Extensions / Alterations to Foster Carers' Homes
AMENDMENTThis chapter was updated throughout December 2019.
If a foster carer requests financial assistance the Supervising Social Worker must discuss with their manager and write to the Head of Service, Children in Care provision, specifying the request and the reasons for it.
The budget for providing assistance towards extensions, adaptations and transport is limited. Payments made by the council are discretionary and not an entitlement.
Financial contributions for extension/adaptations will usually result in the council placing a legal charge on the foster carer property. Foster carers must be made aware of this at the outset of any discussions. It is essential that foster carers are made fully aware that if they fail to comply with the terms of the legal charge they could lose their home – this is usually dealt with by the bald statement "You can lose your home".
The process for bringing a request to a conclusion is complex and requires all involved to act promptly.
Grants are normally subject to the works being planned and supervised by the Director of Corporate Property. Retrospective grants are considered only in very exceptional circumstances.
Best value – funding requests should be commensurate with the value to foster children and the fostering service.
Any request must be able to satisfy one or more of the criteria below:
- To provide extra capacity that would otherwise result in a long term IFA or agency placement;
- To secure long term placements for children;
- To enable sibling groups to be placed together;
- To meet the needs of children with multiple disabilities;
- To meet health and safety requirements which would otherwise result in a child/children being moved.
In addition the council retains the right to undertake a cost benefit analysis to ensure any proposed work provides Best Value.
4. Head of Service Provisional Approval
To avoid unrealistic expectations, it is essential that Supervising Social Workers do not make any commitment to foster carers that funding will be forthcoming. Supervising Social Workers are expected to consider all other viable options.
If the Head of Service refuses the request the carers should be informed in writing.
If the request appears to meet the criteria and priority for funding the Fostering social worker/team manager reports to the Head of Children in Care Provision (Safeguarding Services) providing details of the benefits and the financial and organisational risks associated with not proceeding with the request. These may include:
- The casework risks and impact upon the children placed;
- The impact of separation on sibling(s);
- The alternative costs of IFA / agency placements;
- The availability of any alternatives;
- The opportunity costs associated with increased capacity.
Where relevant, any proposal for varying carer's approval will be represented to Foster Panel for consideration of approval subject to provision of an extension/ adaptation.
At this stage a decision is made either to proceed with exploratory drawings and costs or to refuse the request. A refusal must be confirmed in writing.
The timeframe from request being received by the Head of Children in Care Provision should not exceed a further 4 weeks.
5. Assistant Director Approval
If a decision is taken to proceed to the next stage, the Supervising Social Worker will need to either:
- Complete Appendix 2: Referral to Corporate Resources Design Team Form and send to the Disability Design Team, Corporate Property, who will then liaise with the supervising social worker, keep a database record of the request and progress the request. A second copy of the referral form should also be forwarded to the Business Services Assistant – Children's Services Finance/Business Services. The Business Services Assistant will thereafter track progress and provide monthly monitoring reports to the Head of Children in Care Provision (Safeguarding and Specialist Services);
- Complete a referral via the Derbyshire Adaptation Partnership Request (DAPR) form on Mosaic and pass to the Paediatric Occupational Therapy Team (POT) for an assessment if the foster carer needs to accommodate a child with disability needs. Also notify the Business Services Assistant, Children's Services/Business Services at this time.
The POT service will work with the SSW and the Disability Design Team to assess the need and make recommendations. The POT will liaise with district/borough council, as well as supervising social worker, in relation to DFG access if the child will be subject to a permanence placement. The supervising social worker should request to attend the DFG decision-making panel.
The Disability Design team will forward any relevant information on to the Business Services Assistant, Children's Services/Business Services and the POT.
The Business Services Assistant will liaise with the Supervising Social Worker/ Team Manager to establish who owns the property, whether it is mortgaged and if so, the amount of the original advance and any further advance(s), amount(s) currently outstanding, and name(s) of the lender(s).
