Fostering Panel




1.1 Brighton and Hove Children and Families is a local authority Fostering Service Provider. The Brighton and Hove and Barnardo’s Link Plus Panel is a Joint Panel, run by Brighton and Hove on behalf of both the above Fostering Service Providers. The Panel considers ordinary fostering, family and friends, and Link Plus respite and full time carers.

1.2 The Panel complies with The Fostering Services (England)  Regulations 2011, and the National Minimum Standards for Fostering Services 2011, and with other legislation and guidance as listed below. Detailed guidance is also available in the 2011 BAAF publication Effective Fostering Panels.

1.3 The composition of Fostering Panels, terms of reference and functions are set out in The Fostering Services (England) Regulations 2011. The Panel was re-constituted on 01 April 2011.

1.4 All Fostering Service Providers are legally required to have a Fostering Panel. The Regulations ensure that Fostering Panels have an independent role separate from the Fostering Service Provider

1.5 This constitution and terms of reference will be the framework for the operation of the Fostering Panel. It will be reviewed annually.


2.1 The aim of Brighton and Hove Children and Families Joint Panel is to ensure the provision of a high quality fostering service that safeguards and promotes the welfare of children looked after by the local authority, and children in need.

2.2 The Fostering Panel will carry out its responsibilities in accordance with –

2.3 The Children Act 1989

2.4 The Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000

2.5 The Adoption and Children Act 2002

2.6 The Children Act 2004

2.7 The Children and Young Person’s Act 2008

2.8 The Breaks for Carers of Disabled Children Regulations 2011

2.9 The Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010

2.10  The Accommodated Children Visiting Arrangements Regulations 2010

2.11  The Care Leavers (England) Regulations 2010

2.12  The Fostering Services (England) Regulations 2011

2.13  The Arrangements for Placement of Children by Voluntary Organisations and Others (England) Regulations 2011

2.14  Volume 1 (2008), Volume 2 (2010), Volume 3 (2010), and Volume 4 (2011) of the Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations.

2.15  The Family and Friends Care: Statutory Guidance for Local Authorities 2011

2.16  The Fostering Services: National Minimum Standards 2011

2.17  All other relevant Guidance, and Children and Families policy and procedures.

2.18   The Fostering Panel is committed to practice which promotes inclusion and diversity, and will carry out it’s duties in accordance with Brighton and Hove City Council Celebrating Diversity policy and will not discriminate on the grounds of gender, race, religion, sexuality, age or disability or for any other reason..

2.19  In all matters the Fostering Panel will hold the welfare of children to be paramount.


3.1 The role of the Fostering Panel is to consider the full approval, variation of approval, and termination of approval of anyone either seeking to be approved as, or currently approved as, foster carers, who wish to care for children and young people up to the age of 18 years.

3.2 Approval of carers will include specifying the ages, gender and numbers of children who will normally be fostered, and evaluating their future training needs.

3.3 The Panel will also consider, in the case of family and friends (connected persons), applicants who have had children placed with them under Regulation 24 of the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010, whether the applicants are suitable to provide foster care on a temporary basis to a child on the basis of Section 20, or an interim or full care order further to such an arrangement having been made in an emergency. It will consider all exceptional requests for a Regulation 25, 8-week extension to a Regulation 24 temporary approval and placement

3.4 The Panel will also consider and make recommendations on first annual reviews of all foster carers if they are still approved as foster carers, and placement disruptions or significant changes to a fostering household. It will consider significant complaints, allegations of abuse or standards of care investigations. It will consider significant variations of approval. Panel will be notified of all resignations. It will also consider any requests to exceed the 6-week limit on exemptions from the usual fostering limit for foster carers from Brighton and Hove, Barnardo’s Link Plus, and from any other Fostering Service providers when the carers live in Brighton and Hove.

3.5 In addition to the above the Fostering Panel may be consulted if appropriate on the preparation and review of Fostering Service Provider policies and procedures in relation to any aspect of fostering. The Panel will be rigorous in monitoring quality standards and will contribute to the development of good practice.

3.6 The Fostering Panel’s role is to provide thorough and critical consideration of all cases presented to it and to make sound and appropriate recommendations to the respective Agency Decision Maker, either Brighton and Hove or Barnardo’s. The Panel is not permitted to make any conditional or ‘in principle’ recommendations, but may defer making a recommendation.

3.7 The Panel will offer consultation and guidance on cases and about fostering generally where appropriate

3.8 The Panel will monitor the standards and quality of assessments and reports and give feedback to the appropriate managers via the Agency Adviser.

3.9 The Panel will be committed to anti-discriminatory practice and to ensuring that the welfare of the child is paramount.

3.10  The Panel will be transparent in the process of how it arrives at its recommendations, which will be fully reflected in the official minutes of the Panel, and Panel will welcome comments and suggestions, which will improve both its practice and operation. Questionnaires are sent to all those who have attended Panel to assist in monitoring user’s views.

