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EFCA Newsletter - June 2022

01/06/2022

Here is your June 2022 Newsletter from the EFCA

The EFCA (Essex Foster Carers Association) are evolving. Over the past couple of years we have gained much more knowledge and are therefore able to support you better. In order for us to continue to do this we may ask for your feedback, either when you send an email or on the Facebook page. This will enable us to learn and so help you more.

We know that at some point you will want to stop Fostering and we know that sometimes the decision to do this can be very hard. The EFCA would very much like to learn about your thoughts on why (going forward) this decision was made – was it retirement or something else perhaps? This will help us understand what is happening out there in Fostering land. So if you are thinking about calling it a day please get in touch with me (Helen) chair@essexfca.org I will ask only 4 questions or if I see you saying goodbye on the Facebook page I will try to get in touch.

In this month's issue:

(Scroll as you read or click a headline to jump straight to the article)

This is everyone's news. Let's get started

Helen and I visited the placements team (CYPPS) by Lucy Tanner

Helen Cornwall and I, wearing our matching purple EFCA polo shirts, visited The Children and Young People’s Placement Service (CYPPS) team at County Hall, Chelmsford, where we were met by Lynne Wilkinson who introduced to the very welcoming and friendly members of staff.

CYPPS use several desks within the open plan office, being situated opposite the recruitment team and next to the adoption team. They are lucky to have an additional separate room, housing several desks which makes up the duty placement team. Originally the team were at the other end of the open plan room, but with the kitchen and walkway being close by, there was much noise and distraction and so the team moved to a quieter area, with an available separate office for any confidential conversations to also take place in. The team use headsets for phone/teams calls.

We were introduced to Beverley Harris, the Placement Finding Team Manager. Helen and I sat with her for an hour frantically writing notes, whilst she explained the role of the team, alongside answering our many questions (Bev actually stating that she felt like a Mastermind contestant!).

Within the team, we learnt from Alison, that there are ten placement officers (POs), each having a case load of approximately twenty cases.  Some POs have been in the team for many years, whilst others joined last year.  The team are also currently recruiting for POs.

At any one time, within the duty team, there are two POs and one senior practitioner in the office (today it was Alison, placement officer, and Kayleigh senior practitioner) whilst other officers work from home.  This is rotational and there is much communication amongst those in the office. We were advised that the teams are in the process of returning into the office in line with the new ways of working that Essex have introduced.

We learnt that a referral first comes in from a field social worker for fostering and if the child needs to be placed the same day, the referral goes to the duty team. The referral at this point is more of a pen picture ie age/personality of child. The placement officer will then gather as much information as possible ie background, location, plan etc.

The placement officer sends it to one of the senior practitioners to quality check the information and wording, before sending the referral out. Placement referrals come in through email, that morning there were six by 10am, four were planned and two were not.

Depending on the prospective carer’s experience, the placement officer will either discuss the matching with existing children within the home with the supervising social worker or will call the carer direct.

If a carer is identified that doesn’t have much experience to date, the placement officer will approach the supervising social worker to discuss the referral before making contact with the carer.  However, sometimes a placement is not needed immediately and can be required in a few weeks time – planned referrals and these referrals are allocated to placement officers on a daily basis so that sourcing can commence.

When a carer says yes to a potential child going into their home, planned or on the same day, all the known information is sent to the fostering social worker/carer so that a placement can be considered.

When a phone call is made to the foster carer with a referral, it may be that the carer is able to accept the child but doesn’t have immediate practical support. It has been recommended that if a carer doesn’t have such support (i.e. if carer cannot get to the shops for essentials for the child) then the carer can ask the placement/fostering/social work teams for extra support and it may be that any ongoing support is identified and this will be organised (and reviewed in the longer term).

The vacancy list is a working document which is updated every day – the list is generated from Mosaic and identifies vacancies that carers will have – any changes that are made to the list is undertaken by the carers allocated SSW. There is a daily duty catch up meeting at 9.30am each day when a duty social worker from each fostering team attends the meeting; this ensures that all teams work together to source placements.

We asked how many carers were on the vacancy list for when we visited.  On 11th May for instance there were between 40-50 vacant carers. However, it was then explained that this unfiltered and doesn’t take into account carers preferences (ie respite only/age/quadrant/short breaks etc) or large sibling groups.

We were advised that sometimes carers call the team directly if they have not received calls for a while. It may be that they have not been identified as being vacant and in which case the carer should revert back to the fostering team/SSW.

If there is no internal placement available for the child then permission to extend the search to include IFAs is required, which is gained through a phone call/email. Only once that permission is gained can a place be sought. The placement officers will then contact the agencies identified on the framework to identify a suitable carer. IFA carers may be Essex, in Southend or Thurrock or further afield, distance is a major factor when placing a child within a home, namely the distance from current school/family etc.

