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5.2.3 Fostering Panel


This chapter explains the membership, purpose, functions and arrangements for meetings of the Fostering Panel.


In May 2018, this chapter was extensively revised and should be re-read in full.


  1. Purpose and Function
  2. Membership
  3. Meetings

1. Purpose and Function

The Fostering Panel monitors the range and type of foster carers available to the local authority in comparison with the needs of children, and plays a key role in the improvement of standards within the fostering service.

As part of this function, the Panel oversees the quality of assessments and annual reviews of approved foster carers, advises on any relevant matters in relation to the Fostering Service and makes recommendations to Children's Services about quality issues and performance standards.

In particular, the Panel makes recommendations regarding:

  • The suitability of applicants to act as foster carers and terms of their approval (including Connected Persons);
  • Proposed variations to the terms of approval, including exemptions from the limit to the number of children placed with foster carers;
  • The continued suitability of the foster carers and whether the terms of the approval remain appropriate - see Review and Termination of Approval of Foster Carers Procedure);
  • Information on the outcome of any allegations or concerns about the standard of care and any other special matters relevant to a foster carer which the Chair of the Panel considers appropriate to be referred;
  • Referrals to the Independent Review Mechanism - see Assessment and Approval of Foster Carers Procedure.

The Panel will also receive and consider any representations challenging a decision not to approve an applicant as suitable, or to terminate or revise the terms of a foster carer's approval.

The Panel will receive the annual report on the Panel's business, including statistical information about approvals, reviews, termination of approvals, the number of children in placement and complaints received about foster carers during the preceding year.

The Chair will communicate any issues of concern to the Fostering Service Manager and take part in quarterly meetings with them and the Vice Chair to review the Panel's functioning and report on the quality of work being presented to Panel, to ensure good standards are maintained.

For these meetings, the Panel Administrator will provide statistical information in relation to Panel business, together with information on the numbers of foster carers used by the local authority and the number of children looked after by the local authority. This will facilitate an appraisal of the extent to which the Fostering Service is meeting the demand for placements.

2. Membership

There is no fixed panel membership or maximum number of members or maximum tenure of office.

The membership is drawn from a Central List of persons with the appropriate qualifications and/or experience, including one or more social workers who have at least three years' relevant post-qualifying experience.

Where it is considered that someone is unsuitable to be on the Central List, they must be given one months' notice in writing and reasons for the decision to end their inclusion on the list.

The Chair will be appointed by the Service Manager, Fostering who will also appoint up to two Vice Chairs, whose role is to chair the Panel when the Chair is unavailable.

Reasonable expenses relating to attendance are met, including travelling expenses and childcare; there is an allowance for attending training sessions plus travel expenses.

All Panel members must have satisfactory Disclosure and Barring Service checks before taking up their appointment. These checks must be renewed every three years and recorded, including the date when the checks were made. Personal and work references will also be obtained in writing and must be satisfactory.

Each member is provided with written information of their role, including their participation in induction and other training and safeguarding the confidentiality of records and information submitted to Panel. They sign an agreement with the Fostering Service covering the service expectations (including the requirement to report any involvement in criminal proceedings), confidentiality issues and commitment to anti-discriminatory practice.

All Panel members are required to attend at least one Panel meeting as an observer before taking up their membership. Panel members should complete induction training within 10 weeks of joining the Central List, have access to appropriate training and skills development and will have the opportunity to attend joint training with fostering staff at least annually.

The Panel quorum is 5 provided that the following are present:

  1. Either the Chair (or a Vice Chair in their absence). If the meeting is conducted by a vice chair who is not independent, there must be at least one other member of the panel who is independent;
  2. One of the social worker representatives with at least three years post qualifying experience;
  3. Three other members.

Panel members may request any relevant information or assistance they require, including medical or legal advice, from the Fostering Service.

There is a process for review of the performance of Panel members (including of the Panel chair by the Agency Decision Maker) and for the performance management of members. Where necessary, the termination of the appointment must be considered.