3.11  Agreement to vary a foster carer’s terms of approval (ie age range, gender or number of places) may be made by the Fostering Service Provider’s Agency Decision Maker, where necessary, in accordance with current Department for Education guidance. A carer review will be carried out and sent to the Agency Decision Maker, and carers will be given the option to go to the IRM.

3.12  Exemptions to the usual fostering limit not exceeding 6 weeks may be agreed by the Fostering Team Manager, or the Assistant Director, Barnardo’s, respectively.

3.13  Exemptions must be presented to the Fostering Panel as reports of they are to continue for more than 6 weeks.


4.1 As a Joint Fostering Panel, the membership must satisfy The Fostering Services (England) Regulations 2011

4.2 Membership of “the central list” for the Joint Fostering Panel is open ended in number, but there will be a core membership and other members who may be included as and when their particular expertise is needed.. The number of members present at a Joint Panel will not exceed 11 members, but must include :

  • An Independent Chair or one of the two vice chairs
  • A Qualified Social Worker (GSCC registered) with at least 3 years relevant post-qualifying experience.
  • An independent person if the vice chair is chairing the meeting and is not an independent member
  • At least three other members

Brighton and Hove will aim to recruit a core membership as follows:

  • An Independent Chair
  • Two Vice Chairs (to be nominated from within the membership below, excluding the elected member)
  • An elected member of Brighton and Hove City Council
  • Two GSCC registered social workers from Brighton and Hove, one with fieldwork and one with fostering expertise
  • One Barnardo’s manager with fieldwork or fostering expertise
  • At least four independent members including a foster carer from another Fostering Service Provider and an adult with experience of being in the care system
  • A Health representative
  • An Agency Adviser and a Panel Administrator will also be in attendance

4.3    The Panel will as noted above nominate two Vice Chairs from those people listed in 4.2 above who will chair meetings in the absence of the Chair

4.4    The Panel will aim to have a balance in terms of gender, race, culture and religion and should reflect the diversity of the community it serves.

4.5 The Joint Fostering Panel shall conduct no business unless at least six of its members are present. The following representatives must be present for the Panel to be considered quorate:

  • Chair or one of the two Vice Chairs
  • A GSCC registered social worker
  • Any four other members, one of whom must be an Independent Member if a non-independent Vice Chair is chairing the meeting.
  • 4.6 If the Panel is sitting as a single agency Panel it must have an independent chair, a GSCC registered social worker and 3 other members present to be quorate.

4.6 Panel members will be recruited by the Agency Adviser and the Panel Chair, (and for the Independent Chair Person, The Agency Decision Maker), via advertisements either within the agency (for agency nominated representatives) or via relevant publications (for independent members). The exception to this is the Health representative who will be nominated by the Agency Medical Adviser. Applicants will be required to submit a completed application form or cv, and attend an interview. Verbal and written references and an enhanced DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) check will be obtained for each Panel member prior to being appointed.

4.7 All Panel members will be appointed for an open-ended  term of office and will be asked to sign a Panel membership agreement.

4.8 All Panel members will have suitable qualifications and/or experience and are expected to comply with the Panel protocol. Each Panel member will have an annual review meeting with the Chair and Agency Adviser. The Chair will be reviewed by the Agency Adviser and the Agency Decision Maker

4.9 Panel members should always declare an interest where they have direct knowledge of a matter being presented. The Chair will decide whether that interest is such as to debar the Panel member from discussion or decision making in respect of that item.

4.10 Panel members who do not attend Panel as part of their paid employment will receive a net fee of £110 plus parking and travel costs per Panel attended, which must be claimed monthly, on receipt of an invoice. This sum covers most costs associated with Panel attendance. Occasional child care costs may be met at the Agency Adviser’s discretion.


5.1 All Panel members are required to sign a Panel Member’s Agreement.

5.2 Core Panel members are expected to attend a minimum of 75% of meetings in a year and to arrive on time for all Panel meetings. Members unable to attend a Panel meeting must ensure that apologies are sent in advance to the Agency Adviser. The Agency Adviser will have discussions privately with any Core Panel member where attendance is proving to be a problem.

5.3 Panel members will be committed to anti-discriminatory practice and will consider each case on its own merits.

5.4 Each Panel member has a duty to maintain the confidentiality of the information to which they have access.  The agreement that Panel members sign includes a section on confidentiality.

5.5 Panel members should have read all Panel papers carefully before Panel and should come prepared to contribute to Panel discussions.

5.6 Panel members are expected to keep up to date with developments in fostering and to avail themselves of training opportunities. The Agency Adviser will offer advice and support on this.

5.7 Panel members will be kept informed about current practice, issues and legislation in relation to fostering by means of updates from the Agency Adviser, consultations etc. and will also be provided with access to the online BAAF quarterly journal.

5.8 A minimum of 2 annual training events are offered. There is an expectation that Panel members will attend 50% of the training events. Panel members will be consulted on the content and format of the training. There is an expectation that all members of the central list will attend the joint training run with members of the fostering social work staff group.

5.9  All Panel members will have a current enhanced disclosure from the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS), which will be updated every three years. Panel members must inform BHCC at once if they are convicted or cautioned for any criminal offence.