All referrals and record of the placement search go onto the child’s record so that the child can see the referral when they are older.

As well as finding placements, we were unaware that the Service also manages the quality improvement of external provisions, such as residential and semi independent living settings (SIAs), under the guidance of Marcus Johnson, Team Manager. There are two senior practitioners, one placement home care support worker and four placement monitoring officers. As some of these settings ie SIAs are unregulated, the assigned officer will perform quality assurance spot checks etc to ensure that the accommodation and support is at the required standard that Essex expect. With regard IFA providers, there is a framework in place (which is currently under review) there is a list of providers that the Placement Officers contact to source placements. The tender process is every four years for fostering providers and every two years for residential providers.

The placement team are keen to visit each quadrant and this had been planned pre covid, but these will be resuming again soon, so that they can meet carers. We also discussed that the team would love to hear of good news stories, where children have really settled, as once the placement team have placed a child, they don’t hear any more and it was commented to us that they would love to hear how the children have settled.

We came away feeling extremely valued and supported by the placement team. Each team member who was in the office that day took much time to talk to us. All were extremely welcoming and friendly. Bev commented that the team always give 210 per cent within their role, which was so lovely to hear. In my opinion the team are close knit and very passionate about their roles within the department.

Lynne Wilkinson (standing), Lucy Tanner (Right), Kayleigh (Left)

Lynne Wilkinson (standing), Lucy Tanner (Right),
Kayleigh (Left)

 

 

 

Beverly Harris - Team Manager

Beverly Harris - Team Manager
 

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Please sponsor Aaron, Outreach Worker in North Quadrant He is still raising money for his bike rise of 66km in July, so far he has £660, but would like to reach £750.  You can sponsor him https://gofund.me/40f0811b

Message from Aaron to North carers: To help continue adding to my fundraising for Essex Foster Carers Association, we are looking at running some raffles during your support groups. Sheila Watsham has kindly said she will assist me in organising this. What we would like to do is get people to pledge doing, making or helping with something. An idea could be like one carer today from Colchester said that she would pledge to make a 1 tier cake, so hopefully this will give people an idea of what we are thinking. So if you would be happy to make a pledge email myself or Sheila – Sheila.watsham@yahoo.com, so we can collate these, or if you’d like to donate a prize please bring these to support groups, where we will start selling tickets over the coming weeks & the draw will be made once I’ve completed my ride.

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Minutes from EFCA AGM 27th April 2022

We held our AGM on 27th April 2022 at Colchester Football Stadium.

Agenda

Welcome and Introduction

Helen Cornwall

Our Legal duty for AGM

Helen Cornwall and Amanda Stevens

Financial Review

Amanda Stevens

What the EFCA are working on

Amanda Stevens

Raising funds for EFCA

Amanda Stevens

Any other business.

Helen Cornwall and Amanda Stevens

Minutes

Helen opened the Meeting

Roughly 68 FC’s attended at Colchester Stadium for the EFCA AGM.   Helen opened the Meeting by warmly welcoming everyone and speaking about when she was in her 20’s in Harwich and saw someone picking up a starfish and throwing it back into the sea as the beach was covered in them.  Helen had asked the person why he bothers as there are so many starfish to which his reply she will always remember as he said “for this one – it makes a difference” and this is why she does what she does, as that one starfish represents one child at a time. Everyone agreed and clapped emotionally.

Legal Duty for AGM

As part of the Charity Commission requirements, it is the duty of this Charity to have Annual General Meetings which are part of our Constitution. This year it was held in Colchester with a table team of HHR’s, a table team from Virtual School, a table from Fostering Network and also Julie Macer-Wright (Fostering Service Manager for Essex) attended too.

Financial Review

Amanda indicated that we were in a good financial position and that all the accounts were up to date and have been filed independently.  Amanda kindly gave thanks from all who have supported EFCA.

A copy of the accounts are available elsewhere on our website here.

What the EFCA is working on

Amanda introduced the EFCA team to the Meeting and gave information as to what we are here for and how important it is that we all work together.

Amanda spoke of the real importance to keep our voices heard and signposted foster carers to contact EFCA for not only issues but to also hear any compliments and positives as we all need to hear what is working well.

Raising Funds for EFCA

 

Amanda wanted to thank Cheryl for organising all the hampers, Tiptree, Sue for organising swimming events, Grant foster carer who will be cycling to raise funds for our charity in June; who was in attendance at the back of the room and Essex High Court Sheriff.

