Fostering annual review - urgent help needed

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Ruby chambers
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Joined: Wed Jan 29, 2014 10:11 pm

Fostering annual review - urgent help needed

Post by Ruby chambers » Sat Feb 01, 2014 12:37 pm

Hi,

I am new to the forum and was wondering if anyone can help me.

My partner and I are relative foster carers for our 2 nieces (my sisters children) who are LAC's. We were asked by the LA (not where we live) if we would go up for assessment (they were newborn and 18 months at the time). We agreed and after 6 months of assessments and approval they were placed with us in Feb 2013. My partner was in his final year if university and i took maternity leave from work for the children to settle (We were both 23). In the summer my partner graduated and he stopped receiving a student maintenance and so we were struggling financially. We told the LA and asked if we could get the fostering fee, but they said no because we are related. My partner went back to work, and so we had to organise childcare for the girls which was still costing a fair bit. I complained to the LA and said that we should be getting a fostering fee in light of the case in tower hamlets but they chose to ignore us again. Now they are saying that if we don't go for an SGO they will put the girls up for adoption. We told them we would apply for an SGO when mine and my partners contracts were renewed at work so we would know if we would be financially stable, but now that have said they will not be recommending us for renewal at our annual fostering review as they don't think we are spending enough time with the girls as we are both working. My partner said he will quit his job if he is given a fostering fee and will look after the girls, but they are still refusing (as we are asking for backdated pay as well). They have set our annual review on a weekday, even though we said it was difficult for us to take any more time off work, but they are now saying they will do the review without us as we haven't made ourselves available (we have never missed or rearranged any meetings before in the past year). We are really concerned that they are trying to remove the girls legally by not re-approving us as foster carers and so not having to pay us backdated fees. We are at a loss at what to do. They keep saying that we are too young, but this was not an issue when we were 23 and now we are 25 turning 26. IS there anyone that can help us, they are going to do the review on 11th feb and go to panel straight after, what can we do?

Thanks
R

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Robin D
Posts: 1900
Joined: Sat Aug 21, 2004 12:58 pm

Re: Fostering annual review - urgent help needed

Post by Robin D » Sat Feb 01, 2014 10:06 pm

I agree with Irene. The LA have been taking liberties and are now prepared to cause real emotional damage the children by moving them yet again just to save money!

I suggest you contact the help line on 0808 801 0366 (Monday to Friday 9.30am-3.00pm) although I appreciate it may be hard if you are working. They will be much better able to advise on the next steps. You may have to go head to head with the LA by taking the matter to court yourselves.

Good luck.

Robin
Former F&F carer, foster carer, adopter and respite carer for umpteen children. Now retired and when with kids, making sure they 'go home' at the end of the day.

Ruby chambers
Posts: 3
Joined: Wed Jan 29, 2014 10:11 pm

Re: Fostering annual review - urgent help needed

Post by Ruby chambers » Sun Feb 02, 2014 2:49 pm

Hi Irene/Robin,

Name is not mine! We have contacted solicitors and hoping they can advise us on what to do next. I spoke to the manager and she was unaware of their own policy which states they provide finance and support equivalent to that of mainstream foster carers. She was adamant that we would not get a fee and they will not be re-approving us. The last time they did a review and we went to panel (2 months ago) we didn't even go into panel as they could not re-approve us as we hadn't been given access to training. I was given access in December and completed my online training, but my partner was only given access 3 weeks ago. He has been completing it after work, but after the phone call with the manager on friday, he went online and they have closed his training online account so he has no access to training and will not be able to complete it before panel. He is going to call the manager on monday to ask why they have done this. Are they allowed to do that to stop re-approval?

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David Roth
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Joined: Thu Aug 10, 2006 10:14 am

Re: Fostering annual review - urgent help needed

Post by David Roth » Wed Feb 05, 2014 10:49 am

Hi Ruby Chambers, and welcome to the family and friends carers' discussion forum.

I notice that you stated in your original post that you had complained to the local authority. Did you make a formal complaint, in writing, or was it just a verbal complaint? If it was a written complaint, they are legally obliged to look into it. In any case, I think it is worth your while making a complaint now, and if you made an earlier complaint that was ignored, then that in itself can be added to any new complaint.

