News by Month
EFCA Newsletter - May 2022
We are changing things around so you can see that this month's Newsletter comes to you from our Website! Essex are finding it difficult to get everyone's News onto the monthly Newsletter so in order for us not to lose any information we are trying this!
In this month's issue:
(Scroll as you read or click a headline to jump straight to the article)
- Lucy Tanner visits EDS
- Amanda tells us what she went through when an allegation was made.
- We have the minutes from Vicki who attended the West Fostering quarterly meeting with Rudia.
- We have an update on EpiPen training - after a young person with an allergy had contact in the community.
- What we are working on with ECC
- Help us to help you - Raising Funds
This is everyone's news. Let's get started
Have you ever wondered what happens at the Emergency Duty Service (EDS) Headquarters? Lucy Tanner went there recently to visit
EDS is currently based in a temporary building in a residential area of Great Baddow, Chelmsford.
Prior to that it was in the grounds of Broomfield Hospital. They are seeking new premises. Upon entering, I was met by one of the managers and was introduced to the close-knit friendly team of two advisors and one senior practitioner, who were on duty that evening. The office has eight workstations that are split over three tables. The office is open plan with a small kitchen area, with its own microwave, so that the staff can make a hot meal during their long shift.
My first thought was one of surprise – that there are only two advisors answering the phones for the whole of Essex (to include Southend but not Thurrock), dealing with adult, children and mental health social care. I was informed that the social workers (manager and senior practitioner) are generically trained in all aspects of social care, but that it is becoming increasingly difficult to recruit such social workers, as the majority specialise in one maybe two areas. There are noticeboards and a whiteboard in the office. The noticeboard has telephone numbers for agencies that callers can be referred to. The whiteboard details the fostering support social worker on duty for the weekend, several GP’s who telephone in to say they will cover for that weekend and other professionals on duty.
Each member of the team took the time to talk me through their roles. When someone dials into EDS, the phone is answered by one of two advisors (wearing headsets). If another person rings in then the second advisor answers the phone and any subsequent calls are picked up by the answer phone. The answer phone flashes red to alert the advisor once the previous call has finished. The advisors are trained to ascertain the threshold of the content of the call and if needed, pass the call over to the senior practitioner or manager. Upon finishing the call, the notes are recorded on the electronic system, but are also printed out. They are printed out in case there is a power cut or the internet goes down, but also as the referrals are put into risk order, if there are only five or six then the advisor can remember the order of risk, but if they experience a busy evening, say twenty-five referrals, it becomes quite confusing so the advisor prints them and put them into trays according to risk. At the end of the night all paperwork is shredded.
The senior practitioner takes calls from other professionals to include support workers. They also accept calls from the advisors. The senior practitioner's telephone line is separate and is for “staff”, so the senior practitioner would not answer the EDS first port of call telephone line.
During the time I spent at EDS, there were several missing people reports, both adults and children reported missing by foster carers. There were also calls regarding concern for people’s mental health, alongside no beds available at hospitals etc. and from agency social care staff visiting people in the community. I was also informed that they receive calls for notifications such as potholes in roads, lamppost lights not working, or when someone is locked in a car park. Other calls may be if equipment such as mobile hoists are broken (which involve them calling emergency engineers to go and fix them), if someone is suffering from mental health difficulties the advisor will talk to them for as long as necessary, there may be calls from those experiencing dementia and other illnesses, even people who have missed a bus home may telephone wanting to be collected. Many people telephone in when they are under the influence of alcohol late at night. Thus, the calls are extremely varied in length and nature. If the call content can wait until the day team, the caller is redirected to a telephone number to call in office hours. Some callers, as I observed, can become angry and abusive towards the call handler. However, the call handler remains calm, giving advice. I was given the example that if there are five cases of mental health referrals coming in, that by the time everything is recorded and risk assessed by all, can take up to sixty hours of work.
If a foster carer telephones with concern for a child in their care, the advisor passes the call to the senior practitioner who will decide where to redirect the call to if unable to assist, this is usually the fostering support out of hours duty social worker. This has changed from a few years ago, when foster carers had a duty social worker that they could call directly. I was told that the telephone numbers weren’t being used very much when carers could call directly.
