Independent reviewing mechanism for fostering introduced
A new procedure to review cases where foster carers have their approval to foster removed is being launched this week by the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF).
The independent review mechanism will be run by the British Agencies for Adoption and Fostering (BAAF) on behalf of the DCSF. It offers foster carers in England who have had their approval removed, and prospective foster carers who are not granted approval to foster, the opportunity to have these decisions reviewed and a fresh recommendation made to their fostering service. Currently when fostering service providers remove or refuse approval the only option foster carers have is to ask that provider to review the decision.
The IRM offers foster carers in England who have had their approval removed, and prospective foster carers who are not granted approval to foster, the opportunity to have these decisions reviewed and a fresh recommendation made to their fostering service. Currently when fostering service providers remove or refuse approval the only option foster carers have is to ask that provider to review the decision.
The IRM (fostering) is part of a wider package of measures to improve the approvals process for foster carers and to encourage more people to come forward to foster. It responds to concerns from those working in fostering that the current approval process is not independent enough, and it brings fostering into line with adoption where there has been an IRM since April 2004.
After lobbying from the Fostering Network and other charities, the Government announced the IRM in the White Paper, Care Matters: Time for Change. Powers to make regulations implementing the IRM (fostering) were introduced by the Children and Young Persons Act 2008.
The IRM is not an appeals process and the reviewing panel has no powers to overturn decisions. The function of the panel is to review all the documents and information relating to a “qualifying determination” and make a recommendation to the fostering service provider about whether or not a person is suitable to act as a “local authority foster parent” (which includes foster carers approved by independent fostering providers) and/or a recommendation about the terms of approval, as the case may be. The final decision about the individual’s approval/terms of approval will continue to rest with the fostering service provider.
Malcolm Phillips, Fosterline manager at the Fostering Network, said:
‘We really welcome the setting up of the new IRM. Every year we receive hundreds of enquiries from foster carers about changes to their approval and we also hear from several hundred applicants who wish to become foster carers. Our Fosterline advisors will now be able to explain to any dissatisfied caller that they can use the IRM to offer a genuinely independent opinion about their suitability to foster. The very existence of the IRM will be a spur to all fostering services to ensure that their information gathering and assessment procedures are sound and fair.’
BAAF currently has a number of vacancies for IRM panel members. The charity is looking for:
- A social worker with current experience in the provision of a fostering service to sit on a London panel.
- Three foster carers for the two London panels, two foster carers to sit on the Birmingham panel and two foster carers to sit on the Leeds panel.
The job descriptions for both positions and the application form are available on the BAAF website - www.baaf.org.uk.