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2.10 Budget Policy for Children in Need and Children Looked After

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This chapter relates to the notes for the use by Social Workers and their Manager of budgets to support Children in Need and Children Looked After.

RELATED GUIDANCE

What Needs can be Routinely Met from the Section 17 Budget?

AMENDMENT

This chapter was significantly updated in June 2014 as a result of local review and should be re-read in its entirety. Section 5, Leeds Welfare Support Scheme and Section 7, No Recourse to Public Funds were added.


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Children in Need (as defined under Section 17)
  3. Children Looked After
  4. Informal Arrangements for Family and Friends
  5. Leeds Welfare Support Scheme
  6. Delegated Levels of Budget Spend
  7. No Recourse to Public Funds


1. Introduction

This document outlines the policy for providing financial support to children in need and Children Looked After and how delegated levels of spend are to be managed consistently across Children's Social Work Services (CSWS). Where the child is being cared for on an informal basis by family or friends please also refer to the Kinship Care Family and Friends Care Policy.


2. Children in Need (as defined under Section 17)

2.1 Pending Benefit Claim

There will be no payments made in situations where state benefits will be due, unless the child is returning home from care or if payments would directly prevent the child from becoming Looked After. In either case the arrangement will have been supported or made by CSWS. Even then it must be clear and explicit that the payment is necessary because prevention of the child being Looked After is a direct consequence of the temporary payments being made. Any payments will be made on a very short term basis with active follow up from the social worker to progress any benefit claim. In those cases where it would prevent a child becoming looked after we will provide food parcels and tokens only.

2.2 Stolen or lost purses

CSWS will not provide financial support for "lost/stolen purses" etc and service users can be signposted towards food parcels etc.

2.3 Safety Equipment/Bedding

If children are subject to a Child Protection Plan then funding for one piece of essential safety equipment may be considered. For other equipment, service users will either need to provide it themselves or be signposted elsewhere to the welfare support scheme or to the cluster via the Targeted Service lead.

Essential bedding may be considered if the child is on the list for a child being subject to a Child Protection Plan. No payments will be paid for beds, carpets, furniture or decorating, but service users could be signposted to the welfare reform scheme and the clusters.

2.4 Support

It is acknowledged that families do experience a wide range of financial pressures and this can impact upon their day to day lives. It is important as part of the Child and Family Assessment that strategies are developed with the parents/carers to manage their finances effectively. It may be that they are directed towards a specialist services who will help them look at this in more detail.

Play and leisure activities or holidays

Although the benefits of play and leisure activities or holidays are recognised they will not be funded for Children in Need or those on a Child Protection Plan. These should be secured through accessing universal services, such as those provided by Early Years, Children's Centres the Youth Service and clusters.

Nursery or Early Years provision

Where it is assessed that child would benefit from additional time in a nursery provision and there is limited availability Children's Social Work Service will need to refer to Early Years for nursery provision. Children's Centre Managers are in a position to fund places for children if they are assessed to be vulnerable and therefore nursery fees should not be paid out of Sec 17. In exceptional circumstances agreement can be sought from a Head of Service. This will require a clear explanation as to why the nursery placement is required and how it would improve the outcomes for the child.

School meals

It is important that parents/carers are supported in accessing all appropriate benefits available to them and any associates support that sit alongside these. Therefore school meals will not be paid for and where parents are finding financing these difficult they must be directed back to the school who will be in a position to offer appropriate support and guidance.

Bonds or rents for private accommodation

Payments of bonds or rents for private accommodation will not be paid for the rehabilitation of children in the Leeds area. The expectation is that discussions and negotiations take place with Leeds City Council Housing to provide accommodation (even temporary accommodation) via the housing protocol.

See also What Needs can be Routinely Met from the Section 17 Budget?


3. Children Looked After

3.1 Contact Expenses

Financial assistance for contact will only be provided to those birth parents or relatives who are in receipt of benefits.

Where financial support is provided there is an expectation that birth parents or relatives will use public transport at the least cost to Children’s Services,  e.g. purchasing all day bus tickets such as FirstLeeds and FirstWestYorkshire or claim mileage for using their own transport, whichever is the cheaper.

If mileage is to be claimed, the rate used should be in line with the council’s current policy for reimbursing employees under the casual car user scheme.

Contact between children and their birth family should not revolve around expensive activities. Expenses will be paid for the activity for the Child Looked After only.

3.2 Placement Support

Play schemes and nursery fees

For new arrangements, play schemes and nursery fees for Children Looked After will not be paid and all existing arrangements must be reviewed within three months. If children are placed with Kinship Carers and there is a need to maintain the placement due to carers' work commitments, then exceptions may be considered by the Head of Service.

Leisure activities and School trips and residential trips

Leisure activities for children should be arranged and paid for by the carers (with a small contribution from young person via pocket money). As part of the carer's allowance, an amount is paid towards leisure activities per week.

Where the child is placed with a Leeds foster carer, the Corporate Offer to foster carers should be explained to the carer and advice provided about how to access free swimming lessons, leisure passes and discounts to local businesses available under the offer.

