Skip to main content

 

View NSCB Procedures View NSCB Procedures

12.17 Investigating Concerns and Allegations Against Foster Carers Including Historical Issues

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This guidance relates to all concerns, complaints and allegations made against Nottinghamshire County Council (NCC) foster carers or any foster carers residing within Nottinghamshire who are registered with an independent fostering agency (IFA) or any other local authority. It should also be used in relation to non-recent concerns, complaints or allegations relating to current or ex-carers. This guidance does not cover Private Fostering.

Working Together - Chapter 2: Organisational Responsibilities in relation to policies concerning allegations against people in positions of trust states... ‘Such policies should make a clear distinction between an allegation, a concern about the quality of care or practice or a complaint.’

The statutory guidance specifies the criteria to be applied in terms of allegations and concerns about an individual are those that indicate that an individual may have:

  • Behaved in a way that has harmed or may have harmed a child;
  • Possibly committed a criminal offence against or related to a child;
  • Behaved towards a child or children in a way that indicates he or she would pose a risk of harm to children;
  • Behaved or may behave in a way that indicates they may not be suitable to work with children.

The response to these allegations or concerns may involve several processes and procedures:

  • Child protection;
  • Criminal investigation;
  • A review of the foster carer’s suitability to foster in accordance with the Fostering Regulations;
  • Complaints procedures.

Foster carers and members of their household are not allowed to use any form of corporal punishment, or any measure of control, restraint or discipline which is excessive or unreasonable. Physical intervention should only be used in exceptional circumstances where it is the only appropriate means to prevent injury to the child or other people, or likely serious damage to property, and in a manner consistent with the actions of any good parent (The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations - Volume 4: Fostering Services, 98).

Foster carers are expected to promote a child’s emotional and psychological wellbeing and to avoid the use of demeaning verbal reprimands or personal criticism that undermines self-esteem.

(See Safe Caring Policy).

RELEVANT LEGISLATION AND GUIDANCE

Children Act 1989

Working Together to Safeguard Children

Keeping Children Safe in Education

Fostering Services Regulations 2011

National Minimum Standards, Fostering Services 2011 – Standard 22

Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006

NSCP Safeguarding Children Procedures, Allegations Against Staff or Volunteers Procedure

NSCP Safeguarding Children Procedures Historical and Non-Recent Abuse

Nottinghamshire Foster Carers Handbook

Managing Allegations / Concerns in Relation to Adults who work with Children Procedure

Historical Cases of Abuse Procedure

AMENDMENT

In January 2022, this chapter was extensively updated and should be re-read throughout.


Contents

Caption: contents list
   
  Introduction
  Policy
1. Geographical Jurisdiction
2. Terminology
3. The Managing Allegations Service Roles and Responsibility
4. Good Practice Considerations
5. Definition of:
  5.1 Standard of care concern (Level 1)
  5.2 Concerns of a safeguarding nature that fall below the threshold for Section 47 child protection investigation (Level 2)
  5.3 Allegation requiring investigation under Section 47 child protection procedures (Level 3)
6. Roles
7. Initial Response
8. Responding to Standard of Care Concerns (Level 1)
9. Responding to Concerns of a Safeguarding Nature that fall below the Threshold for Section 47 Child Protection Investigation (Level 2)
10. Responding to Allegations Requiring Investigation Under Section 47 Child Protection Procedures (Level 3)
11. Redacted Minutes and Disclosure
12. Support for Foster Carers
13. Foster Carer Review (FCR)
14. The Fostering Panel
15. Complaints Process
16. Referral to Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) and / or Notification to Ofsted
17. Additional Circumstances
  Appendix A: Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) Referral Flowchart
  Appendix B: Schedule 7 - Notifications


Introduction

This practice guidance addresses allegations made against foster carers and should be read in conjunction with the Nottinghamshire and Nottingham City Safeguarding Children Partnership Procedures, Allegations Against Staff or Volunteers Procedure. It is intended to add Nottinghamshire County Council specific detail to the NSCP procedure.


Policy

The guidance is intended to clarify the role of the Managing Allegations Service in relation to work with adults working or volunteering with children who may pose a risk to children and provides more detail on the process. These cases will either have a direct child protection element or a broader safeguarding perspective where the action of an adult working with children may have a detrimental impact on the outcomes for children and their suitability to work with children is questioned. Communication is probably the most significant aspect of practice and consistently good standards will make the most noticeable difference to outcomes, this guidance addresses practice in relation to this.


1. Geographical Jurisdiction

1.1 In most circumstances Local Authority Designated Officers (LADO) respond to allegations and concerns about adults working with children on the basis of where an individual works rather than where they live. As foster carers essentially live where they work, even though they may work for another local authority (LA) or Independent Fostering Agency (IFA), allegations about foster carers come under the jurisdiction of the LADO for the local authority in which they live. For example, if NCC foster carers live in Nottingham City then allegations or concerns about them come under the jurisdiction of the Nottingham City LADO. Case by case discussions will take place between the LADO for the local authority in which the foster carers live and the LADO for the local authority they foster for, to make the most effective arrangements for overseeing the investigation. Fostering Team Managers may contact Nottinghamshire LADO AO to assist with identifying the LADO in the other area. Where Nottinghamshire carers are being investigated in another LA the LADO Allegations Officer will be advised of these cases and will track them to conclusion.
1.2 For IFA carers, the LADO dealing with the issue should be employed by the local authority where the foster carer(s) live, even though their host organisation may be based in another local authority, e.g. if a Nottinghamshire based IFA organisation has IFA carers in Birmingham then the Birmingham LADO will lead on the investigation.
1.3 Child protection concerns should be investigated in line with local child protection procedures with appropriate communication between authorities, e.g. an NCC looked after child placed in Devon who makes an allegation about their carer should be dealt with by Devon LA. The same applies for another local authority looked after child placed in Nottinghamshire. As in 1.1 there will be discussions between Local Authorities at the outset how to discharge these responsibilities and will be recorded on both the child and adult’s files.
1.4 The application of these procedures should be in accordance with the purpose, scope, policy and principles as outlined above.