From what you have said, you have plenty you could complain about. Although I don't know your full circumstances, these sound like possible matters you could complain about:

1. The local authority states that you are ineligible to receive any fostering fee because you are related to the children. The family and friends care statutory guidance para 4.49 states "The allowances paid by a fostering service must be calculated for family and friends foster carers on the same basis as for all other foster carers, and any variations should relate to the child’s needs, the skills of the carer or some other relevant factor that is used as a criterion for all of the service’s foster carers" and in para. 4.50 that "There is no requirement to pay a fee to reward a carer’s time, skills, commitment, etc in addition to the allowance. Where a fee is paid, it must be payable to those foster carers who meet the criteria set out for the scheme, including foster carers who are family or friends." In other words, you should be eligible to receive fees and enhancements on the same basis as any other foster carers. The Tower Hamlets judgment used this guidance to confirm that it is unlawful for a local authority to have a policy that singles out family and friends carers as being unable to receive enhancements to the fostering allowance. It would help you to quote the legal reference for the case in any complaint: it is R (on the application of X) v London Borough of Tower Hamlets [2013] EWHC 480.
2. You could also complain about your partner being denied access to online training. If this is available to all approved foster carers, and he is an approved foster carer, then it sounds discriminatory. Have they given you any reason for refusing to allow him to complete the training? The Fostering National Minimum Standards require that "Family and friends foster carers have access to training available to other foster carers, but the fostering service provider also offers training that addresses the particular needs and circumstances of family and friends foster carers" (Standard 30.11). In other words, they should be offering you additional training that is specifically about family and friends carer issues.
3. If you have been told some time ago that you were not going to be re-approved, then it sounds as if they have pre-judged the outcome of the fostering review.
4. Have they provided any evidence that you and your partner working is having any negative impact on the children? They have stated that you are not spending enough time with them, but what impact is this having on your relationship with them?
5. If you feel that you are meeting the children's needs and bonding with them, then you could complain that the local authority is not meeting the requirements of s1 of the 1989 Children Act, which is to make the child's welfare the paramount consideration. If the children are settled and bonded with you, then removing them from you is going to have an impact on them.
6. If the local authority is stating that you are 'too young', then that is potentially discriminatory. It may be that people could be judged not mature enough for the fostering task, but that can't be decided just on the grounds of age alone.
7. They appear to be excluding you from the review process. While most social workers don't work weekends, it would be reasonable for the review to be held late afternoon or early evening during the week, if at least one of you could attend. Have you been asked to put your views in writing to the review? You should also be given the opportunity to attend the Fostering Panel, to present your views in person. The process is that the panel's recommendation then goes to the agency decision maker, who makes the decision about your continued registration. However, if they do decide to de-register you as carers, you can either appeal to the local authority or go to the Independent Review Mechanism. You should be informed of all this in writing.

You can read our Advice Sheet 25 about how to go about making a formal complaint: http://www.frg.org.uk/need-help-or-advice/advice-sheets

It can be worth letting other influential people know, such as your MP or the lead member for children's services, that they are threatening to remove children from a place within their family, on the grounds you have outlined.
David Roth
FRG Policy Adviser

Ruby chambers
Posts: 3
Joined: Wed Jan 29, 2014 10:11 pm

Re: Fostering annual review - urgent help needed

Post by Ruby chambers » Sat Mar 15, 2014 7:02 pm

Thanks for your posts Irene, Robin and David,

Quick update since i last post:
I complained to the manager of SS regarding the annual review taking place without us, and I asked for the reasons it was going ahead without us in writing. They were not prepared to do this and so they re-arranged the annual review to the coming monday.

However, we received a letter from SS in the post yesterday with our annual foster carer review factual information (?). On this it states they are not recommending us for re-approval and it is signed by our SW and his manager. So we have evidence that they have pre-judged us before our annual review on monday.