The Business Services Assistant and the Supervising Social Worker/ Team Manager will explain that if funding for an extension is approved, ownership and equity will be verified and that approval will normally be subject to a claw-back agreement secured on the property by way of Legal Charge to the County Council, but providing that:
- No capital or interest is charged while they remain foster parent(s) to the child/children then fostered until they are eighteen years, or remain registered Derbyshire foster carers;
- Neither capital nor income is repayable should the applicant adopt the child/children or continue to care for them under a different legal order provided that their care for the child continues for the period of the charge; and
- The grant is discounted at 1/10 for each year fostering continues.
It should be noted that if the foster carer lives in a property owned by the District Council the County Secretary will need to be informed as soon as possible and the Business Services Assistant will seek that Council's consent to the work and their agreement to enter into a joint agreement with the County Council and the foster carer, confirming such consent, and agreeing that any benefit or compensation due to the tenant on termination of the tenancy, in respect of the extension/alteration is paid to the County Council and not the foster carer. The Business Services Assistant will ask the foster carer to confirm that they will agree to enter into the usual Legal Charge (as in 15) should they purchase the property, such charge to secure the grant as discounted by 1/10 for each completed year of fostering.
On receipt of the Appendix 2: Referral to Corporate Resources Design Team Form or DAPR form, the Disability Design Manager, Corporate Property will contact the Supervising Social Worker and Paediatric Occupational Therapist to arrange a joint site visit. The supervising social worker should request to attend the DFG decision-making panel.
On site, the Disability Design Manager will explain that he will act as agent for the foster carer with regard to the plans, specifications, etc. The site meeting will be attended by the Fostering Support Team Manager/ supervising social worker and POT who will ensure that the foster carer understands all the issues and agrees the extent of the brief to ensure their requirements are being met.
After the joint site visit the Disability Design Manager, Corporate Property will prepare feasibility drawings, including detailed budget costs in accordance with the agreed brief.
The foster carer should be made aware that if various options are provided for decision the most cost effective scheme will be considered in the first instance, unless a case can be provided to show this would have a detrimental effect to both foster carer and child.
The Fostering Support Team Manager should refer such cases to the Head of Children in Care Provision (Specialist Services) for decision.
On receipt of the brief, feasibility drawings and budget costs the Fostering Support Team Manager, in consultation with the Operations Manager, Adoption and Fostering, will ensure that the merits of the case are still valid and that there are no outstanding issues such as allegations or complaints against the carer.
If satisfied, the Fostering Support Team Service Manager / Operations Manager, Adoption and Fostering will draft a Cabinet style report for the Head of Children in Care Provision (Specialist Services).
This will first be submitted to the Assistant Director to amend as necessary and then submit to either:
- Executive Director, Children's services; or
- The Lead Cabinet Member for Young People
The relevant decision-maker is determined by the current Scheme of Delegation levels.
This will request approval to funding and to obtain full working drawings on the basis that funding agreed by Executive Director/Cabinet will be subject to a claw-back agreement, secured by way of Legal Charge (as described in 15) or alternatively that any funding agreed cannot be secured or secured adequately, as appropriate. The report will be based on a budget and contingency as agreed with the Disability Design Manager, Corporate Property.
Thus the sum approved for legal charge pre-construction, comprises the following elements:
- The approved tender sum;
- A contingency sum (of 15% of the tender sum);
- Other project costs (e.g. fees relating to statutory approvals and investigations etc.).
6. Post Approval
When approval is received the Business Services Assistant, will inform the Fostering Support Team Manager or Operations Manager, Adoption and Fostering and Head of Children in Care Provision (Specialist Services). They will also then:
- Inform the Head of Corporate Property via the Design Manager and request that full working drawings be produced;
- Contact the County Secretary advising them of the terms of the approval, requesting verification of title and equity, and advising them of any local, mining or other searches required; and
- Write to the foster carer advising them that the request is at a preliminary stage and that they will be contacted by a representative of both the County Secretary and the Director of Corporate Property. They will emphasise that final approval has still to be given and that title to the property and the equity in it have yet to be verified;
- Advise the POT that funding is agreed and the scheme is progressing, in order for the POT to continue to oversee the project.
The County Secretary will then write to the foster carer sending a copy of the standard legal charge document, requesting details concerning title deeds and mortgage(s).
The Disability Design Manager, Corporate Property will programme the work, re-visit site as required to undertake surveys and working drawings will be produced.