2. Terminology

It is important to use consistent terms in relation to the Managing Allegations process and the Managing Allegations meeting which may be linked to this.

The team is referred to as the Managing Allegations Service (MAS), consisting of a Team Manager MAS, Social Workers MAS and LADO Allegations Officers.

The term Managing Allegations and Concerns in Relation to Adults who work with Children is the adopted terminology within Nottinghamshire and Nottingham City.

The discussion between the LADO AO, Police and employer is referred to as the LADO Strategy discussion, the S47 strategy discussion or meeting is referred to as the Strategy discussion.

Managing Allegations Meeting refers to the multi-agency meeting process.

The person who is the subject of the allegation or concern is referred to as the ‘adult of concern’.


3. The Managing Allegations Service Roles and Responsibility

The LADO AO is responsible for agreeing threshold for the involvement of the Managing Allegations Service, providing advice and guidance to employers and voluntary organisations, liaising with the police and other agencies as required and monitoring the progress of cases to ensure that they are dealt with in a timely manner consistent with a thorough and fair process.

Strategically the Service Manager, Safeguarding Children (Strategic) acts as the nominated Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO) and is responsible for ensuring the procedures are in accordance with Working Together, Chapter 2: Organisational responsibilities, resolving any inter-agency issues and liaising with the NSCP.

The Service Manager, Safeguarding Children (Strategic) has overall operational and strategic responsibility for the efficient running of the response to the managing allegations functions.

The Team Manager, Managing Allegations Service, will manage the day to day operation of the service including allocations to and management of the Social Work staff.

The Social Workers, Managing Allegations Service, will have case responsibility for all aspects relating to an allegation and will undertake assessments of the adults and all children connected to the allegation who require an assessment.

These posts sit within the Safeguarding, Assurance and Improvement Group.


4. Good Practice Considerations

  • The welfare of the child remains of paramount importance throughout any enquiries, this includes their safety and placement stability;
  • Any concern about the quality of care in fostering households should be investigated in a thorough, fair, timely and consistent manner;
  • All parties should be treated with dignity and respect;
  • During their interview with the social worker MAS, the foster carer(s) should be given an opportunity to answer any concerns;
  • It is often traumatic for foster carers to be involved in these processes. It is essential that they are advised how to access the support of an independent advice and mediation service;
  • Foster carers must be kept informed, but the nature and detail of the information that can be shared with them at different points in the process must be agreed at Managing Allegations Meetings;
  • The investigation should be proportionate to the seriousness of the concern, complaint or allegation. The route of progression of investigation can be escalated or de-escalated as information, assessment, analysis and conclusions allows;
  • The outcome of the investigation should rely on analysis of the information provided. This may include non-recent information about the alleged perpetrator or child where this is relevant to the investigation;
  • It is important to reach a conclusion on all cases, including where there is a failure to cooperate or resignation;
  • Record keeping should provide a clear, comprehensive and accurate account of why decisions or judgements are reached and be recorded on the child’s and carer’s file.


5. Definition of:

The definitions outlined have corresponding ‘levels’ to aid communication and understanding between the involved workers.

5.1 Standard of care concern (Level 1)

Issues related to day-to-day management, for example:

  • Having a child’s hair cut without discussion with parents where delegated authority has not been agreed for the foster carer;
  • Quality or nature of diet, clothing or routine care and low-level discipline issues;
  • An accumulation of extremely low-level issues that have not met the threshold for complaints and allegations.

The boundary between the level of concerns may be blurred and change as the assessment is undertaken. Several concerns initially addressed at Level 1 may cumulatively meet the criteria in Level 2, noted in Section 5.3, Allegation requiring investigation under Section 47 child protection procedures (Level 3) below.

5.2 Concerns of a safeguarding nature that fall below the threshold for Section 47 child protection investigation (Level 2)

Issues that may fall into this category are:

  • Concerns that have been dealt with at Level 1 but have persisted, despite intervention and support from the Fostering Service;
  • Allegations made by a child against the foster carer that do not meet the Section 47 threshold but, nonetheless, are deemed to need investigating further;
  • Allegations or concerns that are deemed to require a joint response from the Fostering Service and the child’s social work team;
  • Concerns indicating the person may not be suitable to work with children.

Examples of a Level 2 concern may be:

  • Foster carers parenting style and quality of care e.g. inappropriate discipline;
  • Quality of working with other professionals e.g. failure to adhere to the child’s care plan;
  • Breach of confidentiality;
  • Persistent concerns that a child is failing to flourish in a foster placement.

The boundary between the level of concerns may be blurred and change as the assessment is undertaken. Several concerns initially addressed at Level 2 may cumulatively meet the criteria in Level 3, noted in Section 5.3, Allegation requiring investigation under Section 47 child protection procedures (Level 3) below.

