What Decisions can I Make? 'Just like everyone else', Delegated Authority to Foster Carers


  1. A New Approach
  2. Types of Decision
  3. The Child’s Role
  4. Roles and Responsibilities
  5. Placement Plan Meeting
  6. Particular Examples of Decisions for Delegation
  7. Making Decisions about Overnight Stays

1. A New Approach

We want looked after children to experience as normal a childhood as possible, when they are being cared for by the council. For many years children have complained that they are not ‘just like everyone else’ and their lives have been hampered by bureaucracy. Delegating authority means day to day activities for children including school trips and sleepovers should be agreed by the foster carer or residential team unless the Placement Plan specifies otherwise. The principle is that all Looked After children should have opportunities for new experiences like all children do. The Placement plan should be considered at each child’s review.

It is important that there is a clear understanding of when consent needs to be obtained in relation to the child’s care and from whom. For children in residential care, their carers should be treated the same as foster carers, having the same authority delegated to them. This service will not duplicate risk assessments undertaken by schools or activity centres but carers should make the normal enquiries of a concerned parent.

2. Types of Decision

  • Consent for day to day decisions. i.e. health, hygiene, education, leisure activities, haircuts, school trips or activity breaks, should be agreed by the day to day care giver, foster carer or residential social worker unless there are exceptional reasons recorded in the Placement Plan.
  • School placement decisions will not be delegated to foster carers for Islington children, because the Virtual school has important skills and experience to help carers and children achieve the best possible education. 
  • Significant events such as planned surgery require the consent of people with Parental Responsibility taking account of the wishes and feelings of the child and their carer.
  • In an emergency, foster carers can take decisions without authority being delegated in order to protect the child as long as Islington is notified of the event immediately after. If the child is permanently or long term placed, more authority will be delegated to the carers.

The following decisions may not be delegated:

  • Changing the child’s name.
  • Bringing the child up in a different religion to their own.
  • Taking the child out of the UK or consenting to the child’s adoption.

These can only be consented to by those holding Parental Responsibility.

3. The Child’s Role

The views of the child should be taken into account within the need for carers to hold appropriate authority as care givers. Older children should be encouraged to take responsibility for decision-making in their own right as this will help them develop vital life skills they will need on leaving care.

4. Roles and Responsibilities

Children’s social workers should lead the discussion on delegation of authority, seek the views of parents and children, record agreements on the Placement Plan decision making tool, ensure arrangements remain flexible and seek changes where necessary.

Supervising social workers should ensure foster carers are aware of what agreements have been made and that they have the right skills and training to carry out the agreed tasks and liaise with the child’s social worker around negotiating any required changes to delegated authority.

The Independent Reviewing Officer will review arrangements for delegating authority at each child’s review where necessary and ensure arrangements are suitable to meet the child’s care plan needs.

5. Placement Plan Meeting

As far as possible, agreement should be made in advance on any issue that is likely to arise so that the child’s experience of care is good. Specific parental consent to matters such as medical treatment must be signed on the consent record. Any extra consent required for individual children should also be recorded on this record.

6. Particular Examples of Decisions for Delegation

Applications for Passports and Holidays Abroad

  • This must be agreed and signed by a person with parental responsibility, i.e. parents or social workers and team managers. Holidays should be discussed and agreed in advance. This cannot be delegated to foster carers. Foster children should also be enabled to go on trips or holidays within the carers friends or family if the carer and supervising social worker consider this is suitable. A DBS check is not necessarily required in all circumstances.

Agreeing to Health Care

  • Foster carers should be given a signed consent record from parents for routine medicals, immunisations, dental, optician and general treatment. If the child is subject to a care order and parents do not sign the consent record, the matter should be referred to the Operational manager. If the child is accommodated under section 20, parents should be asked to sign their consent so that routine medical checks and treatment can take place. If parents withhold consent, this should be addressed urgently. The Head of service can give consent for surgical treatment for children who are subject to care orders, although legal changes may enable carers to sign in the future.
  • Young people aged 16 and 17 can provide their own consent to medical treatment if they are deemed to have the capacity to do so under the Mental Capacity Act 2005. If it is thought they do not have the capacity to make the decision due to temporary impairment, the decision should be made by Islington or by their parents depending on their care status. Young people aged 12-15 may give consent to medical treatment if they are thought to be Gillick competent.

Photographs and Social Networking

  • Foster carers should take photographs of the child so that there is a record for the child of their childhood and they should allow any photographs to be taken whose circulation does not refer to them as foster child, having regard for any requirements in the placement plan.
  • Decisions about using mobile phones and social networking sites should be discussed and agreed in advance in the context of e-safety and the child’s history, taking into account the prevalence of social networking in the community.

Carers Absence From the Home

  • In the absence of the foster carer, Islington expects and prefers that foster carers can make arrangements within their friends and family network for someone to care for the young person rather than the child go to strangers. A DBS check is not necessarily required.

The Children act statutory guidance for fostering services regulations 2011 p15-18 para 3.19 to 3.22

Delegation of authority; Amendments to the children act 1989 guidance and regs. July 13

7. Making Decisions about Overnight Stays

In making decisions about whether or not to permit a looked after child to stay overnight with a friend or to have a holiday with their friends or with relatives of their foster carers, or to go on a school trip, the following factors should be considered:

  • Whether there are any relevant restrictions contained for exceptional reasons in the child’s care plan, including the placement plan.
  • Whether there are any court orders which restrict the child from making a particular overnight stay, visit or holiday.
  • Whether there are any factors in the child’s past experiences or behaviour which would preclude the overnight stay, visit or holiday.
  • Whether there are any grounds for concern that the child may be at significant risk in the household concerned or from the activities proposed.
  • The age and level of understanding of the child concerned.
  • What is known about the reasons for the overnight stay, visit or holiday.
  • The length of the stay.

If in doubt about the appropriate decision or if there is reason to consider that a child may be at specific risk in staying in a particular household, the foster carers should consult the social worker for advice. The child and their carers should always be told of the criteria that will be used to make decisions about overnight stays, visits and holidays.

Foster carers should always have contact details for the household in which the child will be staying. They should also make contact with the household beforehand, as would any good parent, to assist in assessing the request and to confirm arrangements and to ensure that the household where the child will be staying have, in turn, the contact details of the foster carer(s).

There is no statutory duty for Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) disclosures to be sought in relation to adults in a private household where a child may stay overnight or visit, or who the child may accompany on a holiday or on a school trip. CRB checks should not normally be sought as a precondition. There is no requirement that where a looked after child visits or spends a holiday with their foster carer’s friends or relative that the individual must be approved as a local authority foster carer, as the child will remain formally placed with their usual foster carers.

More detailed guidance about care planning and the placement plan can be found in Standard 3 - Understand Health and Safety, and Healthy Care of Volume 2, Statutory guidance for fostering services.