The Sub-Committee considered the Private Foster Service Annual Report 2016/17.
The Private Fostering Regulations applied when children or young people aged under 16 years (or 18 years if they had a disability) lived with a person who was not a close relative for 28 days or more. The Local Authority was required to assess the suitability of this arrangement and review it under the Private Fostering Regulations to ensure the placement was able to safeguard and promote the child’s welfare. Between 1st April 2016 and 31st March 2017, there had been a decrease in the number of Private Fostering notifications which had reduced from 19 to 12 children. This had been identified as cause for concern as the reason for the decrease in the number of arrangements was not apparent and would be discussed at the next CoramBAAF Private Fostering Special Interest Group in comparison with other local authorities.
The Group Manager: Fostering reported that there was now a need to ensure that there was consistency and speed within the process for registering private fostering arrangements. To this end a full-time Senior Practitioner Social Worker would be dedicated to supporting and raising the profile of private fostering. In addition to this an app had been developed as a reporting tool. The app provided a definition of private fostering arrangements and set out the process of reporting. Historically in Bromley private fostering arrangements had not been marketed properly and one of the roles of the Senior Practitioner Social Worker would be to market the app and ensure that professionals working with children in the Borough were aware of the app and how it should be used.
In response to a question from the Chairman the Head of Service: Fostering and Adoption confirmed that it was hard to be sure how many private fostering arrangements were in place within the Borough as the need to register such arrangements had not been publicised widely and this needed to be addressed. There was a duty to notify other boroughs of such arrangements when families moved borough.
In response to a further question from the Chairman surrounding the justification for a full-time post to support 12 children in private fostering arrangements, the Head of Service: Adoption and Fostering explained that Officers expected the number to increase when the need to register arrangements was more widely publicised. In addition to this, the Senior Practitioner Social Worker would need to liaise with schools and language schools as well as other professionals to market the app and ensure that organisations who were working with children could recognise such arrangements and report to the local authority if necessary. The Director of Children’s Social Care highlighted in Bromley there was a “Caseload Promise” of between 12 and 15 cases and the number of private fostering arrangements currently recorded fell within the Promise.
RESOLVED that the Portfolio Holder be recommended to endorse the Private Fostering Service Annual Report 2016/17.