5.3 Allegation requiring investigation under Section 47 child protection procedures (Level 3)

An allegation of this nature would be when a child may be suffering or likely to suffer, significant harm due to the action or inaction of the foster carer. There may also be concerns about their suitability to work with children. The criteria:

  • Behaved in a way that has harmed or may have harmed a child;
  • Possibly committed a criminal offence against or related to a child;
  • Behaved towards a child or children in a way that indicates he or she would pose a risk of harm to children, e.g. viewed images of child abuse, consumed excessive alcohol whilst with a child, or engaged in domestic violence;
  • Behaved or may behave in a way that indicates they may not be suitable to work with children.

5.4 Determining the level of concern

The fostering team manager and child’s social work team manager should agree the level of concern and when level 3, should agree which team manager will refer to the Managing Allegations Service. Where there is disagreement on the level of a concern/allegation, discussion should be held with the LADO AO. Where agreement cannot be reached, the matter should be escalated to the relevant service managers.


6. Roles

6.1

The Registered Manager for the Fostering Service, in NCC is the Fostering Group Manager. They have responsibility for ensuring standards and management systems are in place, and adhered to, to protect each child from abuse, neglect, exploitation and deprivation in its fostering households, as well as monitoring and promoting the quality of care available.

6.2 The Fostering Team Manager (FTM) and their supervising social workers alongside the Managing Allegations Service have a key role in ensuring issues against carers are fully investigated. They should provide support to facilitate and develop the fostering role to protect both carers and children by sound practices. The FTM is responsible for communicating with the foster carers at key points e.g. following Managing Allegations Meetings. The FTM is responsible for ensuring identified work with carers has been completed.
6.3

The Supervising Social Worker (SSW) has a key role in supporting the investigation as directed by the FTM and the chair of the Managing Allegations Meetings. Usually this will involve providing information about the foster carers, including a chronology for the initial Managing Allegations Meeting.

The SSW has an on-going role to provide supervision to the foster carer during the investigation process. Regular contact should be maintained. The SSW should have clear guidance from the Managing Allegations Meetings about what can be shared with the foster carers. SSWs must ensure that foster carers have information about how to access support from the Fostering Network (see Section 12, Support for Foster Carers)

6.4 The Social Worker Managing Allegations Service (MAS) has the role of investigating the allegations made against the foster carer(s). The Social Worker MAS will gather all relevant information. In agreement with the police, when involved, this role should include contact with the child, and foster carer(s) who are subject to the allegation(s). The Social Worker MAS will be responsible for presenting information collated and provide an analysis to the Managing Allegations Meeting.
6.5 The Managing Allegations Service Team Manager will have responsibility for managing all aspects of the investigation into the allegation made against the foster carer. Child’s Social Work Team Manager will retain responsibility for the operational case work.
6.6 Child’s Social Worker will ensure that appropriate safeguarding arrangements are made to ensure the safety of the child, and support arrangements are in place. There may be a role for this worker in facilitating communication between the social worker MAS and the child.
6.7 The Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO) has a key role in dealing with allegations about foster carers. They agree threshold for the involvement of the MAS and are involved in the co-ordination and oversight of individual cases, providing advice and guidance to employers and voluntary organisations. They liaise with the police and agencies and monitor the progress of cases to ensure they are dealt with in a thorough, timely and fair manner.
6.8 Fostering Independent Reviewing Officers (FIRO) review the status and suitability of foster carers annually, taking account of information from the child; carers; child’s social worker; SSW, IRO. A FIRO can be involved in the Managing Allegations Process, should be invited to the MA meeting (attendance optional for FIROs given capacity) and will hold a Review at the conclusion of the Managing Allegations meetings process.
6.9 Fostering Panel members have a responsibility to review the approval of any foster carers and their suitability to continue fostering following any complaint or allegation if the case is brought to panel. The panel advisor will provide professional support and guidance to the panel on the process as required.
6.10 The final decision regarding continued suitability is made by the Agency Decision Maker based on reports presented to Fostering Panel, the recommendations of the Fostering Panel and any other information they obtain which must be detailed in their decision.


7. Initial Response

7.1 When the fostering team or the child’s social work team receive any information of concern, this should be shared at the earliest opportunity with social workers and team managers across the relevant fostering and child social work teams.
7.2 The child’s social work team manager and the FTM should discuss and agree the nature and level of the concern or allegation, and whether safeguarding procedures or any protective action is required. This will include whether to refer to the LADO AO, whether to deal with the allegation as a standard of care concern or whether the information provided does not require any further action. This discussion and decision should be recorded on Mosaic and an alert sent to both the child’s social work service manager and the FSM.
7.3

When it is determined a referral to the LADO AO is required, the team manager (can be either FTM or child’s TM) holds the initial discussion with the LADO AO and will demonstrate how the situation may or may not meet the criteria. See Section 5.3, Allegation requiring investigation under Section 47 child protection procedures (Level 3).

During the discussion the following information should be available:

  • Information about the legal status of the child, the responsible LA for the child, length of time in placement, contact details for key people;
  • Information about other children in placement, including carers own children;
  • Details of the allegation or complaint;
  • Any actions already taken;
  • Whether the carers are aware of the allegation;
  • Discussion about the needs of all the children in the foster home;
  • Information about the carers’ record in fostering and on hold from taking further placements, the circumstances;
  • The views of the foster carer if known;
  • The views of the SSW, child’s social worker and anyone relevant.
For Level 2 concerns the LADO AO will advise whether a Managing Allegations Meeting is required. Level 3 concerns will automatically progress to a Managing Allegations Meeting.
7.4 The FTM will inform the FSM of any serious allegations or complaints without delay. The FSM will need to consider if an Ofsted Notification is required.
7.5

The Fostering Service Manager will decide if the foster carer should be on hold from taking further placements while a police investigation, enquiry by Social Care, or any potential review of their approval to foster is taking place. This may be further discussed at the Managing Allegations Meeting. Where allegations require investigation under Section 47 child protection procedures, no further children will be placed with the carer until the matter is resolved.

