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3.1.1 Decision to Look After and Care Planning

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This procedure applies to all decisions to Look After children.

It should be read in conjunction with the Care and Supervision Proceedings and the Public Law Outline (PLO) Procedure.

NOTE

A child who is dealt with by a court by way of a Remand to Local Authority Accommodation or a Remand to Youth Detention Accommodation will be a Child Looked After. The care planning requirement will be amended in relation to such children - see Remands to Local Authority Accommodation or to Youth Detention Accommodation Procedure.

RELATED CHAPTER

Ceasing to Look After a Child Procedure

RELATED GUIDANCE

ADCS/Cafcass Practice Guidance for the Use of Section 20

Leeds Reunification One Minute Guide

Reunification – An Evidence Informed Framework for Return Home Practice (NSPCC, 2015)

AMENDMENT

In December 2016, a link was added to recently published guidance for local authorities on Best Practice for the use of Section 20 Provision (see above). The guidance, written by ADCS and Cafcass, follows on from recent judicial concern about the current use of s.20 and seeks to ensure that it is used positively by local authorities.


Contents

  1. Decision to Look After Child
  2. Placement Service and Placement Identification
  3. The Care Plan
  4. Timescales for Completion of Care Plan
  5. Approval of the Care Plan
  6. Circulation of the Care Plan
  7. Other Required Plans, Documentation and Actions


1. Decision to Look After Child

1.1 The Decision

A child may not come into care without the express permission of Decision and Review Panel (DARP) or the area Head of Service in an emergency situation.

Any decision to look after a child made outside office hours will be communicated by fax to the relevant team by the beginning of the next working day.

When placements have been made in an emergency the case needs to be represented to DARP for discussion regarding the longer term Care Plan.

1.2 Considerations before a Decision to Look After is made

  • The decision to look after a child will only be made where those making the decision are satisfied that suitable appropriate alternatives have been fully considered;
  • Appropriate consideration has been given to the necessity of Accommodation, the purpose and nature of the proposed placement;
  • Whether the Accommodation provided should be via a Court Order or undertaken with Parental Consent using section 20 (1989 Act). In considering this the local authority should:
  • Appropriate consultation has taken place;
  • However, where the circumstances constitute an emergency, opportunities for consultation may be limited e.g. where a parent/carer is not available.

Before a decision is made to look after a child, consideration should be given to making arrangements with other extended family members or friends who might be prepared to care for the child without the need for the child to come into care. In these circumstances, care must be taken where the local authority has been involved in the arrangements for the child to be cared for by relatives; the child may be viewed as within the definition of Looked After and a legal view may be helpful to clarify the status of the child and the placement.

Alternatively, the child may come within the definition of Privately Fostered after 27 days, in which case the Private Fostering Procedure will apply.

In any event, any such arrangements would have to be agreed with the parent or a person with Parental Responsibility, and the social worker must be satisfied that such an arrangement is sufficiently secure to meet the child's needs and is supported by a Child in Need Plan.

If no such arrangement can be identified or such an arrangement would not meet the child's needs, the child's social worker, and their team manager, should consider:

  • The child's immediate placement needs - including the child's views, the views of the parents, those with Parental Responsibility and any other person whose wishes and feelings the authority consider to be relevant - and whether a placement with a relative or friend under Regulation 24 may be appropriate;
  • The timescales for the child's placement;
  • A date for the child to return home or when the decision will be reviewed;
  • The actions of support and work to be included in the Care Plan to enable the necessary change for the child to return home wherever possible;
  • The obtaining of parental consent to look after the child and consent to medical care;
  • Any impact on educational arrangements;
  • The contact arrangements with birth parents, siblings, extended family and friends.

NB Any decision that a child should be the subject of Care Proceedings should have regard to the requirements of the Public Law Outline, and in particular the Pre-Proceedings Checklist which is set out in Care and Supervision Proceedings and the Public Law Outline (PLO) Procedure.

All decisions made should be recorded on the child's electronic record, including the reasons for reaching the decision (see also Section 1.3.2, Recording Parental Consent)

1.3 Section 20 Accommodation

There are many scenarios in which section 20 is used positively and these include situations of family support (eg. Short Term Breaks) and where parents are unable to care for children, for whatever reason, and there are no agreed alternative family or friends to undertake this.