5.10 Two written references (confirmed by verbal references) will be required for all Panel members.

5.11 Each Panel member will have an electronic file held by BHCC with details of recruitment, references, full name, date of birth, home address, photograph, proof of identify, and where relevant, qualifications and experience. Any complaints and allegations made against the Panel member including details of any investigation and its outcome will be recorded.

5.12 All new Panel members will be expected to observe one Panel prior to full membership.

5.13 All new Panel members will receive an induction pack and will have an induction programme. The Agency Adviser will offer support regularly, particularly to independent members.

5.14 A Panel member may resign at any time by giving one calendar month's notice in writing to the Panel Chair or Agency Adviser. If BHCC is of the opinion that a member is unfit or unable to hold office, the agency may terminate his or her office by giving him or her one calendar month's notice in writing.

5.15 The Agency Adviser, in consultation with the Panel Chair, will informally approach any Panel member whose behaviour is considered inappropriate or ineffective. If the matter cannot be resolved at the informal stage by further individual training and/or advice and guidance, a letter addressing the issue will be sent to the Panel member with a copy to the Agency Decision Maker and Panel Chair. If there are no substantive changes and difficulties persist then consideration will be given to terminating their membership. If this course of action was to be undertaken and the Panel member was dissatisfied then an appeal could be made in writing to the Agency Decision Maker.


6.1 The Chair of the Panel will be an independent person with significant experience of social work and fostering work, including at a senior management level, and the necessary skills to ensure that the Panel's work is carried out efficiently and sensitively. The Agency Decision Maker will be responsible for the recruitment of the Panel Chair in liaison with the Agency Advisor. When a vacancy arises for a Panel Chair, advertisements will be placed in relevant publications. The two vice-chairs will be drawn from the central list.

6.2 The Chair will ensure that Panel meetings are conducted in a professional and proper manner and that all items of business are covered. The Chair will assume responsibility for co-ordination of discussion and time keeping. The Chair will ensure that all applicants, social workers and managers attending Panel will be treated with respect and courtesy.

6.3 The responsibilities of the Chairperson include:

  • Deciding who will attend Panel in addition to Panel members
  • Ensuring that all Panel members contribute fully to the Panel’s recommendation and to ensure that where Panel members have serious or dissenting reservations these are recorded in the minutes of the Panel’s meetings.
  • Ensuring that all verbal contributions and all documents presented to Panel are given due consideration, and that Panel records are accurate
  • Involvement when a Panel member appears unfit, unwilling or unable to continue
  • Involvement in deciding when a matter is urgent and when an additional Panel meeting may need to be convened.
  • That there is clarity concerning the reasons for Panel's recommendation and accurate recording of such.
  • The promotion of good practice and consistency of approach and fairness by Panel members in assessing carers.

6.4 The Chair of the Panel will be responsible for producing an annual report of the Panel's work for Brighton and Hove Children and Families.

6.5 The Agency Decision Maker undertakes an annual performance review of the Chair. The views of Panel members and those attending Panel will be sought and taken into account as part of this process.


7.1 There is no limit in law to the number of independent Panel members, however practicality dictates that numbers should be restricted. We will aim to have a central list for the Fostering Panel of no more than twenty members. These members are not elected members or employees of the fostering service provider, and they should have personal or professional knowledge and experience of fostering.



8.1 Medical advice is available to the Panel from the Agency Medical Adviser, Dr Sian Bennett, who is a Consultant Community Paediatrician and a Registered Medical Practitioner, and who is not a Panel member, and does not attend Panel. The Nurse Consultant for Looked After Children, who is a voting Panel member, gives medical advice at the Panel as appropriate. She is not confined to commenting solely on medical issues and is encouraged to make an active contribution on all matters.


8.2 The Agency Medical Adviser will be a senior member of the community child health service and will have an in-depth knowledge of child health and development and the consequences of abuse and neglect.

8.3 The Agency Medical Adviser is available, where appropriate, to children, social workers, foster carers, adopters and birth family members. The Agency Medical Adviser will provide a written report to the Panel on foster carers presented and will be available to discuss resulting issues. Where appropriate she will also be available for consultation and advice on emerging medical issues post placement.


9.1 Legal advice is available from Natasha Watson, a senior lawyer employed by Brighton and Hove City Council, who is experienced in family and child care law. She is not a Panel member and does not attend Panel but will give specific legal advice to Panel members on individual cases presented to the Panel when necessary.

9.2 The Legal Adviser can if needed provide general advice to Panel members on the legal functions and duties of the Panel.

9.3 The Legal Adviser can be contacted by social workers for advice.


10.1 The Agency Adviser to Panel must be a senior member of staff with at least five years post qualifying experience and relevant management experience. The Agency Adviser does not have line management responsibility for social work staff within the Fieldwork or Fostering and Adoption service and plays a key quality assurance and advisory role within Children and Families, and with Barnardo’s Link Plus in respect of cases coming to Panel.

10.2 The Agency Adviser will advise the Chair and Panel as required on matters relating to Brighton & Hove Children and Families practice, policy and procedure.