If the decision is made to put a carer on hold from taking further placements a retainer fee may be payable.
7.6 Depending on the nature of the concern/allegation the FSM, FTM and CSC Service Manager and the child’s team manager will need to consider the safety and best interests of the child/ren in placement. Where a decision is made to move or not move the child/ren to an alternative placement, the rationale for this decision, including an assessment of the risk should be clearly evidenced on Mosaic. Current placements may remain if discussed and agreed with the FSM, the FTM, and the service manager for the child.
7.7 Resignations will not preclude the investigation being concluded.


8. Responding to Standard of Care Concerns (Level 1)

8.1 If the issue about day to day care is still at the lower end of the spectrum, then, by agreement with their respective team managers, the child’s social worker and/or the SSW should, as soon as possible, make a joint visit, to the foster carer to discuss the concern.
8.2 The FTM will decide whether the matter can be concluded (usually in consultation with the child’s Team Manager) and recorded as a team manager decision on Mosaic (both adult and child file). The outcome can be reviewed at the next routine Foster Carer Review (FCR) or a decision made that one will be held sooner. Any actions or training identified through any of these processes should be followed up by the SSW and checked in supervision by the FTM.
8.3 If the social workers and the team manager(s) are not satisfied with the outcome of their visit, a recommendation can be made to upgrade the matter to a concern of a safeguarding nature which falls below the threshold for Section 47 child protection investigation (level 2). If there are a number or pattern of concerns, consideration should be given to the level of response. Persistent or repeated low-level concerns about day-to-day care may constitute a greater concern about the quality of care, suitability or professionalism shown by the carer.
8.4 It may be felt that it is appropriate to hold an FCR to consider the concerns in the context of the foster carer’s overall competence. If an FCR is required it should be held as soon as possible in consultation with the FTM and chaired by a fostering independent reviewing officer. The child’s social worker will submit a written report. The purpose of the review is to consider whether the foster carer meets the National Minimum Standards and to make recommendations.
8.5 The FTM will write to the carer detailing the outcome of the concern and should include a copy of the review, if this has been held, within 10 working days. A complaints leaflet must also be included. A copy of the letter should be uploaded to the carer’s file on Mosaic and the child’s social worker and team manager alerted. Where there has been a review, the ADM will agree a letter to the foster carer to be sent by the service.
8.6

The concern should be recorded on the form ‘Foster Carer Record of Concerns or Allegations’ on the carer’s file in Mosaic. If there are two carers in the household it should be recorded on both carers’ files.

Should Level 1 concerns not be resolved satisfactorily then matters should be escalate to Level 2 of these procedures.


9. Responding to Concerns of a Safeguarding Nature that fall below the Threshold for Section 47 Child Protection Investigation (Level 2)

9.1 All Level 2 concerns should be discussed with the LADO AO who will consider whether a Managing Allegations Meeting is required. If a Managing Allegations Meeting is required, see paragraph 10.1 for further information.
9.2

When it is agreed that a Managing Allegations Meeting is not required, the following process should be adhered to:

  • The plan of action should be discussed and agreed with the LADO AO. This should include agreement on who will be undertaking any further investigation. This may be a joint investigation between the Fostering Service and the child’s social work team, or it may be agreed that one service leads on this;
  • A professionals meeting should be arranged to share information and to discuss the outcome of the investigation. This meeting should agree any actions arising from the concern. There should be clear minutes which should be recorded on both the children’s and the foster carer’s records on Mosaic. Depending on the significance of the concerns, the professionals at the meeting may decide to arrange a further professionals meeting to review progress;
  • While being rigorous, the process of this investigation needs to be proportionate to the circumstances of the case, as concerns will vary in terms of seriousness and their impact on any child concerned;
  • Following a Level 2 concern a Foster Care Review is required. This should be held as soon as possible in consultation with the FTM and chaired by a FIRO. In these circumstances, the child’s social worker will submit a written report. The purpose of the review is to consider whether the foster carer meets the National Minimum Standards and to make recommendations. All reviews following Level 2 concerns should be considered for referral to the Fostering Panel, the FIRO will make this decision. Those reviews having had previous Level 2 concerns will go to Fostering Panel. Those reviews that do not go to Fostering Panel will be sent to the Service Manager Fostering for oversight;
  • Any concern or allegation should be recorded on the ‘Foster Carer’s Record of Concerns or Allegations’.
9.3 Those with parental responsibility, unless there is a clear justification for not doing so, which should be recorded, should be informed about the concern, or allegation and the outcome. This is the responsibility of the social worker MAS in conjunction with the child’s social worker. Consideration should be given as to whether to inform those with parental responsibility of other children in placement.


10. Responding to Allegations Requiring Investigation Under Section 47 Child Protection Procedures (Level 3)

10.1

Following discussions with the LADO AO to agree the LADO threshold is met, a combined LADO and S47 Strategy discussion will be held including the MAS TM, LADO AO, social work team manager, FTM, police, health and other relevant agencies to agree the need for a Managing Allegations Meeting and whether s47 enquiries will be undertaken. The MA meeting will be chaired by a Child Protection Coordinator (CPC).

