The Nationwide Association of Fostering Providers (NAFP) believes that, in general, it is beneficial for children and foster carers if the carer’s supervising social worker attends the child’s annual review. It is also the case that the number of adults attending a review needs to be at a level which feels comfortable for an individual child and which enables them to express their views and wishes. However, we are of the firm view that any blanket policy which restricts the involvement of supervising social workers at reviews brings risk to the child, the foster carers, fostering provider and local authority.
The National Minimum Standards for Fostering Services (England, 2011) state:
- “The fostering service supports foster carers to play an active role in agreeing the contents of each child’s placement plan, in conjunction with the responsible authority” (31.1) and “The foster carer is supported to contribute effectively to the review of their care plan, which includes the placement plan.” (31.3)
- “The foster carer is supported to assist the child to put forward their views, wishes and feelings as part of each review process, and the fostering service helps to ensure that these are fully taken into account by the child’s responsible authority.” (31.4)
In their international literature review, the Role of the supervising social worker in foster care (2014), the Rees Centre identify that “One role of the supervising social worker is to advocate on behalf of the foster carer at the child’s review.' For the small number of occasions when consideration is being given to a supervising social worker not being invited to a review, it is recommended that the Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) consider the following:
- Supervising social workers provide support to the foster carers. This support can be viewed as essential by carers, especially if they are new to fostering or are having a particularly difficult time with the child.
- A supervising social worker can communicate sensitive information in a way that can help to avoid conflict between carer and child.
- A supervising social worker can advocate for the carer in a way they may not be able to achieve for themselves, and can act as an effective liaison between the local authority and the carers.
- Appropriate levels of transparency build and maintain trust and partnership working between agencies and individuals in the team around a child.
- On occasion the foster carer’s supervising social worker will know the child well. They may have known the child longer that the looked after children’s social worker and the IRO. Their long term knowledge may be critical for care planning and review.
- Attendance of a supervising social worker often enables quicker decision making and avoids confusion when actions points are agreed at a review. A supervising social worker can confirm if a proposed action falls under the remit of the provider and can ensure agreed actions are monitored and completed effectively.
- Often the supervising social worker will be the only professional with specialist knowledge of fostering.
If, having considered the above, the IRO believes that it is inappropriate for the supervising social worker to attend the review, the IFP may reasonably request that the reasons be put in writing for their records. If the IFP has reason to believe that the exclusion of a supervising social worker may have a detrimental impact on the child in placement or their own agency’s ability to fulfill care and contractual responsibilities, the IFP may request the involvement of the local authority commissioning contract manager to jointly consider actions to address these concerns.
16 February 2018