10.3 The Agency Adviser is responsible for ensuring comprehensive and appropriate papers are sent to Panel members at least five working days before the Panel meeting, and for reporting back to the agency any concerns or issues raised by Panel members.

10.4 The Agency Adviser is responsible for ensuring that  accurate and timely minutes of Panel are produced and forwarded to the Chair for checking and agreeing, and that verbal and written notifications of the agency decision are forwarded within statutory timescales, ie within two and five working days respectively.

10.5 The Agency Adviser will assist the Panel Chair in the appointment, termination and review of Panel members. The Agency Adviser is responsible for the induction and training of Panel members and for monitoring the performance of Panel members and Panel administration.

10.6 The Agency Adviser is available for consultation and advice on matters relating to the Panel and attends a briefing meeting with the Agency Decision Maker after every Panel meeting. If the Agency Adviser is unavailable, alternative arrangements will be made to ensure that Panel has agency advice.

10.7 The Agency Adviser will provide Panel members with specialist advice and access to appropriate training materials as necessary.


11.1 If other specialist advice is required for any other reason the Agency Adviser to Panel will source this appropriately. Advisers are not voting members of the Panel, are therefore not involved in decision making at Panel, and they can therefore assist the Agency Decision Maker in his deliberations.


12.1 All information presented to the Fostering Panel is confidential and Panel members must respect this.

12.2 All Panel members (and any observers) will be required to sign a confidentiality agreement. For Panel members this is included in the Panel member’s agreement.

12.3 All Panel members must be able to indicate what arrangements they have for ensuring that confidential papers sent to them are kept in a secure place.

12.4 All documentation and reports should be returned to the Panel administrator at the end of each Panel meeting. If a Panel member is unable to attend a Panel meeting it is their responsibility to ensure that the papers are returned safely to the Panel Agency Adviser or Panel Administrator.

12.5 Any breach of confidentiality by a Panel member will be considered as serious and will be taken up by the Agency Adviser.


13.1 It is possible for a Panel member to have some knowledge, either in a professional or personal capacity, of a case under consideration.

13.2 If a Panel member believes they may have personal knowledge they should not read the papers before seeking advice from the Agency Adviser or Panel Chair.

13.3  Professional knowledge should be declared at the Panel meeting.

13.4 The Chair will decide whether a declared interest in a case is such as to debar the Panel member from the discussion relating to that case and/or participation in the Panel recommendation.

13.5 Declaration of an interest, personal or professional, may not of itself preclude a Panel member from being involved in considering the item. Any declaration of interest will be recorded in the Panel minutes.


14.1 An experienced administrator will support the work of the Panel.

14.2 Cases will only be placed on a Panel agenda once the Panel Administrator/Agency Adviser has received all the relevant paperwork.

14.3 The Fostering Panel Administrator will minute Panel meetings. The minutes will record:

  • Date of Panel
  • Attendance at Panel
  • Apologies for absence from Panel
  • Name of applicants/foster carers/child
  • Purpose of presentation to Panel
  • Issues raised by Panel members
  • Areas discussed with social workers and applicants/foster carers/children
  • The positive factors and potential difficulties/risk factors
  • Any legal advice given including whether the paperwork presented to Panel in relation to a child is compliant with the re B judgement (17.07.2008)
  • Recommendation reached together with the reasons for the recommendation including detailing the reports read by Panel
  • Any advice to the agency from the Panel
  • Whether the recommendation was unanimous and if not the reasons and reservations of those not able to support the recommendation
  • Any request from Panel for further information, amendments to reports or reporting back to Panel
  • Any business for discussion

14.4 The Panel Chair and Panel members must agree the accuracy and content of the minutes before they are sent to the Agency Decision Maker.

14.5 The Chair will sign all Panel minutes to confirm their accuracy.

14.6 The Panel minutes and recommendations relating to the approval or review of approval of foster carers will be placed on the foster carer's file. Foster carers do not have the right to see Panel minutes, however they will receive the list of the positive factors and risk factors identified by Panel with their letter informing them of the Agency Decision.

14.7 A central record of all minutes of the Fostering Panel is kept securely at Moulsecoomb Hub South, Hodshrove Lane, Brighton, East Sussex, BN2 4SE. Back up copies are held electronically. The Panel Administrator will collate relevant statistical data within the Fostering service.

14.8 The tabling of reports and agenda items is co-ordinated by the Panel Administrator in consultation with the Agency Adviser. Panel members will receive copies of the agenda and all reports/papers at least five working days in advance of the meeting. An agenda is sent to all Panel attendees.

14.9 The Panel Administrator will be responsible for the booking of rooms for Panel meetings and all practical arrangements relating to Panel business.


15.1 The Panel meets every 4 weeks, usually from 10.15am – 5.00pm

15.2 The Panel will consider cases with the following approximate timings:

  • Approval of prospective foster carers: 60 minutes
  • Disruption reports: 15 - 30 minutes
  • Review/re-approval of foster carers: 45 minutes
  • Termination of approval: 90 minutes
  • Panel members are expected to read the Panel papers in advance of the Panel meeting and come prepared to contribute to the discussion. All Panel members have an equal role in reaching a recommendation.