There are three managers working a one-hundred-and-thirty-hour shift pattern per week, EDS has twenty-four-hour management support. The manager may be on call at home from 9-5pm Saturday, then come into the office until 2am ish, then be on call until 5pm and return to the office until 2am Monday. Each shift is different hours, but likewise the senior practitioners (3) are also working the same number of hours rota. Factoring in holidays and illness, the team work many hours.
I looked at the vacancy list on Mosaic. I was not on the list, albeit thought I would be! The list is not very user friendly for the staff. There is one carer that is the first port of call for all emergencies, as part of the Emergency Duty scheme. There were 33 other carers on the list that EDS were able to contact should they be needed, but each carer has their own approval age range, bed numbers and availability (ie they may have weekend plans) etc. The list is set out as a spread sheet and is difficult to read across the tabs as the EDS tab is far across from the carers name. I am told they go through the list, not really looking too much into quadrant areas as at that point they really want to place the child as soon as possible in an emergency. I commented that the list is not user friendly. However, they are provided with the list. The vacancy list for carers for the weekend was sent to them Friday evening. The EDS team cannot place a child with a carer if the carer is not on the EDS register to accept out of hours referrals.
I was pleased to hear that foster carers are held in high regard as professional colleagues, as they recognised, we have received much training in keeping children safe. If possible, the team do not like moving children during the night and will ask the foster carer to keep the child until the next day. If the child is extremely dis-regulated, then the team may ask the carer to call the police. However, they said that the police will only move the child during the night if there is immediate and significant danger. The team will advise that the fostering duty social worker talks to the foster carer.
The evening commenced quietly, I arrived at 7pm and there were only a handful of calls until 8.30pm. As explained previously, calls can take up much time as the nature of each call is different and then is subsequently risk assessed. All calls are logged, and information is recorded. The small open plan office means the advisors, senior practitioner and manager can talk freely about the referrals. They have access to each other’s referrals so that if someone calls back and the original advisor is not available, they all know what has been said previously. As the evening progressed, calls came in thick and fast, and the office became noisy as advisors and senior practitioner assisted. I was reassured by the fact that the answer phones are played when there are no calls coming in.
The team were very welcoming and informative. I really enjoyed my time observing…. In fact, I wanted to stay longer and get a job there! In my opinion each call was answered sensitively, even if the previous call was abusive. For two advisors, one senior practitioner and one manager, covering children, adult and mental health support for the whole of the Essex area (bar Thurrock) they do a great job. I totally recommend that if the opportunity to observe is available to a carer, they should speak to their SSW about visiting if they wish to.
EpiPen Training – from Georgina Edwards Designated Nurse for Looked after Children
This information we hope will be placed on the Resource Hub.
The Specialist Healthcare Training Team provide training in specialist healthcare tasks, including EpiPen training, across Essex and would be the first point of contact for foster carers.
Their website is https://providechildrenandfamilyservices.co.uk/services/specialist-healthcare-training/ which includes their contact details – referrals can be made by any professional.
The EpiPen training can be found here: https://providechildrenandfamilyservices.co.uk/training/anaphylaxis-virtual-training/
Sometimes as carers we have times when things don’t go so well. Situations unfurl so quickly, and your world is turned upside down and your fostering career seems to be in jeopardy. You wonder if you can pick yourself up and carry on.
I class myself as extremely strong and resilient, but I found myself in a situation that completely knocked me for six.
I often talk to other carers and support them. Having been through many things I was surprised how I felt.
I was fortunate to have great support from some professionals, friends and colleagues with words of encouragement, guidance, advice and support.
So much had gone so wrong so quickly and sorted out equally speedily. However, it took me time to process. Everyone around has taken a reflective approach, and this will help progress change.
EFCA's long term plan is to strengthen its support to carers, although it has always been and will be at the centre of our ethos.
Please remember we are always there for each and every one of you, good, bad and indifferent. We are an ear to listen to you, to help guide and support you, 7 days a week, anytime. We are foster carers too - and so we understand!!
Wednesday 9th March 2022 with Helen and Vicki from EFCA along with Rudia Tsai, Sue Moorhouse and Michelle Hayden-Pepper.
Rudia wished to welcome Melissa Smith as a new SSW in West.
Rudia explained the “Fostering Newsletter” is far too long being 18 pages and this somehow needs to be reduced.
Rudia will be relaunching the “Men’s West Fostering Group” which will be back up and running soon – details to follow.
Rudia confirmed the NVR (Non-violent restraint Training) in West will be at the end of March, being a 10-week course run by SSW’s Viv, Pauline and Lola.
