Strategy 8th November 2021
Janet Fraser Introduction
Janet Fraser introduced herself to the members of the group. Janet is the new deputy chief officer, head of childrens health and wellbeing. Ofsted judged childrens services to be inadequate a few years ago. Devon attempted to recruit into the role but struggled to fulfil the post. They found themselves left with two applicants who were both taken on to share the responsibilities across the service. The other person is Lisa who is responsible for the social work team. Janet covers fostering, public health nursing ect. Janet reminded the group that we are all part of the jigsaw that makes up childrens services.
Janet mentioned the concerns around the turnover of social workers and the recruitment and retention of foster carers. The turnover means that children aren’t always familiar with their social workers and that foster carers don’t always get the relevant information that they need.
Emma asked the carers to go round to share their experiences as foster carers and the difficulties in covid.
Graham praised the fostering team but critiqued the childrens team. Struggles around children being uprooted. He mentioned that it feels sometimes like it’s never been your own house. Kim echoed this and agreed that fostering is great but the social team and childrens teams have problems. Kim underwent a reassessment alongside her mother in order to become a single carer, she mentioned good work taking place in order to amend problems with the process. She also praised her new social worker for her brilliant work around her new placement.
Emma to work with Janet on transitions for children, particularly for young children. PJ echoed she has a lovely social worker. She mentioned that agency workers are a nightmare to work with. Egress is a huge problem for foster carers it does not give them the access that they require, it often doesn’t allow them access to important files.
Pat added that we are not part of the professional team. Not invited to PEP childrens meetings. Given last minute information about such meetings. We are the most important people in these childrens lives we need to be involved before we lose heart.
Katie sang the praises of the social workers around her placements. She currently has an emergency placement that is due to be moved but is still with her at the moment. She spoke about how you need to be loving and the best parent you can be to nurture a child while they are in our care. This can be difficult when a child is due to move on, but the reason why foster carers do their job is because they care about children.
Ali has a staying put living with her who is heavily pregnant. She is keen to support the young person. Her family want to be part of the young persons life and welcome the baby. Ali gave praises to her new social worker.
Janet mentioned that all parts of the country are struggling to recruit social workers and keep them on board. She reassured the carers that the council has placed importance on recruitment and has put money towards a big recruitment drive. She finished by saying that we are going to make some big changes and we have some great people that can make this happen.
Facts and Figures
Emma gave an update on facts and figures.
- 814 children in care in Devon across foster care, IFA carers, residential and secure accommodation.
- Devon county council – in our own foster families 394.
- 1st November – 345 foster families across Devon. We are losing as many foster carers as we are recruiting.
- Number of beds across the county (This is worked out by – number of children with foster families + voids + vacancies – delete amount of friends and family.) this equalled – 401 beds for children in November. – it’s been stable for the last few months haven’t lost very much .
We do have more staying put arrangements which are really important to young people.
Emergency Bed – needs tweaking to get more interest in it. We have one foster carer wo has been around a long time who is offering one bed one month and then another bed another month. Despite beds being free will the children who are already in the house function well with the emergency bed child.
Timely Payments For Carers
Foster carers would like a breakdown on the Thursday or before of the payment they are having. There are a lot of issues around not knowing why you have a figure. If you do extra things its hard to chase when you don’t know what you have been paid for. Some foster carers are reluctant to chase it as the process is too stressful. If the email on the Tuesday could have a breakdown that would be good.
Jackie Batho – Update on Annual Reviews Coming Back to Foster Panel
Many years of talking about bringing annual reviews back to panel. Many authorities do this over a few years. Coram Baaf are really keen for us to do this. They come back the first year but that is it. Emma and Roger strongly recommended to the managers that we need to do this an be in line with every else. Jackie has been working hard to make this happen. The plan is to start doing it from January next year. Do it so it coincides when carers annual reviews are due anyway so there is no extra work for everyone. Jackie has compiled a spreadsheet to work out when people are due a review. Start with carers who have been here the longest. Will be every four years. Will be a process of doing a catch up for the next couple of years in order to be able to do this every four years.
Best way to communicate this would be the support groups.
Individual choice whether people want to come to panel face to face. Great opportunity for people to showcase the great things that have happened over the last 12 months. Questions arose as to whether it would be preferable to have panel meetings face to face. Or to continue on virtual; which seems to be working really well.
A document around childminding was sent out prior to the meeting to all members, Emma asked peoples thoughts. Most know that they cannot continue with child minding if they are to be a foster carer. Most carers agreed the document was reasonable.
Foster carer agreement. Emma and Jackie have worked on this alongside the management group to be sent out for foster carers opinions.
Pantomime – proving difficult to arrange. This is still In progress.
Claire Bennett proceeded to give updates on recruitment for the fostering service.
14 mainstream approvals
2 due at panel December
Newsletter – ad for child in newsletter. We are consistently asked now if we can recruit for certain children. Not much impact has occurred from that campaign.
Work on reassessment underway. Claire asked if anyone else would like to join Kim on that working group. To look over reassessment paperwork.
Live recruitment events. Claire asked if anyone on strategy or peers would like to join a working group on that. Hopefully this will work well.
Carer referral scheme is working really well we get a lot of interest from that. Proving to be affective. Gail Robbins is retiring soon. Two new members of staff starting in December.
Questionnaire in post from Claire and Roger regarding strategy. – Go over this in January