Merton Standards of Care Procedures


This chapter identifies the principles and process for dealing with concerns and complaints against foster carers. The chapter specifies the outcomes that any investigative process can recommend.


Complaints and Representations Procedure

Allegations Against Foster Carers Procedure


This chapter was reviewed and refreshed where required in June 2022 to reflect the current organisational structure and decision-making.

1. Introduction

It is the expectation that all Merton foster carers will provide children and young people placed with them, the best possible care to ensure that the welfare needs of the children/young person are met.

1.1 This is achieved through high quality training, supervision and support to the foster carer.
1.2 The Standards of Care procedure applies to situations where the quality of care provided by the foster carer falls short of the expectations of the department. It applies to a wide range of concerns including the conduct, attitude and practices of the foster carer and may include the emotional and physical care of children/young person.
1.3 All child protection or safeguarding allegations against foster carers will not be investigated under the Standards of Care procedure. (See Allegations Against Foster Carers Procedure).

2. Principles

The overriding principle in the application of this procedure is that the welfare needs of any child/young person placed in foster care is of paramount importance.

2.1 Complaints made by children/young people or on their behalf about their care needs will be thoroughly investigated by the department. (See Complaints and Representations Procedure).
2.2 The child/young person will be supported through the process of the investigation by an Advocate if they so wish.
2.3 It is recognised that the process of conducting an investigation when a complaint or allegation has been made against a foster carer is always difficult for the foster carer and their family. Social Workers will therefore aim to carry out their investigation sensitively, openly, honestly and in a timely manner.
2.4 All foster carers therefore will be expected to attend the allegations course as a core course during their 1st year of approval so as to familiarise themselves with this difficult area.
2.5 The foster carer will receive support by way of regular updates during the investigation into the complaint through their supervising social worker.
2.6 Foster carers retain the right at all times to seek independent advice from Fostering Network.
2.7 The Fostering Service pays for all its carers to be members of Fostering Network and that membership gives access to free legal advice.
2.8 At the end of the Standards of Care procedure process foster carers will receive details in writing of all decisions made and actions taken.
2.9 Foster carers will be able to have access to their file records under the Merton Access to Records policy.
2.10 Foster carers will be able to record their own views about any complaints, or investigation and have these records placed on file.

3. Initial Response


When concerns or complaints are received about the care by a foster carer, the information must be shared as soon as possible with the following:

  • The carer's supervising social worker;
  • The Fostering Supervision Team Manager;
  • The Head of Service for LAC, Permanency & Placements; or designated person;
  • The child/young person's social worker;
  • The relevant Social Work Team Manager.

Where the concern/complaint is to be investigated under Standards of Care procedures the following steps must take place:

  • A written record of the concern/complaint must be obtained within 3 working days by the child's social worker if a verbal complaint was received in order to proceed with the Standards of Care Procedure;
  • A copy of the written complaint to be lodged with the Complaints team;
  • A discussion meeting or where necessary a planning meeting must be held to agree a plan of action and the process for informing the carers of the concerns/complaints. This to take place within 7 working days of the initial complaint being received;
  • The planning meeting should be chaired by the Head of Service or designated person;
  • Information regarding the concern/complaint is collated from relevant sources jointly by the supervising social worker and the child's social worker;
  • A joint visit is made to the carers by the supervising social worker and the child's social worker to explore the concerns raised and to seek clarification from the foster carer within 14 working days;
  • The outcome of the joint visit is fed back to the Chair, the Fostering Supervision Team Manager and the relevant Team Manager who will make a joint decision on the appropriate actions to be taken. This to take place within 21 working days of the complaint being received.

4. Actions

The following actions are available and may include a combination of the following:

4.1 In cases where this is no substance to the concern/complaint or the issue has already been addressed - No further action.
4.2 In cases where there is some substance to the concern but the issues can be dealt with in supervision - Further discussions with the carers is noted.
4.3 In cases where there is significant substance to the concern but the issues can be dealt with in training - The development of a specific training and development programme is noted.
4.4 In cases where the concerns may affect the approval of the foster carer - Bring forward the carers annual review of approval with a report and specific recommendation to the Fostering and Permanence Panel.
4.5 The Fostering Supervision Team Manager to write to the carer informing of the outcome of the investigation within 28 days of receipt of the concerns/complaints.
4.6 A copy of the letter to be forwarded to the Complaints Team.

5. Post Investigation

5.1 The supervising social worker to note the complaint and outcome of the investigation on the foster carer's file.
5.2 The supervising social worker to inform the Business Support Team of the complaint/concern to note for statistical purposes.