In Accommodating a child under section 20, it must always be borne in mind that the local authority does not have Parental Responsibility; only the parents/ those carers with Parental Responsibility can make decisions for the child. The parent/carer can remove the child from Accommodation at any time and any such request must be responded to promptly by the local authority, or it must otherwise take action through the court. (See also Ceasing to Look After a Child Procedure)

The parents/carers should be advised of any changes in the child’s circumstances whilst the child is in local authority care.

It is therefore important to ensure that the parents/carers have full information about their continuing responsibilities as well as those of the local authority and that this is enshrined in the Care Plan and a written agreement.

1.3.1 Obtaining Parental Consent

Obtaining Parental Consent is a crucial part of Accommodating a child under this part of the 1989 Act. A number of court decisions have been particularly critical of local authorities’ actions with regard to consent and great care needs to be undertaken to ensure parents have the appropriate capacity to do this.

Section 20 agreements are not valid unless the parent giving consent has capacity to do so, (in cases where the father also has Parental Responsibility, the consent of both parents should be sought). The consent needs to be properly informed and fairly obtained. Willingness to consent cannot be inferred from silence, submission or acquiescence - it is a positive action.

Detailed guidance on the obtaining of parental consent was given by the High Court in the case of Re CA (A Baby) (2012):

  • The social worker must first be satisfied that the parent giving consent does not lack the mental Capacity to do so. Under the Mental Capacity Act 2005, a person is unable to make a decision if (s)he is unable:
    • To understand the information relevant to the decision;
    • To retain that information;
    • To use or weigh that information as part of the process of making the decision; or
    • To communicate his/her decision.
  • If there is doubt about Capacity, no further attempts to obtain consent should be made at that time, and advice should be sought from a manager;
  • If satisfied that the parent has Capacity, the social worker must be satisfied that the consent is fully informed:
    • Does the parent fully understand the consequences of giving such a consent?
    • Does the parent fully appreciate the range of choice available and the consequences of refusal as well as giving consent?
    • Is the parent in possession of all the facts and issues material to the giving of consent?
  • If not satisfied that the consent if fully informed, no further attempt should be made to obtain consent on that occasion and advice should be sought from a manager and legal advice sought if thought necessary;
  • If satisfied that the consent is fully informed, then it is necessary to be satisfied that the giving of such consent and the subsequent removal of the child from the parent is both fair and proportionate:
    • What is the current physical and psychological state of the parent?
    • If they have a solicitor, have they been encouraged to seek legal advice and/or advice from family or friends?
    • Is it necessary for the safety of the child for her to be removed at this time?
    • Would it be fairer in this case for this matter to be the subject of a court order rather than an agreement?

Whether a person has capacity can sometimes be difficult to determine, as some individuals have a learning disability or mental health problem but can present as being more ‘able’ than in fact they are. Equally, within the context of ‘assessing capacity’, social workers should  approach with great care relying on section 20 agreements from mothers after giving  birth, (especially where there is no immediate danger to the child and where probably no order would be made).

Where there is any concern about a parent / carer’s capacity, the social worker should ensure they discuss this issue with their team manager, or that the parent has information from a legal adviser or professional advice (1). Note: In Coventry City Council v C, B, CA and CH (2012) EWHC2190 (Fam) it was identified that, ‘every social worker obtaining consent is under a personal duty (the outcome of which may not be dictated to by others) to be satisfied that the person giving consent does not lack the capacity to do so’.

(1) Note: Unless a parent is subject to Proceedings, or Letter Before Proceedings, they will be unable to qualify for Legal Aid.

1.3.2 Recording Parental Consent

In Re N (Children) (Adoption: Jurisdiction) [2015] EWCA Civ 1112 good practice the President of the Family Division, Sir James Munby sets out his view in respect of good practice in the recording of parental consent to a Section 20 agreement:

  • Wherever possible the agreement of a parent to the accommodation of their child under section.20 should be properly recorded in writing and evidenced by the parent's signature;
  • The written document should be clear and precise as to it terms, drafted in simple and straight-forward language that the particular parent can readily understand;
  • The written document should spell out, following the language of section 20(8), that the parent can 'remove the child' from the LA accommodation 'at any time';
  • The written document should not seek to impose any fetters on the exercise of the parent's right under s.20(8). Where the parent is not fluent in English, the written document should be translated into the parent's own language and the parent should sign the foreign language text, adding, in the parent's language, words to the effect that 'I have read this document and I agree to its terms'.

