Fostering Service monitoring report 1 July - 30 September 2015
The purpose of this report is to provide information to the Council’s Corporate Parenting Committee about the general management of the in-house fostering service and how it is achieving good outcomes for children. This is in accordance with standard 25.7 of the Fostering National Minimum Standards (2011). The report covers the second quarter of this reporting year.
Nigel Chapman (Head of Placements) introduced the reports for Quarters 1 and 2 of the Fostering Service which provided information about the general management of the in-house fostering service and how it was achieving good outcomes for children. This was in accordance with standard 25.7 of the Fostering National Minimum Standards (2011). He drew attention to the fostering targets, placements abroad, the number of asylum seekers and unaccompanied minors. The committee heard that efforts were being made to increase the number of foster carers able to take older children. An increasing number and proportion of LAC were also now residing in semi-independent accommodation an increase from 10% - 13% between April-September 2015, reflective of the older age range of young people entering the care system.
The committee heard that overall, the number of available in-house foster carers has reduced however, as of 31 March 2015, Brent had the highest number of fostering households within the West London Alliance sub-region and the highest number of filled fostering places, and also internal fostering placements used at any point during the year 2014-15. On recruitment, while the number of enquiries had increased, it was felt few would result in applications. Work was also taking place to look into reasons why some carers left fostering and also into reasons behind resignations. Nigel Chapman also outlined progress on training in particular the Social Pedagogy course which would continue on a reduced scale. Focus in the future would be on recruitment and ensuring that specialist training was available to foster carers with an interest in developing their role.
Members raised questions why only on average 10% of enquiries developed into formal applications to foster and plans to deal with the increasing number of unaccompanied minors.
Nigel Chapman responded that this was in the main to do with lack of suitable accommodation and insecure tenancies but also some were unable to commit the time and others were found to view fostering solely as a means of income as opposed to a vocation. Staff continued to work with prospective carers who had language issues. The committee heard that unaccompanied minors were a South-East issue primarily Kent and Gail Tolley advised that at its peak, the Kent DCS supported by the National Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) had written to all directors asking for assistance. Meetings were taking place with government ministers. A rota had been established in London and the WLA was working to stimulate the market however semi-independent accommodation would be used where necessary.
In response to a question on the corporate performance targets and effectiveness of monitoring, Nigel Chapman advised that the total numbers were set at the England average however these would be reviewed. Visits took place annually and also monthly in some cases, DBS checks were conducted and carers were reviewed by the Fostering Panel regularly. The child’s social worker would also be involved.
Questions were raised regarding Brent’s position in fees payments and efforts made to deal with allegations and conflict. Nigel Chapman responded that none of the foster carers leaving the service attributed this to insufficient fees and, while the independent fostering agency paid more, carers frequently left to come to a local authority with which they could identify. Brent currently paid more than the recommended rates and this was increased annually. Regarding allegations and conflict, Nigel Chapman advised that foster carers could contact the independent advice line and training was provided in dealing with allegations and support available. The aim was to deal with conflict in a similar manner to a normal family. On accommodation, the committee heard that efforts were being made to target households with larger houses and where children had left home and council tax rebates were an added incentive.
that the contents of the fostering service monitoring reports for 1 April to 30 June and 1 July to 30 September 2015 be noted.
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