Guide to AST referral
Allegations Support Team is delivered by FosterTalk to support foster carers during difficult situations such as allegations, complaints or have had some concerns raised over the standards of the care they provide. The AST service meets the requirements of NMS 22.12 which states;
“During an investigation, the fostering service makes support, which is independent of the fostering service, available to the person subject to the allegation and, where this is a foster carer, to their household, in order to provide:
a. Information and advice about the process
b. Emotional support, and
c. If needed, mediation between the foster carer and the fostering service and/or advocacy (including attendance at meetings and panel hearings)
A referral can be made via email or via this form. Referrals must be approved by the budget holder or approved manager in the fostering service. FosterTalk recommends that independent support is commissioned as early as possible in the process to avoid undue distress for the foster carer. The AST Manager is happy to have an informal discussion with referrers prior to a formal referral being made – 0121 758 5013
Once a referral is received by FosterTalk;
- FosterTalk confirms receipt of the referral & the AST Manager contacts the foster carer to discuss their situation and explain the AST service.
- The AST Manager allocates a AST Advisor and contacts the carers to let them know the name of their AST Advisor and agree a convenient time to be contacted.
- The AST Manager contacts the referrer to confirm the name of the AST Advisor who has been allocated.
- FosterTalk sends written information to the foster carer about the service confirming the name of their AST Advisor.
What can foster carers expect from AST?
Face to face support – AST advisors will meet with carers in their home and can support them over the phone, email, and text according to their preferences.
Attendance at relevant meetings – we can attend some meetings with carers if they and their fostering service wish; these might include meetings between the carer and fostering service to discuss the carer’s situation, reviews and panel meetings. We may not be able to attend meetings where these are unrelated to the concerns or allegations.
Information and advice
We will give carers as much information and advice as we can about the process and what to expect at each stage. AST Advisors are trained and have knowledge of the Fostering Regulations and National Minimum Standards and will explain the relevance of these to the carers’ situation.
Emotional support as required
Confidentiality – all discussions between carers and their FISS Advisor will be confidential unless the Advisor has a safeguarding concern. In this situation, we will always tell carers what we are doing and the reasons why.
AST Advisors are independent of the carers fostering service.
Advocacy and Mediation
We will help to ensure carers’ wishes and feelings are heard, and we can mediate if required.
Help with written submissions
AST Advisors can provide advice on written representations carers wish to make. They can advise on relevance, content and offer feedback.
AST Advisors will give carers their contact numbers so that they can get in touch when they need to. Advisors are often available during evenings and weekends if required.
Ongoing communication – AST Advisors will keep in contact with carers throughout the process until the matter is concluded.
What is AST unable to do?
We won’t take any action without the carer’s consent (except where there are safeguarding concerns).
AST Advisors will not attend any meetings without the carers.
We will not act as a go-between for carers and their fostering service – we will help carers to keep lines of communication with their fostering service open.
AST Advisors will not write carers’ reports or representations for them.
We will not tell them what to do – we will advise and explore the options available to carers and encourage them to make their own decisions.
We will not support carers in making formal complaints – this is outside of our remit if carers wish to make a formal complaint about their fostering service; our advice will be limited to general advice on accessing the relevant policy.
We are not legal advisors. FosterTalk carer members are entitled to separate legal advice. If carers are not FosterTalk members, they will be encouraged to seek their own independent legal advice.
Quality assurance and use of hours
Regular consultation takes place between the AST Manager and AST Advisors to ensure that practice standards are met and that time is being used efficiently in accordance with service level agreements.
The initial number of hours authorised by you on referral will be monitored by the AST Advisor and the AST Manager. If the upper limit of the approved time is reached, then approval will be sought by the AST Manager for further time, to enable support to continue if required. If less time is used; then only the time actually used will be invoiced.
Closure of the AST referral usually takes place once the matter has reached a conclusion, or if the fostering service requests this.
The AST Advisor and the foster carer may agree closure and the referrer will be informed.
A feedback form will be sent out to the foster carer and to the referrer to enable continuous review and monitoring of the AST Service.
FosterTalk Complaints & Representations
If you are unhappy about any aspect of the service you have received from FosterTalk, you should contact FosterTalk’s Allegations Support Team Manager in the first instance. A copy of FosterTalk’s complaints procedure will be made available to you on request and is also available here.
FosterTalk Safeguarding Policy & Procedure
If you would like a copy of FosterTalk’s Safeguarding Children Policy and Procedure or the Safeguarding Adults Policy and Procedure please ask the AST Manager.
For more information call 0121 758 5013.