Sending a Qualifying Determination Letter
If the agency is proposing that an applicant(s) is not suitable to foster or adopt following the commencement of a stage 2 fostering or adoption assessment then a brief or full report needs to be presented to a panel for a recommendation and then a Qualifying Determination (QD) issued by the ADM. The same is required if the plan is to terminate a foster carer or adopters approval or if an alteration is proposed to a foster carers terms of approval. The QD must be sent to the prospective or existing carer and include evidence that the case of Hofstetter has been considered by the ADM in reaching their QD. The QD must offer the option for the carer to apply to the Independent Review Mechanism (IRM) if they disagree with their QD and we advise that you include a copy of the relevant fostering or adoption IRM leaflet for the carers information. These can be downloaded and printed from the IRM website. The carer then has the option to apply to the IRM for an independent review within 28 calendar days (fostering) or 40 working days (adoption) of the QD letter.
Receiving an application
After receiving an application by email or post we confirm that all of the information needed is included and that the application has been made within the required timescales. We will contact the applicant(s) if any further information is required for the application. We also contact the agency to inform them of the application and ask them to confirm that they have issued a QD letter and the date of panel. At this stage we will require the name and contact details of a designated person within the agency to act as the liaison with the IRM. This person will be the first point of call for the IRM and all letters will be addressed to them.
Accepting the application
After the IRM Contract Manager has confirmed that the application can be accepted a letter will be sent to the applicant(s) confirming acceptance. This letter also includes a form for the applicant(s) to return requesting their consent to disclose all documentation including medical information if required.
Requesting papers that went to your panel
A letter will also be sent to the liaison within the agency requesting a copy of all the documents that were provided to the original fostering panel, any additional information that may have been considered by the Agency Decision Maker and a copy of the QD letter. We ask to receive these papers within 10 working days of the letter. The IRM panel will consider the case afresh and therefore will not see the fostering panel minutes. At this point the IRM would be grateful if you can provide any holiday dates of the 2 people who will be attending as representatives from the agency in the hope we can avoid these dates when considering the IRM panel date, however this cannot be guaranteed
Organising the review panel
The IRM Panels are located in London, Birmingham and Leeds. In most cases we will allocate the Panel closest to the applicant’s home. We will initially advise the applicant(s) of the panel date, time and location and after giving them a short time to consider this we will advise the agency of the same. We will provide approximately six weeks’ notice.
Requesting further information
The IRM caseworker and our legal advisor will review all of the paperwork submitted to the original panel. We will consider whether further information will be required from the agency or applicant(s). This is in addition to giving the applicant(s) and agency the opportunity to submit any other relevant information to the IRM. If necessary an IRM medical advisor will provide a medical report to the IRM panel. They may seek additional information to assist them with this report from the applicant(s) or their GP.
All the relevant papers will be collated by the IRM office and a copy is sent to the agency and applicant(s) at least two weeks prior to the Panel Hearing. Neither party receives a copy of the IRM legal report or the IRM medical report. The only other information which will not be shared with the applicant(s) is 3rd party confidentiality information. E.g. references or Strategy Meeting minutes.
Review Panel meeting preparation
The agency should provide the applicant with independent support to assist them in preparing for the IRM Review. On the day of Panel, this person or another adult supporter may attend Panel with the applicant(s) to provide moral support. However they will not be able to advocate at panel. If the applicant(s) has a physical, sensory or learning impairment, or English is not your first language, they may bring an interpreter or helper with them in addition to a friend. The agency will also be invited to send up to two representatives to the Review Panel meeting. We expect that someone is sent who will be accountable for the case, in most cases this is the assessing or supervising social worker and their line manager.
Panel members will have had at least two weeks to read the papers prepared for the case. Please note further written documents cannot be provided on the day of panel, and you are advised to bring the copy of the papers sent to you by the IRM and case files to the Review for ease of reference.
Review Panel meeting
On arrival at the Panel venue the representatives from the agency will be taken to a waiting room where they will be able to view the panel member profiles (brief information about the panel members sitting on your panel). The applicant(s) will have a separate waiting room. The Chair or Professional Advisor will come and welcome everyone and briefly explain the procedure. Following this both parties will be taken into the Review Meeting where all Panel members will introduce themselves. Panel commences with the panel chair informing the review meeting of the applicants strengths as a foster carer that have been identified in the panel papers. Panel members will have a number of questions to put to the applicant(s) and agency. They will start with questions to the applicant(s) and then followed by questions to the agency representatives. After the questions the applicant(s) and then agency representatives are given a brief opportunity to provide any further comments they wish to make. Before being advised that the applicant(s) and agency representatives can leave, panel members will consider if they have any further questions they need to ask. After leaving, panel will have a discussion regarding the applicant(s) suitability before reaching their recommendation regarding the applicant(s) suitability and if deemed relevant offering advice on the terms of approval. There are occasions where panel may need to ask questions of the agency representatives of a third party/confidential nature to which the applicant(s) are unable to be present but will be inform if this is to happen on the day. We recommend that everyone ensures they are available for at least 2 hours on the panel day.
After the Review Panel meeting
Within 12 working days we will send a copy of the review panel's recommendation and reasons with a copy of the panel minutes (these are not a verbatim record). These will be sent at the same time to the applicant(s) and agency liaison. These minutes, recommendation and reasons then need to be considered by the ADM in order to assist them in making their final decision. The final decision needs to be reached after taking into account all the information made available during the IRM process and the recommendations of both the original panel and the IRM panel. The final decision should then be sent in writing to the applicant(s) within 12 working days of receiving the IRM recommendation. The ADM should ensure the final decision letter is Hofstetter complaint outlining their decision and the reasons for that decision. Please also send a copy of this letter to the IRM office for our files.
There is no appeal process against an IRM recommendation or the Final Decision of the Agency. However if applicants or agency wish to complain about procedural issues relating to the IRM process they can make a complaint using the IRM complaints procedure.