15.3 Panel members will discuss the issues they wish to explore with the social workers and applicants before inviting them in. The Chair will co-ordinate the discussion and ensure that all areas are covered and that the social workers and applicants have the opportunity to present any other relevant information.

15.4 Panel members will endeavour to reach a consensus and the Chair will ensure that all members have the opportunity to express their views. Every Panel member must express a view about whether or not they support the recommendation.

15.5 If a consensus cannot be reached then a majority view will prevail with the dissenting members’ views being noted in the minutes. The views of those not able to support the recommendation will be communicated to the Agency Decision Maker. The Chair does not have a casting vote but will summarise the voting for the Agency Decision Maker.

15.6 If there is insufficient information available for Panel to reach a recommendation, they will defer the case (see section 16) until the additional information is provided by the relevant social worker.

15.7 At the end of each case the Chair will summarise the recommendation made and the reasons for it. The Chair will also advise all attendees of the recommendation and decision making process and when the agency's decision will be made.

15.8 The appropriate social workers will convey the Panel recommendation orally to all those involved i.e. children, birth parents, applicants, and foster carers  within 48 hours of receiving the details from the Agency Adviser, who will post the decisions by e-mail on the day of the Agency Decision Maker meeting.


16.1 Guiding principles

16.1.1 The relevant social work managers and staff from the Fostering team, in liaison with the Agency Adviser, should try to prevent cases booked for the Fostering Panel being deferred, by carefully scrutinising all reports prior to submission. On occasions the Agency Adviser may have to defer a case being included in papers for circulation to Panel members if insufficient information, evidence or analysis has been provided. This decision will be made in consultation with the relevant social worker and their manager.

16.1.2 Once Panel papers are circulated to members a decision to defer a case before the meeting should be made as early as possible by the Chair and/or Agency Adviser. Deferring a case at a Panel meeting causes much distress to applicants/carers and prevents time being available for other cases. This should be avoided if possible.

16.1.3 The Fostering and Adoption Service Managers, the Agency Adviser and the Chair have the power to defer a case before Panel. However consideration at a Panel meeting may reveal a significant gap in information, evidence or analysis that was not clear before an individual contribution is made or a pattern or theme emerges from collective discussion. This could lead to a case being deferred at a Panel meeting. This underlines the value and purpose of the Fostering Panel with its different professional and lay perspectives carrying out a quality assurance role.

16.1.4 Nevertheless it is hoped that deferment will normally be a rare occurrence, as it has proved so far in the Panel’s history. If a regular pattern of deferment were to occur this would be a matter of serious concern. Panel would need to arrange urgent discussions with the Head of Service, Fostering and Adoption and the Agency Decision Maker, and scrutinise its own performance.

16.2 Deferment before a Panel meeting

16.2.1 Once papers have been circulated to Panel members, if the Chair considers a report has significant gaps in information, evidence or analysis or is of a poor quality she will contact the Agency Adviser (or Panel Administrator in the Agency Adviser’s absence) to discuss the concerns. The Chair should either:

  1. ask for the case to be deferred or
  2. if there is sufficient time available, ask the Agency Adviser to ask the supervising social worker, in consultation with their manager, to re-write the report, or write a supplementary report for tabling at the Panel meeting. It is understood that this will not normally be a feasible option because of time constraints.

16.2.2 Normally the decision to defer a case before a Panel meeting will be made by the Chair in consultation with the Agency Adviser, or the Agency Adviser in consultation with the Chair and relevant manager. If a Panel member has concerns about the adequacy of a report prior to a Panel meeting and considers the item should be deferred s/he should contact the Agency Adviser to discuss their concerns. If, after discussion, serious concerns are maintained the Agency Adviser should contact the Chair to to discuss whether the case is deferred prior to the Panel meeting. The Chair will decide whether to accept or reject the recommendation. It is understood that because of members’ time constraints this option would be rarely used.

16.2.3 Once the Chair or Agency Adviser has made a decision to defer a case prior to a Panel meeting the Agency Adviser should contact the supervising social worker and their manager immediately so that the carer’s attendance at Panel can be postponed and explanations and future plans discussed with them.

16.2.4 At the Panel meeting, after minutes and matters arising, the Chair will inform members that the case has been deferred and give the reasons for the deferment. The Chair will clarify any questions or queries members may have and in consultation with the Agency Adviser inform Panel, if known, when the deferred item will be presented to Panel.

16.2.5 After the Panel meeting the Agency Decision Maker should be informed of the deferment by the Agency Adviser.

16.3 Deferment at a Panel meeting

16.3.1 If during the Panel’s initial consideration of a case, serious concerns arise about the adequacy of a report in terms of insufficient information, evidence or analysis, the Chair, in consultation with the Agency Adviser, should either:

a)  clarify through questions and discussion with members whether they wish to continue to hear the case with additional verbal input from the carers and social workers, or,

b)  on the basis of the concerns expressed, make a decision to defer consideration of the case and give the reasons for the decision.