1.3.3 The use of Section 20 prior to Court Proceedings

Section 20 may, in an appropriate case, have a proper role to play as a short-term measure pending the commencement of care proceedings, but the Courts have strongly advised that this should not lead to an unnecessary delay in the issuing of proceedings and cases must not be allowed to drift, (including those cases when children are placed with relatives under a Section 20 agreement). Proceedings still need to be issued in a timely fashion.

Even where a parent/carer’s legal advisor has established an agreement regarding the use of Section 20 prior to either issuing Proceedings or progressing a timely plan and timetable of work for further assessment, these should be carefully adhered to by all parties. Any plan should be based on the child’s welfare needs and avoid delay.

All such agreements should be undertaken in conjunction with the local authority’s Legal Services and include a clear (written) agreement and Care Plan with the outcome considered at a Looked After Children’s Review to which the parents have been invited.

Where it is highly likely that proceedings will be required to determine a factual issue, or where complex medical evidence may become involved it is better for proceedings to be issued promptly allowing the court to manage the timetable of the case and the parents to be able to access effective legal advice.

1.4 Actions required after a Decision to Look After is made

In all cases, if it is agreed that the child should become Looked After, the child's social worker will draw up a draft Care Plan (see Section 3, The Care Plan) with clear timescales and a statement as to whether the child's needs would best be met in a family placement or residential care.

If a foster or residential placement is required, the relevant procedure to be followed, including the need to hold a Placement Planning Meeting, will be found in the Placements in Foster Care Procedure or the Placements in Residential Care Procedure.

Where a decision is made to pursue a Looked After placement with a relative or friend (or the child's placement with a relative or friend is judged to be a Looked After placement), an immediate assessment of the relative/friend must be undertaken. Where the placement is likely to be for longer than six weeks, the social worker must also make a referral to the Fostering Team to conduct an assessment of the relative/friend as a Family and Friends Foster Carer with a view to presentation to the Fostering Panel within six weeks. See Placement with Family and Friends (Regulation 24 Placements) Procedure.

For secure placements, see Placements in Secure Accommodation on Welfare Grounds Procedure.

In the case of siblings, wherever it is in the best interests of each individual child, they should be placed together.  Where they cannot be placed together, they must be supported to understand why they cannot live together, and there should be robust plans for contact between them, so far as this is consistent with their welfare.

Before the Placement Service is contacted the social worker will need to complete a risk assessment and for a short term assessment a CC6 form and a CC9 form for a long term placement. All these should be sent to the placement service by email to CHS Placement Service.


2. Placement Service and Placement Identification

The Placement Service is the central contact point for the availability of immediate and temporary placements in foster care and residential settings.

Social workers request a placement by completing and emailing a CC6 (with an integrated risk assessment) to CHS Placement Service. A copy of the up to date Care Plan and Child and Family Assessment is required where it is available.

There is an expectation that placements will be offered that take into account the child's geographic home location and the corresponding feasibility of casework support. The expectation is that the child will be placed as near to their home locality as possible unless there are specific issues which need to be raised in the referral documentation.

Other factors to be taken into account will include:

  • Anticipated length of placement;
  • Contact arrangements;
  • School;
  • Disability/ ethnicity / religious background / language / culture;
  • Identified ability of the carer to meet the needs of the child(ren);
  • Child's history and an assessment whether they present a risk to themselves or other children.

Wherever possible, the supervising fostering officers or their Team Manager, should be consulted before placements are offered for placements with in-house foster carers.

