Aims of the strategy

Creating the Foster Carers’ (FCs) portal online will speed up the time it takes to receive information, improve the quality of the information, reduce administration time, reduce costs eg travel for family social workers to collect paper forms, postage and more importantly improve the outcomes we can achieve from the data for example identifying trends and improving our response. 

This change will mainly affect our foster carers. Foster carers are a job defined in law, whilst not strictly employees they do work for us. We consider them to be self-employed. Employees are also affected due to changes within our case management and recording system (MOSAIC). If foster carers needed reasonable adjustments to carry out their role, this would be provided and could include specialised information and communications technology (ICT) equipment. 

The portal will allow the foster carers to submit their weekly diary sheets, significant incident reports and body maps (these accompany a significant incident report – to indicate injuries on a diagram of a body) online. Training materials are also available on the portal in different formats. In developing the portal, testing took place with: 

  • disabled employees 
  • project team 
  • foster carers 
  • digital champions
  • web accessibility expert 

Following feedback from all of the above, changes were made to improve accessibility and usability. 

Dorset Council's Fostering Service sits within the Children's Services Directorate. The outcomes for children and young people, which underpins every aspect of the work within Children’s Services, are for them to: 

  • be safe wherever they are and know what it is to be healthy and adopt lifestyles that promote it 
  • enjoy positive relationships and have a good awareness of their personal strengths and qualities, knowing that their voice is heard and listened to on matters that affect them 
  • be confident and successful learners who can also achieve personal success as they grow into adulthood 

Dorset Council's Fostering Service plays a key role in the Children's Services Directorate, in relation to: 

  • children and young people in care
  • children in need of safe alternative family placements with foster carers or connected persons, and 
  • children in need of permanence such as long-term fostering or special guardianship

There are two main types of foster carers – mainstream and connected persons.

Mainstream foster carers

Mainstream foster carers are members of the public who are recruited, assessed and approved to care for children not known to them who are, or who become looked after. Mainstream foster carers will be approved for a specific number of children with an age range of 0-18 or 5-18, with a preferred age group.

Mainstream foster carers can foster if over 21, are healthy and have a spare bedroom. 

Connected persons carers

Connected persons carers are people already known to the child, they may be family members, family friends or teachers, or youth workers for example. They are assessed and approved to care for that specific child and are only approved foster carers while that child remains living with them or until the child turns 18. Most connected persons foster carers are family members. They need to be 18 or over and may be from any background and circumstance.  

There is an expectation that all foster carers will be online and receive letters, newsletters and general information via email. 

A weekly allowance is paid to foster carers as a contribution towards household costs including broadband. 

Find out more information about different types of fostering and fostering in Dorset.

A very similar system to this portal was developed and has been in use by our community resource workers for a couple of years and has worked very well.  

Context to the proposal

Foster carers are required to provide various documentation regarding the children in their care. These range from weekly diary sheets to records of medication given, and any significant issues which have occurred within the household. Historically this has been a paper-based process, now we are moving this online and streamlining the process.

As part of the project we are also seeking to improve the digital skills of the foster carers especially, those with limited digital skills, so that

  • they can undertake the work required of a foster carer
  • they are upskilled to interact digitally with Dorset Council 
  • they are generally able to make better use of the internet eg to be able to help children with electronic homework, do online shopping, engage in social networks and help keep their children safe online.

Intelligence and communication

Data, information, evidence and research used and how it has influenced the decision-making process

 The following sources of data and information have been used: 

  • Dorset Insight - data and statistics about Dorset and its communities 
  • The Children Act 1989 
  • The Adoption and Children Act 2011 
  • Digital Inclusion in Dorset produced by Citizens On-Line in April 2019 – provides a comprehensive overview of digital inclusion issues within Dorset and identifies opportunities to improve them
  • ONS - Exploring the Digital Divide 
  • MOSAIC Dorset Children’s Services case management system for foster carer information 
  • the current number of foster carers and their demographics 

Data we already have about service users, or those the proposal will have an impact on

Population of Dorset

Below is a breakdown of the population of Dorset (from where service users will primarily be drawn) with reference to the protected characteristics (and other factors) that there is currently data on. This data was taken from Dorset Insight's area profile for Dorset Council

Population information by age
Age group Total Percentage England and Wales

All persons

376,480

n/a

59,115,810

0-15 years

59,930

15.9%

19.1%

16-64 years

208,740

55.4%

62.5%

65+ years

107,810

28.6%

18.3%

Source: 2018 Mid-Year Estimates, Office for National Statistics

Dorset has a much greater proportion (29%) of the population aged 65 and over, higher than England and Wales (18%). Over the period 2008 - 2018, the number aged 65+ grew by 22,500 (up by 26%). However, the working age population dropped by 9,200 in Dorset and the number of children fell by 900.  

The number of children in Dorset is 59,9001. The number of 0-4-year olds is expected to decrease by about 600, but the number of 5-15-year olds will decrease by almost 100 between 2018 and 2028.

Dorset Council produces population projections which look forward 25 years and are revised on an annual basis.

Background information table 2
Category Number %

All usual residents

365,153

 n/a

Day to day activities limited a lot

30,710

8%

Day to day activities limited a little

41,457

11%

Source: Census 2011, Office for National Statistics

One in five of Dorset’s population consider that they have a long-term health problem or disability. In the former council area of Weymouth and Portland this accounts for 22% of residents, compared to former North Dorset council area with 18%.  

Background information table 3
Race & Ethnicity  % of all residents (365,153)

White British and Northern Irish  

95.6

White Gypsy or Irish Traveller

0.1

Other White

2.3

Mixed/Multiple Ethnic Groups  

0.8

Asian/Asian British  

0.9

Black/African/Caribbean/Black British  

0.2

Other Ethnic group

0.1

Source: Census 2011, Office for National Statistics

Dorset has much lower levels (4.4%) of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) residents than the country as a whole (19.5%). The highest proportion of Dorset's BAME population are classified as 'White Other' who make up approximately 41% of Dorset's BAME population. This classification includes people who identify as white but who do not have UK national identity. 