16.3.2. Once the Panel has made a decision to defer considering the case and has clarified their reasons for doing so, the Chair and Agency Adviser will leave the meeting and explain briefly to the applicants/carers and supervising social worker and manager (if present) that the item has been deferred for further information to be obtained, and clarify what further information the Panel will require. It will also be clarified with the supervising social worker and their manager which future Panel the item has been deferred to; normally the deferred item will be considered at the next Panel meeting.

16.3.3. There may be some occasions when, prior to the Panel deciding to defer an item, members may wish to try to clarify certain queries or issues with the supervising social worker and their manager within the Panel meeting. Panel may consider that further clarification could confirm that the case should be deferred or that queries can be answered sufficiently and clarify that the assessment work was carried out satisfactorily but not fully recorded in the report. On such rare occasions, prior to this discussion, the Chair or Agency Adviser will leave the meeting and ask the supervising social worker and manager to join the meeting and leave the applicants/carers in the waiting room explaining to them that a number of points in reports need to be clarified before the Panel decides to invite them in. If the verbal responses the supervising social worker and manager give to the Panel’s queries are sufficient to fully answer the concerns raised the Panel will ask for the assessment report to be amended and the application can be considered fully and not deferred. If the responses clarify that there is still significant assessment work to be carried out, the Panel will confirm the item is deferred until the outstanding work is completed. The Chair and Agency Adviser will leave the meeting and with the supervising social worker and their manager explain to the applicants/carers that the item has been deferred for further information to be obtained.

16.3.4 After the Panel meeting the Agency Decision Maker should be informed.

16.4 Review of deferment procedures.

16.4.1 These procedures will be reviewed by the Panel in March of each year as part of the Fostering Service Provider  annual report process, or when necessary.


17.1 Terminations of approval will only be dealt with when an annual review, scheduled or otherwise, has been completed, and the carer has been involved in discussions leading to the recommendation.

17.2 Voluntary resignations will not need to be presented to Panel.

17.3 Where a termination of approval, against the wishes of the carers is being presented to the Panel, the supervising social worker must supply to Panel full annual review documentation, PLUS a full report including details of complaints, allegations of harm, standards of care and all other investigations and all concerns; a clear account of the process of investigation; an explanation of any mitigating factors; and setting out recommendations as to termination of approval, with clear and complete evidence as to the reasons. The foster carer must be given the opportunity to respond in writing to the report and for their response to be considered by Panel at the same time as the supervising social worker’s report.

17.4 Normal Panel process will then be followed for dealing with the reports, as this offers the option of transparency, openness and honesty. However, if the relationship between the carers and the social work staff has become very acrimonious, or it is felt that either party may become so upset as to make it difficult for the Panel to function, the Chair may decide to see them separately in Panel.

17.5 If the concerns have been serious, the Fostering Service Manager will need to consider whether to report the carers to the Secretary of State for inclusion on the Protection of Children list, or to Ofsted.


18.1 The Panel will require the following reports

  • For approval of prospective foster carers - foster carers’ Assessment Report and supporting documentation..
  • For approval as temporary or full foster carers regarding the placement of a child with family and friends foster carers (“connected persons”) – family and friends foster carer’s Assessment Report, and all relevant Panel minutes.
  • Foster placement disruptions: Summary of disruption meeting, action plan, recommendations and all relevant Panel minutes
  • Review of foster carer approval - annual foster carers review reports and minutes of previous Panel
  • Review of foster carers with recommendation for termination of approval – see guidance in BAAF’s “Effective Panels”, and guidance above – full review documentation, previous minutes and detailed report and analysis of reasons for recommendation.
  • Any other matters – following advice from the Agency Adviser

18.2 The Agency Adviser to the Panel will be available to offer advice to social workers on the completion of reports and the standards required by Panel.

18.3 Reports to the Fostering Panel in relation to fostering matters upon which the Panel are asked to make recommendations must be prepared by sufficiently experienced and qualified staff ( Fostering Services NMS Standard 19) and who have the qualifications, skills and experience necessary for the work they are to perform (The Fostering Services (England) Regs 2011, regulation 20). This should include direct experience of fostering work. Where the author of the report does not have the requisite qualifications and experience, he or she should be supervised by a suitably qualified and experienced colleague or manager.

18.4 Where those preparing reports are not employed by the Fostering Service Provider, they should always be suitably qualified and experienced and supervised by a member of staff with the suitable qualifications and experience.


19.1. All social workers must attend with their managers when appropriate and present their cases to Panel as follows, this expectation also applies to social workers attending from other fostering agencies or Fostering Service Providers:

  • Approval of prospective foster carers: supervising social worker and his/her supervisor.
  • Placement of a child with particular foster carers: child’s social worker and his/her supervisor and the prospective foster carers supervising social worker, or Independent Social Worker as necessary.
  • Disruption reports: not required unless requested by Agency Adviser or Chair.
  • Foster carer review of approval: supervising social worker

19.2 The Agency Adviser must be notified as soon as possible regarding any problems with staff attending Panel. The Agency Adviser, in liaison with the Panel Chair, will then decide whether it is appropriate for the case to be considered by Panel.