Where there are concerns about a Panel member's behaviour either inside or outside the meetings, and this cannot be dealt with by advice, training and/or information, this will raised by the Chair with the Fostering Service Manager.

The Service Manager, in discussion with the Head of Countywide and Looked After Children Services, will decide whether someone is unsuitable to be on the Central List and therefore to end the appointment and if so, will advise the member in writing giving one month's notice and clear reasons for the decision.

Panel members may resign by giving one month's notice to the Designated Manager (Fostering Panel Appointments).

3. Meetings

The Panel Administrator, with the Chair's authority, will arrange additional special meetings as necessary.

The Panel Administrator will arrange for the Legal Adviser from LGSS Law to attend the Panel if required by the Chair or by the Fostering Service Manager in discussion with the worker presenting a report.

The Panel's Medical Adviser will provide medical advice on matters to be brought to the Panel, by attendance at Panel meetings or an exchange of correspondence on individual cases in advance of the meeting, as appropriate. In exceptional circumstances the Medical Adviser may provide medical advice by telephone. This advice must be minuted or provided in a writing following the discussion.

The Panel Administrator may agree to requests for observers to attend meetings, in consultation with the Chair, but no more than 2 observers may attend at any one time.

The Panel would normally expect the attendance of prospective foster carers at meetings during consideration of their applications for approval. Applicants can attend with a supporter and 'be heard' at Fostering Panel meetings that consider their assessment.

Those presenting reports to the Panel must send their reports to the Panel Administrator at least 10 working days before the date of the Panel. The Panel Administrator will arrange for the documentation to be distributed to Panel members.

The Panel Administrator, in consultation with the Chair, prepares the agenda for each meeting and sends out the agenda to Panel members no later than five working days before the meeting.

The Chair's role is to ensure that all members participate fully in the meetings (unless an interest has been declared - see below) and that each member has an opportunity to raise questions or offer comments on each matter considered, that sensitive regard is paid to foster carers while keeping the child's welfare paramount, that consensus is achieved wherever possible and that the Panel has clear reasons for its recommendations, which must be clearly and comprehensively recorded.

Where there is a serious difference of opinion among members, the Chair may ask for more information to be made available to the Panel before a recommendation is made. Serious reservations expressed by individual Panel members about a particular recommendation must be recorded in the Panel minutes for consideration by the Agency Decision Maker (Fostering). The assessing social worker/supervising social worker will ensure that applicants, foster carers and social workers are notified of Panel recommendations within one working day of the Panel.

At the end of meetings, the Panel Administrator will collect all reports and agendas from members (for shredding). Panel members who are unable to attend meetings will be asked to return any papers to the Panel Administrator (for shredding) as soon as practicable.

The Panel Administrator will prepare the minutes in which reasons for recommendations and any disagreements or dissent will be fully recorded.

They will send the minutes to the Chair for approval of their accuracy, and then submit them to the Agency Decision Maker (Fostering) for consideration of the recommendations made.

The Agency Decision-Maker makes their decision based on of all the information available, including the recommendation of the Fostering Panel or, if applicable, the Independent Review Panel, within seven working days of receipt of the Panel recommendation and final Panel minutes.

The foster carer or prospective foster carer is informed orally of the Agency Decision Maker's decision within two working days and written confirmation is sent to them within five working days.

The Panel Administrator will provide social workers with a copy of the relevant minute after a decision has been made by the Agency Decision Maker.

Conflict of Interest

Panel members should declare any conflict of interest in relation to Panel agenda items. A potential conflict arises if an interest may be seen to adversely affect a Panel member's capacity to act without prejudice or preference in a matter.

It is anticipated that in many circumstances there may be professional knowledge of a case which should be notified to the Chair but which will not affect a member's capacity to participate in the Panel. In other circumstances there may be a personal interest or connection which would require the Panel member to refrain from participation.

In the case of a potential conflict of interest where advice is required, Panel members should consult the Chair or Legal Adviser, giving as much advance notice as possible particularly having regard to the implications for the quorum.