School trips and residential trips for Children Looked After must be funded for the most part by their carer(s). The Fostering Service Financial Policy (FN16) document details the range of financial support for in house foster carers including weekly fees for each level and weekly allowances. Any exceptions to FN16 are subject to Head of Service approval.

3.3 Direct Work and Photographs

The expenses associated with direct work with children and young people must be reasonable and kept to a minimum. These must not include meals out. Financial support will be made for materials for life story work and additional photos. (Most offices now have digital cameras and they can be uploaded onto the computers in the office. These photos can then be printed on the colour printers within the offices without additional expense of printing).

A standard set of school photos will be paid for by the carer. If further copies are required then a one off payment will be made to cover the cost.

3.4 Transport/Taxi Provision

Parents and carers are expected to transport children wherever possible. Any arrangements should be reviewed and altered as necessary, paying particular attention to changing circumstances as children get older, and the need to be consistent with what would be reasonable for the majority of children and young people. Where appropriate and depending on an assessment of need that takes account of age and maturity and safety then young people should be encouraged to use public transport.

There is an element in all maintenance payments to carers to enable a child or young person to be transported to education, health appointments, leisure activities, contact and respite. The Fostering Service Financial Policy (FN16) document details the range of financial support for in house foster carers including weekly fees for each level and weekly allowances. Any exceptions to FN16 are subject to Head of Service approval.

Children’s residential homes will need to make arrangements as this budget does not cover the costs of transport.

For disabled children attending short breaks and in receipt of the higher mobility component of DLA taxi provision will not be provided; unless the parents can demonstrate that they have used the mobility component in other situations (e.g. for hydrotherapy sessions).

Taxis to and from activities will not be funded. The expectation is that carers or residential units will make arrangements to ensure the child/young person can get to the activity via car or public transport. Children, should, as far as possible, be engaged in activities local to where they live keeping transport costs to a minimum.

Taxis to and from respite placements should be undertaken by the parent / carer so that continuity is provided for a child.

It is an expectation that parents and carers promote independent travel with the child as appropriate to the child's age and development needs.


4. Informal Arrangements for Family and Friends

This applies in situations where there is intervention to prevent a child becoming Looked After, or proceedings are not necessary because the family has agreed a course of action whereby family or friends care for the child or young person who would otherwise be at risk of becoming Looked After. This includes situations where family or friends have (independent from the local authority) applied for and obtained a Child Arrangements Order or a Special Guardianship Order for the child.

The principle governing any provision of support is that the child is a Child in Need and it is essential that any decision made with regards to supporting informal arrangements is informed by the Kinship Care Family and Friends Care Policy.

Consideration of such payments must be at Sservice Delivery Manager level and the basis of the decision (including any amounts) must be clearly recorded on the case file. In exceptional circumstances, payments may continue for a longer period and any such agreement for long term support is required will be made by a Head of Service within Children's Social Work Service.

It is an expectation that any Kinship Carer will access universally available financial and practical support in advance of approaching the local authority for financial assistance:

  • Child Benefit;
  • Child Tax credits (or Universal benefit when this applies);
  • Welfare benefits (or Universal benefit when this applies);
  • Support available via Welfare Reform.


5. Leeds Welfare Support Scheme

Leeds City Council has set up a Local Welfare Support Scheme (tel: 0113 3760330) to support people who require emergency assistance. This scheme will be based on providing basic household goods and emergency provision. Please note the scheme will not have cash payments as part of the options for support.

The Local Welfare Support Scheme is to help the most vulnerable people in Leeds. It is not a general fund available for all. Other available sources of assistance will be considered before any award is made from the scheme. People who are perceived to be vulnerable include the following:

  • Families or vulnerable people under exceptional pressure;
  • Homeless people or rough sleepers;
  • Vulnerable older people;
  • People fleeing domestic violence;
  • Young people leaving care or living independently;
  • People moving out of institutional or residential care into the community;
  • Ex-offenders leaving prison or detention centres;
  • People with disabilities.

This list is not exhaustive and provision is subject to the availability of funding.

The key rule for the use of the scheme is that claimants must be faced with 'exceptional' circumstances to be considered for support.

There will be some applications that if completed by support/advice worker, will automatically be accepted as a priority.

These cases will be deemed to have the highest priority to receive support from the Local Welfare Support Scheme. These are claims supported by:

  • Housing Options: Homeless people who have obtained a tenancy;
  • Mental Health/Learning Disability Housing Support Workers: People with mental health problems or a learning disability who are moving into independent living;
  • Families First: Families under exceptional pressure and where children are at risk;
  • Leeds City Council Domestic Violence Team: People fleeing domestic violence.

Applications to the scheme should be made by a support/advice worker to improve the chance of success. Customers can however access the scheme themselves on 0113 376 0330.

Click here for more information on the Budget Support Scheme.


6. Delegated Levels of Budget Spend

Managers must be aware that they can only agree budget spend in line within their delegated power.

  Approval Limit
Head of Service £20,000
Children's Service Delivery Manager Fostering & Adoption £20,000
Team Manager Fostering & Adoption £500
Children's Service Delivery Manager Fieldwork £1,000
Team Manager Fieldwork £500


7. No Recourse to Public Funds

Further guidance is being developed for when an adult with has no recourse to public funds, and has a child.

End