003 Reg. 29(11));
  • In order to maintain continuous approval, it follows that the foster carer must be approved by the fostering provider to which they are transferring with effect from the date that their previous approval ends. This will require the co-operation of both providers in terms of scheduling dates of resignation and approval. SSW to liaise to ensure this happens;
  • The SSW to liaise with Placements team, to ensure smooth transitions of payments;
  • Once approved, the administrative staff will enter the foster carer’s approval details, on the Fostering Register database.

In the interim between provisional approval by NCC, and the 28 day notice period, the NCC SSW may visit the foster carer and complete the Foster Carer Agreement form. This maintains contact and communication and reduces delay.

4.7 Payments to Foster Carers

Where it is agreed that a child's placement will continue with a foster carer, NCC should, as a minimum, continue to pay the foster carer their current rates of allowances and fees in relation to that placement. These rates should continue to apply for the duration of the placement, subject to any annual agreed increases and movement through the age bands. These need to be agreed at the Protocol meeting.

Where the current rate, is above a level that NCC would usually pay for an equivalent placement, NCC will not make any additional payments e.g. birthday, festivities and any additional allowances.

Post transfer to NCC, and when a new placement is made with the foster carer, the previously agreed “matched” rates of allowances and fees will cease to apply. NCC will then pay, when the new placement meets the criteria, its usual rates of fees and allowances e.g. 11plus fees; Level 4 fees; Fostering Futures fees.

If a child from another placing authority is to continue in placement, arrangements for the transfer of payments is usually co-ordinated by the Placements team, via the Individual Placement Agreement (IPA). (See Standard Service Provision for NCC Foster Care / IPA Standard Foster Care Placement / IPA Therapeutic Foster Care Placement)


Appendix 1: Sharing Information for the Purposes of Foster Carer or Adopter Assessments 

Statutory Guidance issued under the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review and Fostering Services (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2013 clarifies the circumstances in which information can be shared, either with another fostering service or with foster carers themselves. The Guidance is as follows:

Sharing information about a person that is held in their existing foster carer or adopter records is permitted for the purposes of informing a new assessment of a person’s suitability to foster or adopt.

The intention is to ensure that the fostering service or adoption agency has access to all the relevant information, so avoiding unnecessary delay in the process by which:

  • An approved foster carer, or person who was an approved foster carer in the past, can be approved by a new fostering service;
  • An approved foster carer can be approved as an adopter by an adoption agency;
  • A person who has been approved as an adopter can be approved by a fostering service.

Personal information

Personal information is information that relates to a living individual who can be identified:

  • From the information; or
  • From the information and other information which is in the possession of, or is likely to come into the possession of, the data controller, and includes any expression of opinion about the individual and any indication of the intentions of the data controller or any other person in respect of the individual.

Sensitive personal data

Sensitive personal data means personal data consisting of information as to:

  • The racial or ethnic origin of the data subject3;
  • His/her political opinions;
  • His/her religious beliefs or other beliefs of a similar nature;
  • Whether s/he is a member of a trade union (within the meaning of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992);
  • His/her physical or mental health or condition;
  • His/her sexual life;
  • The commission or alleged commission by him/her of any offence; or
  • Any proceedings for any offence committed or alleged to have been committed by him/her, the disposal of such proceedings or the sentence of any court in such proceedings.

Sharing information with another fostering service or adoption agency

Regulation 32(6) of the 2011 Fostering Regulations requires fostering services, and regulation 42(1) of the Adoption Agencies Regulations 2005 requires adoption agencies, to share information to support the assessment of a person’s suitability to foster or adopt, if requested to do so by the fostering service or adoption agency undertaking the assessment.

As the information is being requested to support the individual’s application to foster or adopt, only information about the individual and other relevant household members should be provided.

Information should only be shared with the informed, explicit consent of all parties referred to in the information, including young people where they have sufficient understanding to consent to the sharing of their information (if they do not have sufficient understanding, the consent of a person with parental responsibility would need to be obtained). This means that the person giving consent needs to understand why their information is to be shared, what will be shared, who will see their information, the purpose to which it will be put and the implications of sharing that information.

If consent is refused

If consent is refused, the current fostering service or adoption agency should consider whether there is any information in the records that is a cause for concern. Any information about a foster carer’s conduct or suitability to foster that has caused concern should be shared even if the individual has refused consent. If there are no such concerns, and the individual has refused consent, information should not be shared. This may require documents to be redacted to remove information relating to individuals that have refused consent (software is available to enable electronic redaction).

Information that should be shared

Information that should be shared, upon request, in order to inform a new assessment of a person’s suitability to foster or adopt includes:

  • The report of the original assessment of the person’s suitability to foster or adopt (if it is considered by the body requesting the information to be recent enough to be relevant);
  • A copy of the report of the last review of the individual’s continuing suitability to foster or adopt and any other review report considered useful to understanding the person’s current suitability to foster or adopt;
  • Details of any concerns about standards of practice and what if anything is being done/has been done to address them;
  • Details of allegations made against the foster carer / adopter or their household members (taking into account guidance at paragraph 3.79 of the Children Act 1989 Guidance, Volume 4: Fostering Services); and
  • Any other information considered to be relevant to the assessment of the person’s suitability to foster / adopt.

Foster carers’ and adopters’ rights to access, obtain a copy of and share information about themselves with others

As set out above, a fostering service which holds information about a person they approved to foster is required to provide that information to a fostering service or adoption agency that asks for it for the purpose of assessing the person’s suitability to foster or adopt. It is worth noting, however, that individuals themselves, in most cases, also have a right to obtain a copy of information held about them – known as a Subject Access Request – and could seek to do so in order to obtain records to inform an assessment of their approval to foster or adopt.

Individuals can make a request under the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) for any organisations they think are holding, using or sharing their personal information, to supply them with copies of both paper and computer records and related information. Organisations may charge a small fee – the maximum amount that can be charged is set by the Information Commissioner’s Office.

In some circumstances fostering services may not have to supply all the individual’s personal information in response to a Subject Access Request, including:

  • Where information about the individual includes information relating to another person and the other person has not given permission for their information to be shared, organisations are entitled to withhold this information. However, fostering services should try to comply with as much of the request as they can, redacting where necessary so that information can be shared; or
  • If complying with the Subject Access Request would put a criminal investigation at risk or is likely to cause serious harm to the physical or mental health of the individual or someone else.

A fostering service wishing to obtain a copy of a person’s previous fostering or adoption records for the purpose of assessing their current suitability to foster is advised to obtain that information from the fostering service or adoption agency holding it, rather than from the individual. This avoids any possibility of information being changed.

Timeframe for sharing information

Requests from a fostering service or adoption agency for access to information should be accompanied by the written consent of the applicant to the sharing of their information. The receiving service should acknowledged the request within two working days, seek consent from all others referred to in the information within five working days and the information, redacted where necessary, should be provided within 15 working days.

End