We spoke about UASC in West – the need for additional needs/support for leave to remain. Helen is looking into an App that the French currently use to help bring awareness of the process as it is very much needed. Rudia said that Matt Smith and Sue Moorhouse might be able to give some assistance.
Rudia spoke about “Expenses” all going smoothly. This is because Rudia is ‘policing’ every expense that is coming in and tracking the process so that everyone should be getting paid promptly.
Rudia spoke of some “Connected Carers” coming through in March.
Rudia explained availability of Placements is currently very stretched across Essex.
Helen spoke to Rudia about some “I.T.” issues which some FC’s had spoken to her about doing their daily logs, expenses and also troubles setting up and needing help with “Teams” for remote meetings. Rudia was aware of this issue.
Helen indicated that there was still some confusion over the “28 days holiday”. FCs need to have a clear understanding and wished for this to be put into the Handbook. Rudia said she would investigate this further.
Helen spoke of a “CWD payment delay” which seems to be a one off. The problems arose because of the different quadrants involved. Rudia acknowledged that this should not have happened and hopes that this will not happen again.
Helen spoke of “Respite payments delay” which was a one off. Rudia was again aware of this and apologised. Explaining that child was from different quadrant which resulted in slight delay.
Helen spoke of “FC Medical” as there seems to be different forms being sent out to FCs. This is being investigated. However, all Foster Carers will be asked to do a full medical now that COVID restrictions are being lifted.
Vicki was asked by some FCs to pass on their “Congratulations to Rudia” for her well-deserved Tiptree Hamper :)
Sue confirmed she will unfortunately not be able to attend the next Meeting as she will be recovering from an operation and gave her thanks to Rudia and Helen along with her apologies for not attending.
Next West Quadrant Meeting will be 7th July 2022
The Essex Foster Carers Association have been working with ECC on several things:
Children in Care Partnership board – here we are working together to help ensure that there is better communication throughout the department. It is hoped that if questions arise that we (EFCA) are able to ask Foster Carers for their genuine thoughts so that answers can be found. We are currently looking at and have listened to Young Adults and the situations they find themselves in.
Staying Put there are a lot of things that Foster Carers may not know about when they choose to help a young person stay with them after they have reached 18 and we are working with them to help draft a guide to help young people through the challenges of Housing Benefit, Rent and also how the Foster Carer becomes the Landlord with examples of paperwork. We have had 3 Foster Carers come forward to be trained to help Foster Carers through this process. These Ambassadors will also be attending the monthly meetings to help with the input.
Training The EFCA have put a lot of input into Training, and we are currently working on helping Carers who work during the day to have training made available in the evenings and/or weekends. We also helped to work on the Safeguarding Training and put forward the idea of NVR (Non-Violent Resistance).
Fostering Board gives us the opportunity to discuss problems, questions, queries and good news with the Management most recently we have been talking about 18th Birthday money, dentist appointments during Covid, Children’s Savings, allowances. We will also be asking your views on how we all can celebrate our Sons and Daughters who without their help and support would make Fostering so much harder!
RideLondon - If anyone would like to support us by participating in RideLondon, contact me so I can get you booked in.
A massive thank you to Nicki who donated her hand crocheted blanket and raised £120 and congratulations to our winner, Anita Mander.
Please sponser Aaron, Outreach Worker in North Quadrant He is still raising money for his bike rise of 66km in July, so far he has £535, but would like to reach £750. You can sponsor him https://gofund.me/40f0811b
Thank you so much to everyone that entered the Sons and daughters Competition - Our winner is - Lily and family, who will receive 4 tickets to Colchester Zoo.
Donate to win - 2 adult & 2 child Colchester Zoo tickets. https://pay.sumup.io/b2c/Q2P6V7OJ
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Colchester Zoo Tickets £21 per adult & £15 per child
To get your tickets please contact email@example.com
Calling all talented & creative Foster Carers
Tiptree have done us proud, as always, with an amazing donation of a hamper, to be raffled at the AGM. If you would like tickets but are not going to the AGM, just contact me.
Thank you to everyone who supports EFCA, we couldn't do it without you.
Karen Reynolds - facebook - email firstname.lastname@example.org
PS We have lots of Raffles on the Lovely Foster Carer’s Group if you haven’t already joined the Facebook page please contact one of us, it would be great to see you on there!