The Placement Service hold weekly meetings called Placement Panel. The panel considers children and young people whose needs cannot easily be met with in-house resources and where further discussion is required to aid the identification of a suitable placement. The panel where appropriate, make recommendations to seek an external placement to the designated manager. Where the child has a number of complex and additional needs the panel may recommend that the child's details are discussed at RADAR (resource allocation, decision and review panel) for consideration for a joint funded placement with health and education. Additional information is required for RADAR (resource allocation, decision and review panel) placements including any specialist reports as well as the Care Plan and the most up to date Child and Family Assessment.

On being offered a placement, the social worker should be given information on:

  • Household composition;
  • Available accommodation;
  • Other Children Looked After already in the household;
  • Any known risk factors;
  • Name and office base of the supervising fostering officer.

Social workers must confirm to the Placement Service that placement has or has not been made and the date of placement. Social workers must complete the change of circumstances form to ensure carers are paid promptly and amend the placement on Mosaic.

For in-house foster placements the Placement Service will forward the CC6 referral form and email as soon as possible, details of the placement to the supervising fostering officer who will, on receipt of that information:

  • Contact the social worker for the newly placed child(ren) and confirm other existing placements of Children Looked After and the name(s) and offices of the social worker for those children placed;
  • Contact the social worker for the already placed child(ren), to inform them of the relevant details of the new placement;
  • Raise any safeguarding issues immediately with their team manager, consulting the social worker/s and foster carer as appropriate;
  • Contact the carer regarding any immediate requirements resulting from the placement;
  • Arrange to visit the placement as soon as possible.

In parent/child foster placements, a DBS check must be requested, and an interim verbal police check on the parent (18+yrs) undertaken, before a placement can be made. This must be requested by the social worker or team manager for the parent/child and its outcome confirmed to the SFO/fostering team manager in advance of the placement. The placement can only go ahead if the outcome of the verbal/DBS check is satisfactory.

At the outset of the placement, it is the child's social worker's responsibility to undertake an initial risk assessment (within the referral documentation (CC6) and to provide all the child specific information that is necessary to enable the foster carer to safely and appropriately care for the child. This information should be provided to the foster carer at the outset of the placement within the Placement Plan. These documents must be fully completed and the remaining paperwork must be provided within statutory timescales.

As soon as possible following the placement, supervising fostering officers will visit the foster home and discuss with the carers, updating the safe care plan for the household. The plan will be discussed and agreed with the child's social worker at the placement planning meeting. This will then be circulated to all the social workers for the children in the household by the SFO.

At the time of the placement, it is the child's social worker's responsibility to address the amount and suitability of the child's clothing. If this is a first placement, a clothing grant may be necessary. If this is a transfer of placement, the "sending" foster carer should have completed a clothing inventory, indicating the amount and condition of the child's clothes. The "receiving" foster carer must sign to agree this or in the case of dispute, alert the social worker or their supervising fostering officer to the situation.

Where consideration of an external placement is necessary from a Care Plan perspective, the relevant SDM for the child's area, will seek agreement from a Head of Service that an external placement is required out of Leeds area. The Placement Service will seek authorisation from the senior designated manager before progressing the search. When this is confirmed, Placement Service admin will send details of the referred child(ren) to the external agencies and ask for proposed suitable placements.

Where an external placement is required due to capacity issues within in-house resources, the Placement Service will seek permission to extend the search for placements to external agencies from the senior designated manager. Authorisation to make these placements is always required from the senior designated manager.

Responses will then be forwarded to the child's social worker for consideration, and if they choose to proceed, they should contact the IFA direct to make arrangements, and confirm with the Placement Service that the placement is proceeding. All financial arrangements for the placement is negotiated and agreed by the Placement Service and not the social work team.


3. The Care Plan

See also Remands to Local Authority Accommodation or to Youth Detention Accommodation Procedure, Care Planning for Young People on Remand.

In all circumstances where a decision is made to look after a child, the child must have a Care Plan completed by the social worker and signed by the relevant team manager, the contents of which:

  • Describe the overall objectives and their reasons;
  • Identify and prioritise long term needs in key areas of the child's life;
  • Nominate the type of placement being sought;
  • Indicate how long the child is likely to need to be in care
  • Describe the contingency plan;
  • Give the date of the child's first Looked After Review (within 28 days)

Where there is no recent Child and Family Assessment in relation to the child, the Care Plan must provide for a Child and Family Assessment to be completed.

