As a Form F assessor, I am often asked how I managed to get into this particular role, including what requirements are needed. As such, I have put together some practical hints and tips that may assist you with the transition into assessing independently. This is by no means an exhaustive list but you may find it a useful starting point.
Ensure you hold the relevant qualifications
A Form F assessor must be a qualified social worker. This means having a recognised social worker qualification such as CQSW, DipSW or BA in Social Work and being registered with the HCPC. You must be prepared to have a DBS check undertaken and in a position to provide suitable references.
Consider whether you possess the relevant transferable skills and knowledge base
You must be able to produce and present high quality, evidence-based, analytical fostering assessments and have a sound knowledge of child care legislation which includes the Children Act 1989, Fostering and Adoption Act 2002, the National Minimum Standards for Fostering Services, and Fostering Services Regulations.
Complete market research
You need to identify whether there is an ongoing need for assessors in your area (as it will differ across the UK) and what agencies are willing to pay for your services. Consider how far you are able to travel to meet with prospective carers and whether you will be in a position to work within the agencies’ parameters.
Establish whether you would benefit from Form F assessment training
It is important to keep abreast of any changes in policy, legislation and frameworks that inform assessments of prospective foster carers. Form F assessment training will assist you in developing your individual practice and provide assessment tools to aid information gathering, reflection and analysis.
Purchase the necessary insurances
You will need to ensure you possess professional indemnity insurance (to cover claims by clients concerning mistakes or negligence) and public liability insurance (to cover claims by clients for injury or damage to property). There are numerous agencies and services who can assist in providing suitable levels of cover.
Decide whether you will be acting as a sole trader or limited company
As an independent social worker, you will be self-employed and therefore need to decide whether you wish to act as a sole trader or limited company. A limited company has its own legal identify meaning that your liability is limited. As a sole trader, any business debts become your personal debts. Make sure you educate yourself in what it means to be self-employed and consider your options carefully.
Only use trusted accountants
Finding the right person to support you in your business will save both time and money. You will need to think about their fees, location, reputation and whether they will be able to offer you the service you need as your business develops.
Being an independent Form F assessor is an unpredictable business. There will be times when you may be without an assessment (whether that be due to a lack of demand, carer cancellation or assessment termination) so make sure you have planned for these eventualities.
Written by Stef Lewis for One Stop Social. Independent Social Worker (MSW), Atarah Assessment and Consultancy
Stef Lewis is an experienced social worker, who has had the opportunity to work within numerous early intervention, adoption and fostering teams and is now a well-established independent social worker and fostering panel member. Stef blogs with One Stop Social because she wishes to share her own learning with others