The POT will coordinate specialist equipment surveys and quotes (specifications for ceiling track hoists, through floor lifts, wall mounted changing stretchers, step lifts etc.) in liaison with the DDT.
The County Secretary will then inform the local Fostering Support Team Manager whether or not there are any problems with the verification of title and equity or with the results of any searches requested.
If there are no such problems the Fostering Support Team Manager or will request the Disability Design Manager, Corporate Property to commence the tendering process.
The Disability Design Manager, Corporate Property will then forward to the foster carer a list of approved builders whom they will invite to submit tenders (the foster carer can add or delete builders if they wish but should note that, if they include any additional builders, they should conform to certain criteria, i.e. insurance cover, suitability for undertaking work, etc).
When the foster carer indicates acceptance of the list of builders, the Disability Design Manager, Corporate Property will then invite tenders in accordance with financial regulations. Builders who submit tenders will be expected to include all fees, e.g. Planning/Buildings Regulations and inspection fees, etc. and VAT (or confirm that none is chargeable), and give details of when stage payments will be required, if they require payment by installment.
When tenders have been formally received the Disability Design Manager will forward them to the Fostering Support Team Service Manager or Operations Manager, Adoption and Fostering with a recommendation about which tender to accept. Following agreement of the tender, the Business Services Assistant will contact the foster carer for agreement to proceed on the basis of the tender price. At this stage, if the agreed funding is not adequate, it may be necessary for the Fostering Support Team Service Manager or Operations Manager, Adoption and Fostering to take a further report to Executive Director/Cabinet member to request additional funding, via the Business Services Assistant.
When all the necessary approvals are in place the Business Services Assistant will inform the Fostering Support Team Manager or Operations Manager, Adoption and Fostering. They will also notify the Disability Design Manager, Corporate Property that the matter will proceed.
The Disability Design Manager will contact the County Secretary giving them full details, and request that the Legal Charge documentation be put in hand: the document to allow for stage payments to be paid to builder as work proceeds.
The County Secretary will then:
- Update the title and equity position as necessary;
- Prepare the Legal Charge and have it signed by the foster carer in readiness;
- Obtain written authority from the foster carer for direct payment to the builder;
- Remind the foster carer that they must not prejudice the equity position and must therefore maintain any payment due on prior mortgage(s) and not secure any further loans against the property pending completion of the Charge to the Council as the grant will not be made nor Legal Charge completed if they do so;
- Report any problems to the Business Services Assistant who will inform the Fostering Support Team Manager;
- Send a copy of the completed document to the foster carer and the Fostering Team Manager and attend to any necessary registrations.
The Disability Design Manager, Corporate Property will then:
- Organise the release of the contract documents to the builder;
- Liaise with the foster carer;
- Contact the builder requesting them to commence work, and inform the foster carer of the proposed start date; and
- Place orders for any specialist equipment to be fitted/included in the scheme;
- Contact the builder before each stage payment falls due and ahead of completion;
- Contact Supervising Social Worker/Team Manager, Paediatric Occupational Therapist (if involved) and Business Services Assistant Children's Services/Business Services to review/update.
The Disability Design Manager, Corporate Property will:
- Forward copies of correspondence received from the builder to the County Secretary for information;
- Check at each stage and on completion of the work with the foster carer that there are no problems, reporting any such to the Operations Manager, Adoption and Fostering, the County Secretary and Business Services Assistant Children's Services / Business Services; and
- At each stage and on completion inspect the work to ensure that it is satisfactory and, if so, subject to approval of the work by the Building Inspector, authorise the Business Services Assistant / Children's Services / Business Services to release the appropriate installment.
The Paediatric Occupational Therapist, if involved will check the adaptation on completion.
The Disability Design Manager, Corporate Property will notify the Business Services Assistant when all the works are satisfactorily completed.
It will be the foster carer's responsibility to ensure that insurance cover is sufficiently increased to cover the building as extended/altered, and that such cover is maintained, according to the covenant in the Legal Charge. The County Council has the power to insure on default and debit the foster carer.
The Business Services Assistant will monitor the cost and progress of all adaptation/extension activity reporting to the Head of Children in Care Provision (Specialist Services) as budget holder and providing advice on starting new works, impact upon budget and end dates of existing commitments.