It is vital that fostered children and young people have as normal a childhood and experience of family life as possible. A key element of this is the ability of their foster carers to make day-to-day decisions without seeking permission from the local authority or children's trust. Too often, delays and missed opportunities for looked after children as a result of poor planning around delegated authority can be a bar to children experiencing a fulfilled childhood and feeling part of a foster carer’s family.
Over the last few years in each of the four nations of the UK there have been improvements to the mechanisms and guidance around day-to-day decision making (often called delegated authority). However, despite these improvements it is clear that guidance is not consistently being applied in practice across the UK and foster carers are still not always being trusted to make decisions, which ultimately impacts on the child and can hinder their ability to participate in normal family, school or social activities.
The following principles should apply in terms of day-to-day decision making:
- Fostered children and young people should, as far as possible, be able to take part in everyday and acceptable age appropriate activities as would reasonably be agreed by the parents of their peers.
- Foster carers should be empowered to take all day-to-day decisions about the child in their care unless stated otherwise, and to exercise a significant role in longer term decisions where the plan is for permanence.
- Foster carers should be provided with sufficient training and support from supervising and children’s social workers to understand the principles of delegated authority in order to be enabled to use delegated authority as and when it is agreed.
- A shared understanding of the wide range of decisions, whether relating to day-to-day matters or specific one off issues made in a child’s life, is crucial, so that all parties involved can establish and agree the extent to which authority to make decisions is delegated to foster carers.
- Any decision about delegation of authority must consider the views of the child and, where appropriate, a child of sufficient age and understanding should be supported to make decisions themselves.
- Each fostering service should decide on its policy and practice based on the needs of the children and young people in its care and its foster care population.
Please see The Fostering Network’s policies and positions:
Read our advice on delegated authority for foster carers here.
For more information on delegated authority (day-to-day decision making) in each of the four nations follow the links below:
Guidance on delegated authority in England (2014, incorporated into updated statutory guidance in June 2015):
The Fostering Network has produced a Practice Information Note on delegated authority in England (2015) and Wales (2015) for our members. The purpose of these Practice Information Notes is to provide an overview of the legislation surrounding care planning, placement and case review in respect of delegated authority, consider some of the questions raised by delegating authority to foster carers and provide best practice recommendations.
Each fostering service in England, in accordance with the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review regulations and statutory guidance, will decide on its policy and practice based on the needs of the children and young people in its care and its foster carer population. Our practice experts can provide additional support and guidance for member fostering services reviewing their policy and practice
Guidance on delegated authority in Wales (2011):
The Fostering Network has produced a Practice Information Note on delegated authority in Wales (2015) for our members. The purpose of these Practice Information Notes is to provide an overview of the legislation surrounding care planning, placement and case review in respect of delegated authority, consider some of the questions raised by delegating authority to foster carers and provide best practice recommendations.
Guidance on decision making in Scotland (2015):
Guidance on delegated authority in Northern Ireland (2010):