A Managing Allegations Meeting will always be held in the case of a Level 3 allegation, and in some cases for a concern of a safeguarding nature that falls below the threshold for Section 47 child protection investigation (Level 2).
10.2

10.2 In contemporaneous cases, the Managing Allegations Meeting should be held within 5 working days, and 3 working days when Section 47, to agree a plan to investigate the matter. If immediate safeguarding action is required a strategy discussion will take place with relevant agencies prior to a Managing Allegations Meeting (see paragraph 10.1). Delay in holding Managing Allegations Meetings is at the discretion of the CSM Safeguarding Strategic and the reason for this delay must be recorded.

In non-recent cases, the strategy discussions will be held once sufficient information has been gathered and then as required.
10.3 Actions and decisions from the initial discussion should be recorded within 24 hours on Mosaic for both the carer and the child.
10.4 Those with parental responsibility, unless there is a clear justification for not doing so, which should be recorded, should be informed about the concern, or allegation and the outcome. This is the responsibility of the social worker MAS in conjunction with the child’s social worker. Consideration should be given whether to inform those with parental responsibility of other children in placement.
10.5 The social worker MAS should liaise with the allocated social worker for the child regarding contact with the child and obtaining their views. In exceptional circumstances it may be appropriate to utilise a social worker known to the child to facilitate this, the rationale for this decision must be clearly recorded.
10.6

With due regard to any police advice the foster carers should be informed of the substance of the concern/allegation as soon as possible. This is the role of the FTM following agreement at the Managing Allegations Meeting. The information provided should include:

  • The substance of the concern/allegation;
  • Who will be involved in the investigation?
  • The process and timescales of the investigation;
  • Who will be informed or interviewed?
  • The right to independent support throughout and how this can be obtained;
  • Any financial arrangements if the child has been removed;
  • Decisions and reasons regarding any child in placement;
  • Contact details.
10.7

Managing Allegations Meeting: The following people should be invited to the Managing Allegations Meeting:

  • The MAS social worker who will investigate the concern/allegation and team manager;
  • The child’s social worker and team manager;
  • SSW and FTM;
  • FIRO;
  • Police representative as appropriate.

Any practitioner with knowledge of the child such as:

  • Education;
  • Health;
  • Independent Reviewing Officer;
  • Youth Services;
  • Guardian.

Consider inviting:

  • Legal.
10.8 There should be minutes of the meeting taken by an administrative person and recorded.
10.9

The initial Managing Allegations Meeting as well as any further meeting will need to consider whether any action is required by:

  • Child protection / social care involvement;
  • Criminal investigation;
  • Fostering procedures.
If further Managing Allegations Meetings are required to progress the matter, the LADO AO should be informed. The status of each of these processes will need to be reviewed and continued or discontinued as information becomes available.
10.10

The Managing Allegations Meeting will need to consider the following information:

  • Details of the allegation;
  • Whether or not there is a social care child in need or child protection assessment/investigation;
  • Whether or not there is a police investigation;
  • The views of the child if known in relation to the allegation or the placement;
  • Whether or not the child’s parents or those with parental responsibility are aware of the situation, and their views and how this should be facilitated with consideration to the investigation and the rights of both the carers and the family;
  • Significant information about the child(ren) including legal status, individual needs, length of time in placement where relevant;
  • Information and views from the child’s social worker, the SSW and their managers;
  • Information and views from professionals involved i.e. school, health, IRO, child’s guardian etc.
  • The significance of any other previous concerns, complaints or allegations made against the carers or their family/members of the household. Any other relevant information about the adult/carers. A Chronology should be available, provided by the SSW;
  • Other children living in placement and any information and actions in relation to them;
  • Any information relating to any other children the carer may have contact in any other role/employment;
  • Whether or not the carers are aware of the situation and if not, how this should be managed, and within the timescale set at the Managing Allegations Meeting;
  • Information and views from the carers, when known, about the complaint/allegation;
  • Consider where the carers will get support from and if they have been encouraged to seek support;
  • How and when to respond to the complainant and who should undertake this;
  • Whether or not there are any further safeguarding measures that need to be put in place;
  • Allocation of tasks and timescales;
  • Does this matter continue to meet the threshold for consideration by a Managing Allegations Meeting? If so, set further meeting date (preferably within 28 days for Contemporaneous cases but this may be longer for example if bail conditions are set but there may be other tasks which need a more imminent review). Timescales for meetings in Non recent cases will be agreed at the meetings with intervals pertinent to the circumstances of each case;
  • At a suitable point in the process whether a notification to Ofsted or DBS referral is appropriate. A recommendation in respective of this should be made and presented to the FSM, who will assess and act upon the recommendation.
10.11 Once the investigation and assessment has been completed and the information gathered the MAS social worker will provide a report to the Managing Allegations Meeting to conclude the investigation. As far as possible the same individuals should attend all Managing Allegations Meetings to ensure that all information has been shared and that there is a consistent approach.
10.12 The point at which the foster carers are interviewed by the social worker MAS will be dependent on any joint/police investigation. The Managing Allegations Meeting should be clear about this issue, and the minutes reflect the position. There is unlikely to be any police involvement with a Level 2 concern.
10.13 Where foster carers have refused to cooperate, have withdrawn from the process or tendered their resignation, it is important that this process is completed, and conclusions reached on the information available. Resignations should not prevent an allegation from being followed up and concluded.
10.14

Once there is sufficient information, the Chair should provide a clear analysis of the information and their rationale for the conclusion reached. They should consider all the potential outcomes (refer to criteria in 3.3) and this should be recorded clearly in the minutes.