Background information table 4
Sex Total Percentage England and Wales

All persons

376,480

n/a

59,115,810

All males

184,100

48.9%

49.4%

All females

192,380

51.1%

50.6%

Dorset has a slightly higher female population with 105 females for every 100 males in Dorset.

Dorset Council currently has 207 foster carers: 

  • 147 mainstream foster carers 
  • 60 connected person foster carers 

 The breakdown in ages for the 207 foster carers is as follows: 

  • 20-29 = 7 
  • 30-39 = 25 
  • 40-49 = 47 
  • 50-59 = 75 
  • 60-69 = 43 
  • 70-79 = 10 

Roughly consistent with the data above for the population of Dorset, a significant number of our foster carers (approximately 25%) are aged over 60. 

The breakdown in race and ethnicity for the 207 foster carers is as follows: 

  • 6 Not Recorded 
  • 4 White Other 
  • 2 Asian/British Asian 
  • 195 White British 

We have no Foster carers for whom English isn’t their first language. 

Other councils are looking to implement online systems for foster carers and two have already approached Dorset, Essex and Cornwall, to look at our solution for this. We are at the forefront of these developments relating to MOSAIC. 

Digital Users 

Technological change means that digital skills are increasingly important for connecting with others, accessing information and services and meeting the changing demands of the workplace and economy. This is no different for foster carers who are increasingly accessing services and resources digitally eg in relation to their general domestic lives and to access training, development and information in their role of a foster carer. 

Engagement or consultation that has taken place as part of this EqIA

Prior to launching the pilot the fostering social workers spoke to all our foster carers individually to record their level of confidence in their digital skills. 

We ran two workshops with a dozen foster carers to show them the forms, process and seek feedback. This feedback was used to refine and improve the forms. 

We asked colleagues from outside the project, who have disabilities, to review the form and provide feedback which we used to refine the form  

The pilot 

We then trialled the forms with a small group of foster carers for a period of three weeks. At the end of this period we gathered feedback (via email and a workshop) to identify improvements. 

We also asked our community digital champions/advisors to test the form and provide feedback along with web accessibility expert. Digital champions are a group of volunteers, mostly made up of retired IT professionals, who usually hold sessions in libraries and community centres (see Dorset Digital Champions for more information).

As part of the pilot the digital champions also supported some foster carers who identified as needing help.  

How will the outcome of consultation be fed back to those who you consulted with? 

  • via feedback sessions with the foster carers in the pilot (MS Teams) 
  • changes will be made to the forms in the future if required 
  • via the foster carers newsletter in which we will include articles
  • via the fostering social workers during their weekly catch-ups with foster carers
  • via foster carer support groups run by fostering social workers

Assessment

Impacts of the strategy 

impacts table
Impacts on who or what? Effect   Details 
Age  Neutral Age bracket - adults form age 18 to 69
Disability: (including physical, mental, sensory and progressive conditions) Unclear  n/a
Does this affect a specific disability group?  n/a We do not have a full record of foster carers with disabilities
Gender Reassignment & Gender Identity /
Pregnancy and maternity / 
Religion or belief /Sexual orientation / Sex Marriage or civil partnership / Carers /Single parent families / Armed forces communities
 Neutral At this present time, we do not anticipate an impact
 Race and Ethnicity  Neutral  Currently we have some foster carers whose first language is not English, but our assessment is that their English is sufficient to complete the necessary forms required by them as foster carers

The move to electronic forms could be beneficial in that they could use online language translators should they need to

If in the future, we have foster carers whose English is not sufficient to complete the necessary forms, we would seek to make reasonable adjustments such as translation and interpreter services

 Rural isolation Unclear

There could be possible issues around broadband speed but this is not currently known, but even with the lowest broadband speed, an online form could be completed

The foster carer weekly allowance includes a contribution to broadband costs

Social and economic deprivation Positive  IT equipment can be loaned to foster carers if needed.

nKey to impacts

Description of impacts
Type of impact Description
Positive

The proposal eliminates discrimination, advances equality of opportunity and/or fosters good relations with protected groups

Negative

Protected characteristic group(s) could be disadvantaged or discriminated against 

Neutral

No change/ no assessed significant impact of protected characteristic groups 

Unclear  

Not enough data/evidence has been collected to make an informed decision

Action Plan  

Action plan table
Issue  Action to be taken  Person(s) responsible   Date to be completed by 

Low digital skills in foster carers 

Signposted to Digital Champions

Fostering Social Worker for the foster carer

As identified 

Disability and completing forms

Reasonable adjustments would be made including Access to Work if applicable

Fostering Social Worker for the foster carer

As identified 

Foster carers without the necessary IT equipment

To be loaned by Dorset Council

Do we change this to the full description?As Above and Business Support Team Manager for Fostering Service

As identified

Broadband availability and speed

Review if identified

Fostering Social Worker

As identified

Communications

Via newsletter and support groups

Rebecca Holmes and Emma Powell 

By 31 August 2020

EqIA sign off 

Equality impact assessment sign-off
 Role  Name Date 
Officer completing the EqIA Rebecca Holmes  24 June 2020 
Equality Lead Susan Ward-Rice 7 August 2020
Equality & Diversity Action Group Chair Dr David Bonner 31 July 2020

Diversity and Inclusion Officer - Dorset Council

Name: Susan Ward-Rice
Email: susan.ward-rice@dorsetcouncil.gov.uk
Tel: 01305 224368
Full contact details

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