FAQ's and Helpful Resources
Please scroll down through our list of Frequently Asked Questions to locate our Helpful Resources
How long do applicants have to apply to the IRM?
Applicants for an Adoption Review have 40 working days to make an application. Applicants for a Fostering Review have 28 calendar days. In both cases the period starts from the date of the Qualifying Determination letter.
Who should attend the IRM Review to represent the Agency?
The Agency can send 2 representatives to the IRM Review. Normally the best people to attend will be the Supervising Social Worker and their line manager. We particularly advise agencies not to send the Agency Decision Maker as they will be required to consider the IRM Panel recommendation and reach the Final Decision and should for that reason remain apart from the IRM process.
What if the ADM does not agree with the IRM recommendation?
The Agency decision maker (ADM) can decide not to agree with an IRM recommendation. However the ADM must carefully consider the recommendation and in the final decision letter and give clear reasons why they disagree with the recommendation.
Can I seek advice from the IRM before issuing a Qualifying Determination (QD)?
The IRM does provide an advice service and the Contract Manager or one of his team will be happy to assist you with any enquiries you may have. Please contact the IRM office to access this service.
How do I send a Qualifying Determination (QD) letter?
The response to this seems to vary from first class recorded delivery to second class a few days after the letter has been written. Why is this important? The IRM accepts applications within regulated timescales, the starting date for these being the date of the QD letter, it is therefore essential for letters to be sent out quickly and in a way that records their delivery. The IRM can, and does, exercise operational discretion to accept applications that are outside the timescales if applicants have proof of date of delivery.
How do I write a Qualifying Determination (QD) letter?
The Qualifying Determination (QD) letter should contain the Agency Decision Maker’s reasons for making the QD and give clear guidance on the options available to the recipients, the example given above does neither and would need to be re-issued in a format that complies with regulation. The IRM has sight of many Qualifying Determination letters in the course of its activities, these vary immensely in quality and are sometimes inaccurate, we have posted two examples of Qualifying Determination letters that exemplify good practice which we hope will be helpful.
Qualifying Determination Letter exemplar 1 (Word doc)
This example briefly gives the FSP panel reasons for their recommendation before going on to detail the documents that the Agency Decision Maker has considered before giving reasons for the determination and options available to the foster carers.
Qualifying Determination Letter exemplar 2 (Word doc)
This example again details the documents considers then looks at some National Minimum Standards and gives examples of how these have not been met.
How do I write a Final Decision letter?
The IRM receives copies of Final Decision letters to applicants from Fostering Service Providers and Adoption Agencies, some of these are real exemplars of what applicants should expect, sadly some are not. We thought it would be useful to post three examples of those that cover what is necessary.
Final Decision IRM majority yes FSP no (Word doc)
This is an example of a final decision letter where the IRM have, by a majority, made a positive recommendation and the final decision from the Agency Decision Maker is negative.
Final Decision IRM and FSP no (Word doc)
This is an example of a final decision letter where the IRM panel have made a negative recommendation and the final decision from the Agency Decision Maker is negative.
Final Decision IRM and FSP yes (Word doc)
An example of a final decision letter where the IRM panel have made a positive recommendation and the final decision from the Agency Decision Maker is positive.
What are some of the concerns that the IRM has become aware of about Agency and Fostering Service Provider practice through the IRM review panel process?
Children being moved
A situation that arises many times within the applications considered by IRM review panels is that of the removal of children from foster homes where they may have been for some years without their situation being reviewed either by a formal review or by the Independent Reviewing Officer who is responsible for them. It is appreciated that in some situations children need to be moved quickly however in others there is time to make appropriate plans or to put in safe guards rather than further traumatise children who have already experienced trauma.
Medical reviews for foster carers
Foster carers have medical reviews when they are first approved after that there are a variety of approaches from self-reporting in their review forms to reviews by GPs; some within the 3 year good practice guidelines others not. Medical advisers have identified that the most useful medical reviews are those that use the AH forms as this gives a thorough review of medical history and current health, they do not though address the issue of some foster carers reluctance to arrange medicals or how frequently they are undertaken.
Delays in investigations
The IRM review panels have identified a number of applications where foster carers have been disadvantaged by delay, either in investigations taking place or in obtaining further information, for example second opinion medical reports. Whilst it is acknowledged that this can be outside the control of the agencies concerned it is helpful if they can provide clear evidence of the efforts that have been made try to move things on.
Inspections for health and safety issues
IRM review panels have encountered a number of situations where there have been issues about foster carers’ homes both in terms of acceptable standards or if the foster carers do not want parts of their home inspected. There seems to be varied, and sometimes unclear, practice and expectations of foster carers regarding how much of their home should be accessible for inspections in relation to health and safety issues and to ensure that Standard 10 (Providing a Suitable Physical Environment for the Foster Child) is being met.
The Regulations and Guidance
- The Adoption Agencies and Independent Review of Determination Reg 2011
- The Independent Review of Determination (Adoption and Fostering) Reg 2009
- The Adoption Agencies Regulations 2005
- Statutory Guidance on Adoption July 2013
- Adoption: National Minimum Standards (2011)
- Adoption and Children Act 2002
- The Care Planning and Fostering (Miscellaneous Amendments) (England) Regulations 2015
- The Fostering Services (England) Regulations 2011
- Assessment and approval of foster carers: Amendments to the Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations. Volume 4: Fostering Services July 2013
- The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations Volume 4: Fostering Services (2011)
- Fostering Services: National Minimum Standards (2011)
- The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations Volume 2: Care Planning's, Placement and Case Review 2010
- Family and Friends Care: Statutory Guidance for Local Authorities (2010)