The following outcomes used by all parties (as identified by the DfE in KCSIE 2020) should be considered and applied to each allegation:

  • Substantiated - there is sufficient evidence to prove the allegation;
  • False - there is sufficient evidence to disprove the allegation;
  • Malicious - there is sufficient evidence to disprove the allegation and there has been a deliberate act to deceive;
  • Unfounded - to reflect cases where there is no evidence or proper basis which supports the allegations being made;
  • Unsubstantiated - there is insufficient evidence to either prove or disprove the allegation. The term therefore does not imply guilt or innocence.

The CPC will seek to gain consensus from the attendees regarding their analyses of the concerns in relation to the threshold criteria, and their view of the outcome. The final outcome of the meeting will rest with the CPC. Any dissent should be recorded in the minutes. Any significant dissent should be escalated to the CSM ICS and CSM Safeguarding Children (Strategic) and LADO.

Where a concern is substantiated, the CPC should clearly note which of the criteria set out in Section 5.3, Allegation requiring investigation under Section 47 child protection procedures (Level 3) is met and why, this should be recorded clearly in the minutes. Where a concern is unsubstantiated, the meaning of this and the reason for the decision should be clearly explained by the Chair and again, clearly recorded in the minutes.
10.15

Following the concluding meeting the social worker MAS will inform the foster carer/s of the outcome and the LADO AO will send a concluding letter.

At the conclusion of the managing allegations process a foster carer review will be held (see Section, 13 Foster Carer Review (FCR)) and this review will always be referred to the Fostering Panel for consideration (see Section 14, The Fostering Panel).
10.16

The LADO AO should be kept informed after each Managing Allegations Meeting and at the conclusion of the Managing Allegations meeting process.

The LADO AO will track the outcome of the Fostering Review and panel.


11. Redacted Minutes and Disclosure

11.1 Redacted minutes will be completed by the Chair as and when required and uploaded onto Mosaic and identified as such.
11.2 Redacted minutes provide anonymised information which protects the privacy and welfare of vulnerable children and their families whilst balancing transparency and openness.
11.3 Following a request, the adult of concern would not generally be sent a redacted copy of the minutes until the conclusion of the whole process and where there is a criminal investigation and actual or potential criminal proceedings then it is highly unlikely that this will be agreed. Professional judgement needs to be exercised within this decision making though, generally by the CPC taking into account relevant views and information. The LADO AO and Team Manager MAS can provide advice on this. Advice can be sought from the Subject Access Request Team in complex cases.


12. Support for Foster Carers

12.1 The Fostering Network provides a variety of support to foster carers including an informative website and a national helpline. Carers also have access to the services of an independent advice and mediation worker through the Fostering Network when dealing with concerns, complaints or allegations. Information about support is available in the Fostering Handbook, which is available to all foster carers.
12.2 SSWs will continue to provide supervision and support to foster carers throughout this process and will keep foster carers as informed as they are able to in line with guidance from the FTM and the chair of the Managing Allegations Meetings.
12.3 The Managing Allegations process can be distressing for carers, and staff should ensure that they are sensitive and supportive, whilst maintaining professional boundaries.


13. Foster Carer Review (FCR)

13.1 For Level 1 concerns a FCR is convened at the discretion of the FTM.
13.2

For concerns/allegations at Level 2 or Level 3 the SSW will ensure that a review of the foster carers, chaired by a FIRO, is held as soon as possible in consultation with FTM following the outcome of the process.

The FCR should review and confirm the status of the foster carers and make recommendation as to continued suitability to act as a foster carer.
13.3 A criminal prosecution should not necessarily delay this process; however, the police will need to be informed and agree to what information is shared. In all likelihood there will be sufficient information and assessment for the FCR to make its recommendations.
13.4

The SSW report to the FCR will address:

  • The nature and outcome of the allegation or complaint;
  • Whether or not a report has been forwarded to the crown prosecution service;
  • What, if any concerns remain;
  • The views and experience of the carer;
  • The views and experience of the child;
  • A chronology;
  • Views of the SSW;
  • Any implications for the safer caring agreement;
  • Training issues;
  • Any other information relevant to the carer or the child in placement;
  • Children’s Social Worker will complete a report.
13.5

The recommendations from the FCR will be confirmed by the FIRO in writing to the carer along with a copy of the review report. The possible outcomes and recommendations are:

  • Re-assessment of the carer in relation to the identified concerns;
  • Immediate re-instatement of the carer if approval and use had been on hold;
  • Reconsideration of the terms and range of approval (variation);
  • Future identified training or development needs;
  • The carer choosing to resign;
  • The concerns are sufficiently serious to recommend termination of approval regardless of whether there is a criminal prosecution.
13.6 When there are concerns as to the continued suitability, it is important to avoid delay in holding a Review to ensure the Panel process is timely and further stress and anxiety to the carers is prevented. Delays have financial implications if retainer fees are payable.
13.7 If the carers resign and the Review is booked before the 28-day notice period ends, the Review shall still go ahead, whether the carers attend or not.