I sent an initial complaint regarding the fostering fee (and our general treatment by SS) on 16th November 2013. I didn't hear anything within the 20 days, so chased it up. I was told that they were dealing with it and our SW would keep us updated (this he did not do, he just kept saying the managers are dealing with it). We eventually got a reply on the 14th February 2014 basically saying they were not going to pay a fostering fee because we were relative foster carers, so our complaint wasn't going to be upheld. I told the manager I wanted to take it to stage 2 and asked her for details of the complaints procedure, and am yet to receive anything.

When panel asked for another review, i sent another complaint saying i didn't want our SW or the original IRO to do the review, as i feared they would pre-judge it. I have yet to receive acknowledgement of that complaint.

David in response to your points:
1. They are stating they don't have to pay us a fee as their policy says they don't. They are also saying because both i and my partner are in full time work, neither one of us is the primary carer so technically we are not upholding our duties as a family and friends carer so they can have the children removed. They are also stating that we are refusing an SGO on financial grounds so we are not providing permanency for the children and as they are 3 and 2, they can easily be adopted. We are annoyed at our SW and not longer trust him as he has provided us with incorrect information on many occasions, and then denied it. He told my partner if he quit his job the LA will start paying him the fostering fee as long as we don't take them to court. We were a bit surprised to be honest that they were giving into our demands, but decided to clarify this with his manager before my partner quit his job, and when we spoke to her she said that this was not agreed by the managers and we would under no circumstance receive a fee, our SW then denied saying this to us! He also failed to tell us that our original review (that went to panel the first time), had been deferred for 6 months! But he kept saying we only had 6 weeks to decide what we wanted to do. We have written to them regarding the mis-leading information, but again we are yet to receive acknowledgement. There are many documents that say out SW has told us about certain decisions/services/ available but he hasn't and when we challenged him and asked for evidence that he has supplied us with these so called things he refused to speak to us. Is that professional?
2. I complained about the training and they said they do not know why it was closed and have allowed access now. They claimed the licence had expired, however my truing account was still accessible. My partner has now completed the online training. They then decided to tell us we have to complete our CWDC portfolio in 6 weeks, even though family and friend carers have 18 months to complete the portfolio. We challenged this as my partner is dyslexic, to which they replied we hadn't disclosed this information to them previously, when it is documented in all of our assessments.
3. They have definitely pre-judged according to the paperwork we have. What can we do now? Shall i chase up the complaint and include this new information?
4. There is no evidence that the children are affected negatively due to us working. The children's SW has been positive the whole way through and has said she does not want the children removed as they have formed good attachments, but out SW and his manager are disregarding her input. Are they allowed to do this? The eldest child could not speak a word of anything when she was placed with us as she was placed with a foster carer who was not from the same background and hence did not speak the same mother-tongue nor did she speak english to the children. She can now speak fluent english. No concern has been made regarding the children's well being, but our SW 'believes' they do not have a 'secure and stable environment' and the current arrangements are 'detrimental' but has not provided any evidence. This is all his personal opinion, and not based on any hard evidence. He is clutching at straws and is trying to find flaws in order to back up his beliefs. The funny thing is he has said that if we apply for an SGO then all this will 'go away' and we can 'do whatever we want', so they cannot be concerned about the welfare of the children.
7. I enquired about evenings but the SW and IRO were not 'willing' to make the 1.5 hour journey to see us outside of their working hours. This is laughable as they made us make the 3 hour roundtrip once a week (mid-week as well) in order to have contact with the children to establish a bond before we went to panel initially and we never complained. They IRO also told us in our last review that the children will 'easily be adopted' if we don't take out an SGO (but they failed to write this into the minutes when we requested them!)

We are going to write a letter to our MP and the lead member of children's services as suggested. We have sent off forms for legal aid and will be waiting for the outcome. If we are entitled to legal aid then we will be requesting a judicial review.

I will keep you updated with tomorrows findings!

Thank you for taking your time to read all this! We're just completely overwhelmed at the moment!

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David Roth
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Joined: Thu Aug 10, 2006 10:14 am

Re: Fostering annual review - urgent help needed

Post by David Roth » Wed Mar 19, 2014 2:14 pm

Thanks for the update, Ruby - and good luck with taking this matter up!
David Roth
FRG Policy Adviser

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