Any other business

Amanda introduced Julie Macer-Wright (Fostering Service Manager for Essex) who gave a brief talk to the room that she wanted to concentrate on communication to ensure that all Essex Foster Carers’ concerns be addressed quickly and solutions found in a timely manner.   She was delighted that EFCA are now invited to Fostering Board Meetings which is attended by different directors, team managers who can escalate things by us all working and coming together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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If you don't have a smart phone or don't want to download the app you can still help!

All you need to do is:

  1. Go to https://www.easyfundraising.org.uk/causes/essexfostercarers/?utm_campaign=raise-more and join for free.

  2. Every time you shop online, go to easyfundraising first to find the site you want and start shopping.

  3. After you’ve checked out, the retailer will make a donation to Essex Foster Carers Association at no extra cost to you whatsoever!

Thank you for your support.

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Mid Quadrant News

Cheryl Cousins is now temporarily the EFCA representative for Mid. She will now be attending the Mid Fostering Forum. Here are the minutes from 14th March. The next meeting will be on 20th June. Please contact Cheryl with any questions, queries good news or bad to be put forward at the next meeting.

Minutes of the Mid Fostering Forum provided by Natalie Isaac (Team Manager)

Fostering Forum

14th March 2022

Present

Sukriti Sen – Director of Local Delivery (mid)

Melissa Jiggins – Service Manager, Children in Care, leaving care and fostering

Ruth Montoya-Lazoya – Foster Carer

Elizabeth O’Keefe – Foster carer

Mick Bearman – Foster carer

Cheryl Cousins – EFCS trustee, foster carer South quadrant.

Natalie Isaac – Team Manager, Fostering Team 2, Mid

 

Apologies

Gary and Debbie Barker – Foster Carers

Sue Kearns – Team Manager, Fostering Team 1, Mid

Discussion

Overview of meeting

Carers provided with a draft term of reference which will be taken away and considered.

Sukriti asked those in attendance to consider how we want to obtain and consider feedback from the mid foster carers and how we use this to shape our services going forward. Sukriti is keen to hear what foster carers are experiencing, both good and bad, and wants to be able to take these issues on board to look at ways that we can celebrate the positives, work on areas for development.

We want to hear things not only impacting on mid but on a countywide basis so that Essex can respond accordingly.

Sukriti advised that she attends bimonthly Children in Care Council (CiCC) meetings where she is able to hear first-hand the impact of our intervention and support for children and young people. They are able to openly share their stories, and these are often impactful and powerful

CiC appreciate the commitment and support those carers offer / have offered them and often share that it is the little things that make a difference. CiC are acutely aware of times when they are held in mind.

Sukriti thanked carers for all that they have done and continue to do for our children in care.

 

Support groups

We considered support groups and there is a real sense that many would like face to face support groups to resume. Natalie confirmed that securing venues has been an issue, however, we have also seen some positive attendance from secondary carers, who often struggle to attend. We need to consider how we balance this as we move out of covid restrictions.

Face to Face events have started to take place, positive feedback from Meet and Greet held in November.

Male support group – this has not always been in place but is something carers would like resumed.

Support for birth children – this was an area that all agreed needs to be considered. Carers were pleased to hear that this has been a discussion held within the fostering service recently. They felt strongly that this could and should be accessed by many of the carers own children. Carer didn’t feel that having older birth children facilitating this would be achievable, however there are many older young people that may wish to be a part of its development and attend occasionally, depending on their own work / education commitments.

EFCA trustees

Mid needs an EFCA representative, Cheryl is attending today as currently there are no trustees for Mid. Cheryl confirmed that this would require attendance at bi-monthly evening meetings where issues such as policies and discussions around what needs to be taken to corporate meetings are explored. These meetings are attended by carers from across the county and ensure that quadrant voices are represented. EFCA reps also signpost carers who may have worries or concerns to relevant support or other carers who may have knowledge in this area.

There are currently 7 EFCA trustees and they are keen to secure more. We agreed to circulate communications to all mid SSW’s to explore with carers.

What do we need to do?

Oasis scheme

There is an overarching sense that CiC SW’s do not understand the purpose of Oasis. One carer reported feeling as if they were being questioned as to why their young people were a part of this support group and why regular overnight stays were in place. There was a lack of understanding as to what can be gained from being a part of this group and what commitment and undertaking carers need to make.

 

We considered how Sue and Natalie can spread the word as it is acknowledged that the instances highlighted today, may not originate from Mid.

It has been beneficial for new carers to be a part of this as they don’t always access the use of mentors / buddy’s set up

Buddy / Mentor scheme - New carers are reporting being put off by the complexity of the referrals being shared. They do struggle with the expectations and reality of the fostering role at times. How do we prepare carers in recruitment? It is understood that very often you can only fully understand and comprehend the role when you are in it. Can we utilise the support of more experienced carers more routinely?