14. The Fostering Panel

14.1 Where it is agreed a case will be referred to Panel (see paragraph 9.2), Foster carers will be invited to panel. The SSW, FTM and FIRO will attend the panel.
14.2 Where carers have offered their resignation and this takes effect (this mean that the notice period of 28 days is complete) prior to an FCR, the FCR and Fostering Panel will not go ahead. The SSW will write a concluding case note on Mosaic outlining the concerns, complaints or allegations raised about the foster carer and the outcome of the Managing Allegations process. The SSW should specify if there are areas where the foster carer was not considered to be meeting the National Minimum Standards for Fostering. Any identified concerns about the individual should be clearly noted and analysed by the SSW or FTM and be available should they apply to be a foster carer in the future. The SSW must alert the FTM to their case note and the FTM will add their comments. The FTM must then alert the FSM who will acknowledge and sign off the case note. A copy of the case note, and analysis should be sent to the foster carers.
14.3

Prior to reaching any conclusions the panel must consider the following:

  • SSW Report to the Review including Fostering TM comments and decisions from the Managing Allegations Meetings;
  • FIRO Report to Review and recommendations;
  • Views of the child’s social worker;
  • Chronology;
  • Views of the child;
  •   Any written representations by the carers.
14.4

The panel should make recommendations in line with the requirements of the Fostering Services Regulations 2011. The reasons for the recommendation will be made clear. The possible recommendations are:

  • The carer(s) remains suitable to foster and the terms of the approval remain appropriate);
  • The carer(s) remains suitable to foster and the terms of the approval are changed or restricted;
  • The carer(s) is/are no longer suitable to foster.
14.5

The panel co-ordinators will forward the final panel minutes and recommendations to the agency decision maker 5 working days after panel. The ADM has 2 working days to consider all the reports presented to panel, the recommendations from panel and any further information gained after panel and progress in accordance with the requirements of the Fostering Services Regulations 2011 Regulation 27 (6) (7) (8). Any further information gained by the ADM post panel must be detailed in their decision.

14.6

The carers must be informed verbally in 2 working days and in writing of the agency decision maker’s conclusion and the reasons for this within 5 working days.

14.7 If, after taking into account information detailed in 14.5 above, the agency decision maker is no longer satisfied that the foster carer or their household is suitable to continue (or their terms of approval are appropriate) as foster carers, written notice must be given to the carer that it is proposed to terminate or revise the terms of the approval. This is called a ‘qualifying determination’. The reasons for the decision should be provided with a copy of the panel recommendations.
14.8

This notice must also include the right to challenge this decision, the carer may:

  • Within 28 days of this notice, submit any representations about the case to the agency decision maker;
  • Apply to the Secretary of State for a review by an independent review panel of the determination.
14.9 The opportunity to appeal to the Independent Review Mechanism (IRM) via the Secretary of State does not apply in circumstances covered in Regulation 26(6). This is essentially where the foster carer or a member of their household over 18 years old has been convicted or cautioned of a specific offence (these offences are listed in Regulation 26 (5) and in Schedule 4 of the Fostering Regulations).
14.10

If the carers do not respond within 28 days, and make no representation or request for a review, the determination can be progressed to a decision (Regulation 27 (8)). This will then be confirmed in writing to the carer.

14.11 If any representations are received following the determination these will then be passed to an NCC panel for consideration (Regulation 27 (9)). Good practice would suggest that this would be a different panel to build in independence and further scrutiny.
14.12 The new panel should consider the representations made by the foster carer in conjunction with the minutes and documentation from the previous panel. The foster carer and participating parties would need to attend panel. The panel will make recommendations whether the foster carer remains suitable and the terms of that approval suitable.
14.13 These further recommendations will be passed to the agency decision maker who will make a final decision in line with the Fostering Services Regulations 2011 (Regulation 27 (9)).
14.14 The qualifying determination letter contains advice and guidance on how the foster carers can apply to the independent review panel for an independent review of the determination. Information should be sent to the Secretary of State within 10 days of receipt of the request. All the documentation considered at panel, the minutes and correspondence to and from the carer should be sent.
14.15 Once the independent review panel has heard the matter and made its recommendations the agency decision maker can proceed to make a final decision based on both the original panel’s recommendations and those of the independent review panel (Regulation 27 (10)).
14.16 The agency decision maker should send a copy of their notification to the foster carer and to the Secretary of State (Regulation 27 (12)).
14.17 The decision made by the agency decision maker following the subsequent panel or review panel is final. There is no regulatory mechanism for this decision to be reviewed.
14.18

Carers can use the complaints process to challenge the decision-making process. This may be if:

  • The carers assert that the process and procedure followed was flawed, e.g. the investigative process, the household review process or the panel process was not followed;

  • There was significant inaccuracy in the information relied on to reach the panel recommendation and the agency decision.

14.19 In circumstances where NCC foster carer’s approval to foster is terminated but they reside in another local authority, or if a child from another local authority is placed with the carers, the Fostering Team Manager should notify the other local authority of the reasons as set out in the written notification to the foster carers.


15. Complaints Process

15.1

The following has been agreed as a modified process in response to complaints regarding the outcome and/or the Managing Allegations process. This covers both contemporaneous and non-recent allegations.

  • The Service Manager MAS will lead the response to all complaints and will liaise with the Service Manager Independent Chair Service (ICSM) should the complaint relate directly to the Chair or outcome of the meeting;
  • As with all stage 1 responses, consideration should be given to offering to meet with the complainant either as part of the initial response or following the written response at the request of the complainant;
  • Where a complainant remains dissatisfied following the stage 1 response (and any attendant meeting), in circumstances where the outcome of the final meeting remains the central factor, the case holder within the complaints team will discuss with the Group Manager Safeguarding, Assurance and Improvement. Where felt appropriate the Group Manager will independently review the case before a decision is made about progression to stage 2 (This will be a file review);
  • The outcome of this review will be:
    • Upholds the original decision;
    • Recommends a further ‘Managing Allegations against Foster Carer’ meeting;
    • A change to the outcome classification (this will only be an outcome in exceptional circumstances).
  • The outcome of the review will be communicated to the complainant. If the complainant remains dissatisfied the complaints team will consider whether the case is eligible to progress to stage 2 of the complaints process.


