The following reports is to notify the Panel of the progress in the recruitment and deregistration of foster carers, the Fostering Statement of Purpose, the fostering action plan and the Adoption Statement of Purpose.
Fostering Statement of Purpose (SOP):
Officers shared that Children’s Social Care (CSC) was responsible for recruiting foster carers and highlighted that the Fostering Statement of Purpose Report for 2019-20 detailed:
i. the strategic principles of children in care;
ii. forward plans;
iii. what the authority had committed to provide to foster carers and the children; and
iv. how fostering affected the lives of looked after children
The published report was structured in line with OFSTED requirements.
The Panel RESOLVED that it would review;
i. the Foster Carers Charter; and
ii. the Fostering Statement of Purpose.
Feedback was received from the EMPIRE representatives present on their experiences of being in care. It was reported that this wasn’t always as it was hoped for. However, there were positive experiences in terms of accessing activities organised through the foster carer agency.
The Panel led a discussion about the relationship between the Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) and the looked after child. It was established that there was a new proposed structure being put in place in order to improve these relationships. This was focused on helping to understand and have insight into what was happening inside a placement. Panel Members were in consensus that the child’s voice was fundamental to the improvement of the service and had to be a key part of the review of the work undertaken on an annual basis.
The Panel highlighted that it wished to gain reassurance that LAC Reviews included the feedback of a range of stakeholders including young people. It was noted that it was an important part of the IRO’s role to provide the looked after child with the details of an appropriate adult they could go to in order to have someone with whom they could express their feelings. The Panel stressed how it continued to want IROs to improve the support offered to young people.
i. for young people and their foster carers to have the direct contact information for all relevant professionals involved in their care; and
ii. to bring up-to-date data on LAC children and the number of advocates to the next panel.
It was noted that a pack already exists containing all relevant contact details for children in care that was provided when children in care were old enough. It was agreed that this should be shared with EMPIRE representatives in order to receive their feedback. Officers expressed the desire that this was appropriate and accessible for young people.
The Panel discussed the processes/support available for those in care who were new into the country. All have to be referred to the Refugee Council. This provided specialist advisers and clubs. Help was provided to enable engagement with others in similar circumstances and for specific issues. It was noted that it was important for all those involved in the care of these young people to know this support existed. For example, the Designated Teacher.
The Panel discussed the Connected Persons Report, the importance of this to the foster carer review and the need to hear the voice of young people in this review.
An EMPIRE representative shared the difficulties they were experiencing at school and how they felt alone which when expressed was not taken seriously. The Head of the Virtual School expressed sadness at this situation and that there should be professional support available but acknowledged variation in the quality of settings.
The Panel agreed that this again stressed the need for feedback from young people in order to achieve meaningful self-assessment of the service.
The Chair of the Panel explained how it was the intention to develop a number of Young Inspectors who would look at all aspect of the care provided for children and young people in Croydon. It was described how a Young Inspector would be developed from EMPIRE. This Young Inspector would then form part of the Panel’s membership, providing regular feedback as well an annual review with a focus on what was missing and needed to be improved. This would support the Panel in generating a number of recommendations for implementation and demonstrate to children and young people that their views were being listened to and generating a response.
As there is often long period between meetings, for the Panel to maintain its relationship with young people in care by arranging to a visit EMPIRE. A request to visit would be made.
Fostering Action Plan:
Foster cares Panel members requested that the quality of the communication with carers be examined as part of the Fostering Action Plan.
Officers requested further feedback on the Fostering Action Plan and what additional areas needed to be added.
Review of the Fostering Action Plan along and the Improvement Plan be added to the Panel’s work programme for review on a quarterly basis.
Recruitment and Deregistration of foster carers:
Officers explained how Croydon had a large population of foster carers with only a small percentage who leave. This was set against a national trend of movement in the foster carer population which was a product of volatility at a national level as opposed to being caused by local reasons. (This included fosters carers taking Special Guardianship Orders.) It was highlighted that the authority had plans in place to fill any gaps in foster carer provision.
Deregistrations were reviewed with work happening to prevent those where this was the desired outcome and requests were made for deregistration to be revoked.
Officers updated the Panel on the recruitment of foster carers. Over 100 enquires have been received against a target to add a further 60 over a period of two years. The service was working with the Foster Carer Association to explore how foster carers themselves can support recruitment through activities such as word of mouth and helping to review marketing. The campaign started in January 2019 and is led by Coram which was based in the authority’s offices. This was a commissioned service but there was a responsibility that targets were met and work completed. It was explained that the target was exclusive of recruitment of the connected person (for which recruitment is via a different route) and that the current target was perceived as a minimum with a desire that this be exceeded.
Officers stressed the difference between recruiting foster carers and achieving approved carer status. Whilst Coram was responsible for recruitment everything beyond this was the responsibility of the Fostering Service.
It was explained that the recruitment wasn’t focused on foster carers for specific forms of placements. The need for those able to address behaviour issues would be dealt with through training and ongoing support. The aspiration was for carers who could support the full range of needs.
The foster carer Panel members asked that foster carer allowances be reviewed in order to address Croydon’s lack of competitiveness.
7:07pm Cllr Maria Gatland left the meeting
Officers responded that allowances were currently being reviewed; the authority recognised the importance of addressing this as well as providing good support. The service in Croydon being described as good would be a big attraction. However, money should not be the motivation. Panel Members thought there was merit in reviewing the package but thought there was also a need to see what Coram achieved first.
7:17pm Cllr Henson left the meeting.
The foster care allowance to be brought to the Panel for review in summer 2019.
Adoption Statement of Purpose:
Officers updated the Panel that Croydon was no longer part of the Adopt South. This would be reflected in the Adoption Statement of Purpose (SOP). Officers highlighted that there were no further major changes with the Adoption SOP. This set out what Croydon was doing for looked after children;
RESOLVED: the Panel noted all the reports.