The child's social worker is responsible for drawing up and updating the Care Plan in consultation with:

  1. The child;
  2. The child's parents;
  3. Anyone who is not a parent but has been caring for or looking after the child;
  4. Other members of the child's family network who are significant to the child;
  5. The child's school or the education service;
  6. The relevant health trust;
  7. The Youth Offending Service, if the child is known to them;
  8. Any other agency involved with the child's care.

The social worker should ensure that the child, those with Parental Responsibility and the carer understand the Care Plan and their role in contributing to its implementation.

The Care Plan is subject to scrutiny at each Looked After Review.

See also Care Plan Guidance.


4. Timescales for Completion

The Care Plan must be drawn up as soon as the need for the child to come into care has been identified. It should be completed at the Placement Planning Meeting prior to the child's planned placement or, where the child is placed in an emergency, must be completed at the Placement Planning Meeting held within 72 hours of the placement being made - see the relevant Placement Procedure.


5. Approval of the Care Plan

Any final Care Plan taken before the Court within Care Proceedings must be endorsed and signed by a Designated Manager (Care Plan).

All other Care Plans must be endorsed and signed by the social worker's team manager.


6. Circulation of Care Plan

The Care Plan must be circulated to the following people:

  • The child;
  • The parent(s);
  • Providers/Carers - if no Care Plan has been drawn up prior to the child's placement, the social worker must ensure that the providers/carers understand the key objectives of the plan, and how the placement will help achieve these objectives;
  • The Fostering Service, where the child is in foster care. N.B. The Care Plan should be filed in the confidential section of the foster carer's file and returned to the child's social worker when the placement ends.


7. Other Required Plans, Documentation and Actions

7.1 Placement Plan

The child must have a Placement Plan at the time of the placement (this includes the parent's consent to the placement (if applicable) and the child's medical treatment). It should be completed as far as possible before the child is placed.

Copies of the Placement Plan must be provided to the child (if of sufficient age and understanding), the parents and must be handed to the residential staff/carers before the child is placed. Where a child is placed in an in-house foster placement, one copy should also be sent to the Fostering Team - to be kept in the confidential section of the foster carer's file and returned at the end of the placement.

At the time of the placement, the residential staff/carers should also be given any additional information about details of the child's day to day needs which are not covered by the Placement Plan but are important to ensure that the staff/carers are in the best possible position to help the child settle in the new placement, for example any particular fears at night-time or the child's favourite toys.

7.2 Arrangement of first Looked After Review

The child's social worker must notify the Integrated Safeguarding Unit (ISU) of the placement, so that the necessary arrangements for the allocation of an Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) and the child's first Looked After Review can be made. See the Looked After Review Procedure for the procedures relating to reviews, including the responsibility for invitations to reviews.

7.3 Health Care

Before or at the time of the placement, the social worker should request the parent to transfer the child's personal child health record. Where this is lost or not available, the social worker should ask for a replacement to be issued and ask the Designated Nurse for CLA to assist with providing any information to complete the record.

The social worker should also contact the Designated Nurse for CLA to arrange a Health Needs Assessment within one month of the placement and the completion of a Health Action Plan in time for the child's first Looked After Review. See Health Needs Assessments and Individual Health Care Plans Procedure.

In addition, the social worker should inform the carer of any medication the child is taking, and ensure that a supply of medication is provided in a clearly labelled bottle with the child's name, required dosage and the time the medication is to be given - see Medication Policy for Children who use Residential Services.

7.4 Personal Education Plan (PEP)

The social worker should also liaise with the Designated Teacher so that a Personal Education Plan (PEP) can be completed in time for the first Looked After Review. See Education of Children Looked After Procedure.

7.5 Provision of Information

The child's social worker must provide the child and parents with written information about the placement.

The child and parents must also be provided with information about the complaints process and the availability of advocates - see Advocacy and Interpreting Services Procedure.

7.6 Changes in Legal Status

Any changes in a child's legal status as a result of court proceedings must be recorded on the child's electronic record. It is the responsibility of the social worker to complete the notice of movement form, ensure that it is signed by the team manager and passed to the appropriate admin officer who will notify the boarding out service.

End