16. Referral to Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) and / or Notification to Ofsted

16.1 The fostering agency has a statutory duty to refer any carer to the DBS for consideration of inclusion on a list of people about whom there is concern that they are unsuitable to work with children. This is on the basis that the foster carer may have been de-registered due to misconduct that has harmed a child, or put a child at risk of harm, or if they have resigned in circumstances that may have reached the same conclusion.
16.2

A referral to DBS could arise from recommendations of the Managing Allegations meetings or at any other relevant time.

The Fostering Service will take the lead in making the referral to DBS (see Appendix A: Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) Referral Flowchart).

16.3 Ofsted must be notified of any serious incident, a child protection enquiry or significant event in line with the Fostering Regulations 2011 Schedule 7 Events & Notifications. The FTM will complete a notification to Ofsted and send to the FSM who will forward to the Group Manager, Service Director and Ofsted (see Appendix B: Schedule 7 - Notifications).


17. Additional Circumstances

17.1

Allegations against current and ex-carers made by a child previously placed

Non recent information relating to concerns, complaints or allegations against current and ex-carers should be responded to in the same way as contemporaneous information.

  • Standard of Care Concern (Level 1): If the information is of a minor nature and having consulted the chronology there is no suggestion of a pattern of concerns, this matter should be recorded on the ex-carers file as received but not investigated. For current career it will be addressed as above for Level 1 concerns. Feedback to the referrer if it is the former looked after child will be an important part of the process. A letter should be sent to the ex-carer if their address can be confirmed to say information had been received and kept on file and if any further information is required to contact the department;
  • Concern/Allegation (Level 2 or 3): The response should follow the allegation process in the same way as with a current matter. If there are any current safeguarding issues a Managing Allegations Meeting should be held within the usual timescales.

If there is no Social Care current involvement with the ex-carers, in agreement with the police, the ex-carers should be contacted to explain a complaint has been received which needs to be addressed with them and seek their views on. If this is not possible then the information should be stored on the carer’s file with conclusions reached as far as is possible.

Feedback should be given to all referrers.

17.2

Investigations of concerns, complaints, and allegations made against members of the foster carer’s immediate or extended family/friends

On occasion concerns, complaints or allegations will be made against members of the foster carer’s immediate household or extended family. This can be difficult for foster carers, and they will need to be supported through this process. The needs of the looked after child/ren in placement and any other relevant children need to be prioritised.

Where relevant, social workers need to assess whether there was any role by the carer either directly, or indirectly e.g. by omission/commission/failure to protect.

17.3

Where a complaint / allegation is made against a child under 10 years in the foster care household (i.e. under the age of criminal responsibility)

If there is any concern or suspicion that the foster carers were aware of any abuse, allegations or complaints, then the same response should be followed in principle as when an allegation is made against the carer. Judgment should be applied by the relevant managers in consultation with the LADO.

The decision-making process regarding the removal of the foster child from the home should be applied and remains the responsibility of the service manager for the child. Where the child is stable in placement, balance regarding the placement stability needs to be considered alongside the safeguarding issues.

The needs of the child against whom the foster child has raised the concerns also need to be addressed in their own right, and appropriate safeguarding processes if required.

Where a strategy discussion is indicated, the relevant manager dealing should consider:

  • Should child protection procedures apply to the perpetrator and a joint interview of them as well as any complainant or victim;
  • How, when and by whom should the birth parents of both the victim and the alleged perpetrator be told of the allegation and how much involvement they should have in the investigation;
  • How best can the information about both parties be gathered?
  • Do previous foster children and other children in the family / household need to be interviewed or files read;
  • The continuing safety of all children in the foster home and in contact with the alleged perpetrator must be addressed;
  • The role of the foster carer, did they know of any abuse? how effective were they in safeguarding the children?

Following the investigation, a further Strategy Meeting should be arranged to consider:

  • A decision whether any further action is needed and whether a child protection conference should be held;
  • To reach conclusions about the complaint or allegation on the information available, and any recommendations about services required;
  • To consider any legal implications for the local authority.

17.4

Where a complaint/allegation is made against a child in the foster care household over 10 years, but under the age of 18

The same issues apply as for a child under 10 years old but because the child is of an age to be criminally responsible, the police may become involved. The same issues in relation to the placement of the foster child needs to be applied. Placement stability and safeguarding issues need to be discussed for both the foster child and the alleged perpetrator. The ability of the foster carers to safeguard the children need to be considered. The placement of the alleged perpetrator (not the looked after child) with other family members could be considered.

17.5

Where a complaint/allegation is made against a family member who is 18 years or over

The member of the family may live in or outside the fostering household e.g. an adult child or a grandparent.

During the meetings, the following additional issues should be covered:

  • How, when and by whom should the birth parents be told of the allegation and how much involvement they should have in the investigation;
  • How best can the information about both parties be gathered?
  • Do previous foster children and other children in the family need to be interviewed or files read;
  • The continuing safety of all children in the foster home and in contact with the alleged perpetrator must be addressed;
  • The role of the foster carer, did they know of any abuse? How effective were they in safeguarding the children?

17.6

Organised or complex abuse involving foster carers

If it becomes evident that there is an organised or complex abuse situation then guidance should be sought from the LADO.

Even greater consideration needs to be given to planning and strategy, legal advice and the use of independent and a dedicated team of staff.


Appendix A: Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) Referral Flowchart

Click here to view Appendix A: Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) Referral Flowchart.


Appendix B: Schedule 7 - Notifications

Click here to view Appendix B: Schedule 7 - Notifications.

End