Fostering Quarterly Monitoring Report
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).
Onder Beter (Head of Looked After Children (LAC) and Permanency) introduced the Brent Fostering Service Quarterly Monitoring Report for 1 October 2017 to 31 December 2017. Members’ attention was drawn to details of recent changes to staffing arrangements which encompassed the realignment of the primary in-house fostering functions. This realignment meant that foster carers would be assessed and then supported post-approval by the same social worker, thereby providing greater continuity of relationships and in turn supporting greater placement stability. Members were then directed to the overview of placement activity. Onder Beter advised that there had been a slight increase in the Brent LAC population since the last reporting period. There had also been slight increases in the numbers of children placed with Brent Foster Carers and Independent Fostering Agency carers. Slight decreases had been recorded for the number of children placed in semi-independent placements. These trends reflected the slight decrease in the number of adolescents entering the care system. There was also fewer Unaccompanied Asylum Seeker Children (UASC) in Brent’s care. Commenting on recruitment activity, Onder Beter advised that recruitment targets had not been achieved in the current reporting period due to lower conversion rates from referrals to ‘initial visits’. Additionally, a significant number of assessments had not progressed beyond Stage 1 of the assessment process over the last two quarters, largely due to applicants’ personal circumstances.
In the subsequent discussion, Members questioned whether the realignment of services would result in greater stability for children in placement, queried what monitoring arrangements were in place and how LAC would be involved in these. A member questioned whether there were any particular issues which prevented the council from attracting foster carer applicants. Further queries were raised regarding how the success of different marketing methods were measured and whether the new Service Manager role had been filled.
In response, Onder Beter advised that part of the rationale for realigning services was to reduce the number of times a child was transferred between different teams. Under the new structure a child should only be transferred once – at the point of entering care – when a social worker would be assigned. Nigel Chapman (Operational Director of Integration and Improved Outcomes ) advised that nearly 40 per cent of Brent’s LAC had completed the Bright Spots ‘Your Life, Your Care’ survey in 2017. This survey measured the quality of LAC’s care experience and their sense of well-being and would be carried out again later that year. It was hoped that the impact of the changes to service structure would be reflected in an improved perception of the service by Brent’s LAC.
Discussing barriers for potential foster carers, Onder Beter advised that recruitment difficulties were both London-wide and nation-wide, with the availability of a spare bedroom a key issue. A National Fostering Stocktake report had just been published for response by the Government and it was agreed that a summary of this report would be brought to the next meeting of the Corporate Parenting Committee. Gail Tolley (Strategic Director, Children and Young People) highlighted that the report also discussed recruitment practice as well as the debate regarding the professionalisaton of foster carers. Nigel Chapman advised that interviews for the Service Manager role were currently being conducted.
i) that the Operational Director Integration and Improved Outcomes arrange for a Brent foster carer to attend a future meeting of the Corporate Parenting Committee to share their experiences of fostering for Brent.
ii) that the executive summary of the National Fostering Stocktake report, along with a covering report from the Strategic Director, Children and Young People, be submitted to the next meeting of the Corporate Parenting Committee.