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6.2.5 Exemptions and Extensions

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

Please note that applications for exemption in relation to foster carers living in a different local authority area must be made to the manager of the fostering service for the local authority in whose area the foster carer lives.

AMENDMENT

This chapter was slightly updated in March 2014, see Section 6, Extension/Variation to the Foster Carer’s Terms of Approval.


Contents

  1. Usual Fostering Limit on Number of Children
  2. The Legal Position Regarding Amending a Foster Carer's Terms of Approval
  3. Reasons why an Exemption may be Considered
  4. The Process for Exemptions
  5. Review and Monitoring of Exemptions
  6. Extension/Variation to the Foster Carer's Terms of Approval


1. Usual Fostering Limit on Number of Children

A person may not foster more than three children in each foster home except where all the children are siblings.

In all other circumstances, foster carers may only exceed this number if an exemption has been agreed.


2. The Legal Position Regarding Amending a Foster Carer's Terms of Approval

A proposal to amend a foster carer's terms of approval will follow a review in accordance with Regulation 28(2) of the Fostering Services (England) Regulations 2011 (the 2011 Regulations). Where we propose to amend the terms of approval we must, under regulation 28(7) of those regulations, issue a "qualifying determination".

This qualifying determination advises the carer that they have 28 days in which to make representations to the fostering service or apply to the Secretary of State for a review by the IRM.

If the foster carer makes no representation or application within this period, then the service may proceed to amend the terms of approval. There is no provision in the 2011 Regulations for the 28 day period to be shortened even if the foster carer agrees to the change in terms.

Thus, a foster carer's terms of approval cannot be amended in less than 28 days. This provision is unchanged from the Fostering Services Regulations 2002.

Regulation 23 of the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010 (the 2010 Regulations) allows a child to be placed outside a carer's terms of approval for up to 6 working days in an emergency (increased from 24 hours in the Fostering Services Regulations 2002). Once 6 working days have elapsed, the child must be moved to a foster carer whose terms of approval are appropriate.


3. Reasons why an Exemption may be Considered

Applications for an exemption will usually be made because of the following exceptional circumstances:

  1. The child concerned was previously placed with the foster carers and his or her placement elsewhere has disrupted;
  2. The foster carers have special skills to meet the child's needs which are not available elsewhere;
  3. The placement of the child over the limit is the most appropriate way of meeting the child's needs arising from disability, race, religion, language and/or culture;
  4. The placement is required to keep siblings together.

Applications can only be made with the agreement of the foster carers concerned. When considering an exemption the following factors should be regarded:

  1. The number, ages and circumstances of the children concerned;
  2. The arrangements proposed for the care and accommodation of the children concerned;
  3. The relationship between the foster carers and the children concerned;
  4. The period of time over which the placement is likely to last;
  5. The likely effect on the children concerned and any other children living in the household;
  6. The foster carers' capacity to provide sufficient care for all the children in the placement;
  7. The need to safeguard and promote the welfare of the fostered children / young people and any other children / young people who live in the foster home.


4. The Process for Exemptions

4.1 Planned Exemptions

The need for an exemption will be identified at the point when the duty fostering social worker is seeking to identify a suitable placement for a child or children.

Where a foster carer is identified as the most appropriate option to meet the child's needs, and this is agreed by the supervising social worker for the carers and the foster carer, the duty social worker should consult with the manager and if agreed prepare an application for an exemption.

The social worker(s) to any other child in the placement should also be consulted in order to seek their views on any impact (positive or negative) from a further placement commencing.

All applications for planned exemption for foster carers living in the local authority area must be made in writing, supported by reasons, to the Looked after Children's Service Commissioning Manager for approval. Where the foster carers live in a different local authority area, the application must be made to the manager of the fostering service for that area. The written application will be prepared by the supervising social worker for the foster carers in conjunction with the relevant child's social worker.

The decision whether or not to grant an exemption will be recorded in writing, together with reasons. Any exemption will be specific to a child or children and can be subject to conditions. The foster carer will be notified in writing of the decision.

Upon the granting of an exemption, a time limit will be specified and an exemption can only extend beyond that date if the Looked after Children's Service Commissioning Manager authorises it.

The decision must be recorded.

The decision will be reported to the next available Fostering Panel for ratification.

4.2 Emergency Exemptions

A child can only be placed in a foster home (above the agreed limit) for up to 6 days (see Section 2, The Legal Position Regarding Amending a Foster Carer's Terms of Approval above).

An application for exemption must be made to the Looked after Children's Service Commissioning Manager as soon as practicable thereafter.

The emergency and interim approval can only be given by the local authority for the area where the foster carers reside. Depending on the local authority involved, there may be arrangements in place for a Duty Manager within the local authority to agree an emergency or interim exemption. If such arrangements exist, an application for an emergency or interim exemption must be made to the relevant manager in line with their procedures. Otherwise an emergency exemption cannot be granted.

Any emergency decisions to grant an exemption must be confirmed in writing and copies of the decision, together with the reasons, must be placed on the child's file and the foster carer's case record. A copy must also be sent to the foster carer.

The decision must be recorded on SWIFT in the carers' module exemptions tab.


5. Review and Monitoring of Exemptions

The Fostering Panel will be responsible for the ongoing monitoring of the exemption.

The Fostering Service is responsible for recording the ending the exemption when the exemption is no longer required.


6. Extension/Variation to the Foster Carer's Terms of Approval

The placement must also be compatible with the foster carer’s terms of approval. If the placement would not be compatible, then an extension/variation to their terms of approval will be required. (This will usually be in addition to an extension to the usual number of children, as detailed above.)

All requests for extensions and variations must be presented in writing to the Fostering Panel and thereafter the Agency Decision Maker.

The only exception to this is where an emergency extension or variation to approval is required to enable a placement to take place before the case has been presented to the Fostering Panel. In these circumstances, the Designated Manager (Exemptions and Extensions) can agree an emergency extension of the foster carer’s approval to allow the placement to go ahead. Any such decision can last for up to 6 working days.

End