Rules around overnight stays / DBS – there was a concern that this differs around the county and lack of understanding as to why different decisions are made. Carers would appreciate clarification around this and what the requirements are as often this is not considered at Placement Planning Meetings.

Consistent respite – carers appreciate the wish for us to implement consistent respite with carers who are familiar with the children/ young people. Experience is that this is not always available despite the need for this?

Mileage – carers would like consideration to be given to increasing mileage allowance. They are aware that this has not been increased for many years and feel that the expectation on them to transport with the rising fuel costs mean that carers are now being more selective about the placements they are willing to consider.

Bluelight card – all carers are eligible for this. Carers would have to self fund the £5 costs to join.

Expenses – some carers are receiving emails for their SSW when they have approved expenses. Carers were advised that this is not feasible for all SSW’s to complete as TM’s and finance can request further information which means that despite SSW’s approving, further information is sought.

£200 voucher from Essex Family Wellbeing Service – some carers have received contact from the service to advise that they can collect their £200 voucher to assist with heating costs, others have not and there is a question as to why? Natalie nor anybody in the fostering team are aware of this scheme and what the criteria is surrounding this

Action(s)

  • Cares to review terms and reference and any comments shared at next meeting.
  • SSW’s to be approached to consider any carers who they feel could be suitable to be nominated as EFCA reps.
  • Natalie to book meetings for 2022 for forum meetings, dates of which to then be circulated to carers.
  • Natalie to contact Essex Family Wellbeing service to explore criteria for vouchers being issued.
  • Speak to TFT about how we can circulate more targeted information about Oasis support Networks.
  • Communication about Bluelight card to be shared on Foster Carer Facebook page.

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Adventure Island - Southend on Sea

Adventure Island Tickets £16 each

Sealife Southend tickets £7 each 

Adventure Golf tickets £5 Each (for two rounds)

To get your tickets please contact grantandgift@essexfca.org

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EFCA working with ECC

Virtual School - Lucy Tanner and Helen  Cornwall had a meeting with Virtual school, and we found this very productive, they are looking at changing the way PEP’s work. Music lessons in Essex Schools should still be free. The teacher goes to the school – not the school have to have a music teacher. We also found out that it is the Law that Social Workers should do all the admittance forms for a new school (with your input) and that you should never have to attend a ‘dressing down’ from the head because the young person did something wrong – it’s the CSW’s that should attend. We found out so much that we would like to set up a meeting on Teams for any Foster Carer/and or Social Worker to attend. This will be towards the end of June. This has already been put on Facebook page and we have already had a lot of interest. Please either email myself (Helen)  chair@essexfca.org or Lucy lrtanner@aol.com if you wish to attend! If we do get large numbers, then we will set up additional meetings.

We will of course, make sure that all relevant information is placed on this Newsletter.

Placement and Stability Round up – I have had a few people ask me if we have had any feedback and I have once again tried to find out any outcomes from the Placement and Stability working group and have now been told that it is still a work in progress. I will keep this on our agenda and hope that we will get some feedback in the not to distant future.

Hep B Injections – The EFCA have had a long conversation with Julie Macer Wright with regards to weather Essex should pay for these injections and with this conversation came more questions – weather other inoculations should be considered? Is Hep B prevalent enough to warrant having the injection etc (for example Hep B can be caught from blood to blood transmission and it is very rare for a child to come into care and to have not been tested or to put things in place whilst the child is being tested. This was a very productive meeting, and we will keep the conversation going.

Specialist Fees Criteria – the EFCA have been approached by a number of Carers with regards to the Specialist Fees criteria and although they feel a child is meeting the guidance that sets out what meets this they are still being refused. We have been asked to bring this up at our Fostering Board on 15th June. So, we hope to have further information in July/August’s Newsletter.

Holiday payment – the holiday payment has changed. It will no longer be a ‘holiday payment’ rather a supplementary amount to help towards the additional costs of having a child through the summer break. This year is going to be awkward with some people (including myself) losing out. However, there are far more people not getting the holiday payment for many reasons (such as not knowing about it, not asking for it and in some circumstance the SW not knowing what to do) going forward this will be a much better system.

Fees - There have been many conversations going around regarding the Fees with times getting harder, costs rising in every direction Essex Management are looking into this and we have been asked to bring this up at the next Fostering Board meeting.

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Fundraising - Karen Reynolds

Here are this month's fundraising activities

The Wonderful Théo

 

To donate https://gofund.me/7c25b4c7

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Calling all talented & creative Foster Carers

Thank you to everyone who supports EFCA, we couldn't do it without you.

Karen Reynolds - facebook - email grantandgift@essexfca.org

PS We have lots of Raffles on the Lovely Foster Carer’s Facebook Group. If you haven’t already joined the Facebook page please contact one of us, it would be great to see you on there!

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