19.3 Staff attending Panel will be asked to complete a feedback form regarding their experience of the Panel process.


20.1 Brighton and Hove is committed to user involvement and transparent decision-making. Prospective and existing foster carers are always invited and strongly encouraged to attend  Panel when their full assessment is being considered. However, there is no obligation for the foster carer to meet with the Panel; if they decline to do so, this in itself will not be considered as a reason for recommending that they are not suitable.

20.2 Attendees will be given a Panel leaflet explaining the Panel process and what to expect when they attend. Attendees will also be sent a feedback form so that their views on their experience at Panel can be gained and fed back on a regular basis to Panel members.

20.3 All applicants will be given sufficient notice to enable them to attend. The responsibility for this lies with the supervising social worker.

20.4 A letter of invitation will be sent to applicants by the Panel Administrator confirming the date and time of the Panel meeting at least one week beforehand.

20.5 When applicants attend they will be invited into the Panel meeting with the social work staff after the Panel has decided upon the areas on which it needs further discussion or clarification. The applicants will be introduced to the Panel, and will also have the opportunity to ask any questions they may have of Panel, give any further information they may want Panel to be aware of, or make a statement to Panel.

20.6 The applicants may remain in the Panel meeting with the social work staff whilst the Panel asks its questions and will then be asked to briefly leave the meeting whilst Panel reaches its recommendation.  The social workers will remain in Panel at this point.

20.7 The Chair will then invite the applicant(s) back into Panel, or the Chair and Agency Adviser and social workers will then go and see the applicants in the waiting room, and inform them of the recommendation. They will also be advised when the decision will be made by the Agency Decision Maker. Applicants will be informed of the strengths in their application and any areas of potential difficulty/risks. In the event of a split decision or rejection, the Panel Chair and Agency Adviser will share the recommendation with them. In exceptional circumstances they will be notified by post or telephone call if panel deliberations are likely to be lengthy. In the event of a contested or conflictual matter, the Panel may wish to hear the carer’s contribution on their own, and then hear the social workers on their own. The Chair and Agency Adviser will then see the carers and social workers together or separately to inform them of the recommendation. This procedure will be tailored to the specific details of each case.

20.8 Approved foster carers will be encouraged to attend the Panel meeting when their first annual foster care review, subsequent review or any other relevant information regarding the care they provide is being considered. Carers are welcome to bring a representative or friend with them if they so wish.

20.9 Birth parents are encouraged to make written or recorded representation to Panel and in any event should be shown and be fully aware of the information about them which is presented to Panel.

20.10  Children should be supported and encouraged to write or record their views for Panel or, when appropriate to attend in person, provided that this does not inhibit the Panel in coming to their recommendation. Arrangements for a child to attend Panel should always be discussed in advance with the Agency Adviser.

20.11 Usually no more than two people at a time will be allowed to observe at Panel. Panel attendees will be informed that observers are often at Panel; if they have any objection to this they must notify the Agency Adviser in advance of the Panel meeting. Observers are required to sign an undertaking regarding confidentiality.



21.1 The Chair will provide immediate feedback to all attendees of the Panel's recommendation. Panel minutes will be shared in draft form with the Chair of the Panel, and with any Panel member who has made a dissenting recommendation prior to them being sent in a finalised, agreed version by the Chair to the Agency Decision Maker (ADM). Panel members will have seen the minutes and commented on them prior to the Chair agreeing them.

21.2 The social worker will verbally convey the Panel recommendations to applicants (if they did not attend) within two working days. However, applicants must be clear that whilst Panel makes a recommendation the final decision is made by the Agency Decision Maker.

21.3 The Service Manager with responsibility for Fostering and Adoption has delegated responsibility for making the decision on behalf of Brighton & Hove Children and Families and is the designated Agency Decision Maker. In the event of his absence the other nominated Agency Decision Maker is the Head of Safeguarding. The Regional Assistant Director, Barnardo’s, is the Agency Decision Maker for Barnardo’s Link Plus cases.

21.4 The Agency Decision Maker must take into account the Panel recommendation when making the decision. However, neither the local authority nor Barnardo’s can delegate the decision making to the Panel and no Panel member can take part in any decision made by either agency.

21.5 The Agency Decision Maker will be sent a copy of all the papers presented to Panel. He will be notified of all recommendations made by the Fostering Panel finalised Panel minutes and a verbal briefing session, where required, with the Agency Adviser within five working days of the Panel meeting.

21.6 Where the Agency Decision Maker is minded to disagree with a Panel recommendation, before making a final decision he must consult with a senior colleague with the relevant social work qualification and experience, and record the discussion and outcome; a copy of the record must be passed to the Agency Adviser for placing on the foster carer’s record. If the result is a recommendation with which the applicants or carers disagree and contest, then the Independent Review Mechanism process may be invoked on the carers’ application to the IRM. Any variation of approval agreed by Panel and the ADM will have an IRM letter sent to them.

21.7 The Agency Adviser will notify the social workers of the agency decision within one working day. Social workers will orally inform foster carers of the agency decision within two working days of the decision being made. The Agency Decision Maker will write to the carers confirming his decision within 5 working days. The Agency Decision Maker will include the reasons for the decision and, where the agency decision is different from the recommendation of the Panel, information about his and the Panel’s recommendations.


22.1 Additional or longer meetings may be required when there is sufficient pressure of business, and the organisation of any additional/longer meetings will be undertaken after consultation with Panel members.

22.2 Additional Fostering Panel meetings will be used in order to meet timescales for court hearings or to deal with overload. Where the next scheduled Panel date would incur unacceptable delays, consideration will be given to amending the agenda of an earlier meeting if possible before an additional Panel is arranged.

22.3 The normal Panel procedures will apply to additional Panels. Panel members will receive the papers at least 5 working days in advance of the Panel meeting. Panel members will be contacted by telephone or email to ascertain their availability and the Agency Adviser will liaise with the chair to arrange the meeting.


23.1 The Agency Adviser will take responsibility for reporting back to the local authority or Barnardo’s Link Plus any concerns or issues raised by Panel members and will meet with the Agency Decision Maker after each Panel meeting, and with Barnardo’s where necessary. Examples of good practice will similarly be fed back. The Agency Decision Maker will take forward practice issues as necessary within the agency, and ensure that any actions taken by him/her are fed back to the Panel and the Agency.

23.2 An annual report on the work of the Fostering Service Provider will be published each year and presented to elected members. This report will include the annual Panel report prepared by the Chair and the updated statement of purpose for endorsement by elected members. In October of each year the Agency Adviser will prepare an interim report for elected members. Both of these reports will include statistical information about the work of the Panel. The Agency Decision Makers will be invited to Panel for an agenda item on an annual basis. This will enable a dialogue to take place between Panel members and the Agency Decision Makers on general practice and quality assurance issues. The Agency Decision Makers will also be invited to take part in at least one of the two annual Panel training days. The Agency Decision Makers will also have quarterly business meetings with the Chair of the Fostering and Adoption Panels and the Agency Advisers for both Panels.

23.3 The Panel will be consulted on any proposed changes to fostering policy and practice guidance, to enable them to contribute


24.1 Any complaint specifically about the Fostering Panel should  be directed to the Agency Adviser or Chair in the first instance to assist resolution. If the matter cannot be resolved at stage one then the usual complaints procedure for BHCC will be used

24.2 Where a carer is not in agreement with the decision made regarding their suitability as a foster carer, and/or the Fostering Panel’s recommendation, and does not accept the recommendation, the following representation procedure will be followed.

24.3 The prospective or existing foster carers may choose to either make a written representation directly to BHCC or a written application to the Independent Review Mechanism (IRM) – they cannot do both. If a representation is made directly to BHCC the prospective or existing foster carers must write directly to the Agency Decision Maker (ADM) within 28 working days from the date of the ADM letter. The Agency Decision Maker may at his discretion meet with them to discuss their concerns and must then refer the matter back to the Fostering Panel. The Panel will consider the matter taking into account the prospective or existing carer’s comments and concerns and will make a new recommendation. This recommendation will be communicated to the BHCC Agency Decision Maker who will make the final decision. If the applicant decides instead to make a representation to the IRM, he/she should directly notify the IRM of his/her wish to do so within 28 working days from the date of the qualifying determination (the Agency Decision Maker’s letter to them). BHCC will forward all relevant information to the IRM within 10 working days of being informed by the IRM of the need to do so. The IRM will review the matter and notify the BHCC Agency Decision Maker of its recommendation and the reasons for it. The BHCC Agency Decision Maker will make the final decision.


24.4 Where a practitioner is not in agreement with a recommendation made by the Fostering Panel and wishes to pursue the matter, he/she should do so directly through their line manager and the Agency Adviser (who will inform the Chair of the Panel).

24.5 A prospective foster carer cannot make use of the IRM unless a full assessment has been completed and presented to the Fostering Panel.


25.1 The Panel Chair will produce an annual report on the work of the Fostering Panel following the end of the financial year.

25.2 The report should include:

  • number of foster carers approved, ethnicity, family structure, geographical location
  • work of the Panel and the service
  • strengths and weaknesses of current provision including sufficiency
  • quality of work presented to Panel
  • specific issues arising for Panel over the past year
  • recommendations regarding the operation of Panel and the provision of fostering services in Brighton and Hove.

25.3 The annual report will be presented to Panel.

25.4 The annual report will be presented to elected Councillors as part of the Annual Fostering Service Provider Report.


26.1 The function, role, policy, procedure and operation of the

Fostering Panel will be formally reviewed annually.

26.2 After each Panel a questionnaire will be sent to all attendees  (applicants, social workers, foster carers and children) seeking their views and feedback. The outcome of these questionnaires will be presented on a quarterly basis to Panel and incorporated into the annual report.



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