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2.6 Support Care Scheme Procedures

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This procedure contains information on the Support Care Scheme. The Support Care Scheme is a time limited family support service, providing planned Support Care to children and families who have an allocated social worker and are aged 0 to 16 at the time of referral. The service operates in conjunction with other professionals and agencies in supporting the family and preventing family crisis or breakdown.

This guidance is new and was added to the procedures manual in December 2015.


Contents

  1. Aims of the Scheme
  2. Objectives
  3. Assessments
  4. Eligibility
  5. Support Carers
  6. Making Placements
  7. Legal Context
  8. Reviews
  9. Visiting Requirements
  10. Carer Support and Monitoring

    Appendix 1: Flowchart on 'How to use Planned Short Breaks - A Guide for Social Workers'

    Appendix 2: Deciding which Provision is most Appropriate for the Child

    Appendix 3: Support Care Review Forms


1. Aims of the Scheme

The Support Care Scheme is a time limited family support service, providing planned Support Care to children and families who have an allocated social worker and are aged 0 to 16 at the time of referral. The service operates in conjunction with other professionals and agencies in supporting the family and preventing family crisis or breakdown. Individual placement episodes offered to the child/young person should not exceed 72 hours, planned placements may have a duration of between 6 and 18 months, but are unlikely to exceed 75 days in one calendar year.

The aim of the scheme is to provide planned Support Care with an approved Support Carer to help support Children in Need living within the community with their families. The scheme recognises that all families struggle, and those families who are isolated and have little family or community support are more vulnerable in a crisis.

Families who find themselves in crisis need support and assistance, but in the long term they can be helped to find their own solutions and function independently without the need for Social Work intervention. Without help and support at this time some children may be received into local authority care. The scheme aims to help reduce the number of children needing to be Looked After.


2. Objectives

The service will offer a series of Support Care placements, which are time limited. All placements will be planned and reviewed, and the aims of the placement and roles and responsibilities will be clearly identified at the outset and outlined in the placement agreement.


3. Assessments

Support Care will be available to families where children are defined as ‘in need’, including those families subject to Child Protection Plans, or those Children Looked After placed with parents or Kinship carers. Children and families felt to benefit from the service may be identified following a Child and Family Assessment and/or at a Child in Need meeting, or Child Protection Conference.

Where a need for Support Care has been identified and agreed, the social worker should first attempt to make suitable local arrangements by encouraging the parent(s)/carers to arrange accommodation with either other family members or friends, supported if necessary by means of Section 17 funds, before approaching the Scheme. This might be identified through Family Group Conference.

The decision to provide Support Care under section 17(6) or under section 20(4) should be informed by the assessment of the child’s needs and should take account of parenting capacity and wider family and environmental factors, the wishes and feelings of the child and his/her parents and the nature of the service to be provided.

The provision of accommodation under S17(6) or S20(4) does not affect Parental Responsibility.


4. Eligibility

The scheme is available to children who are aged 0 to 16 at the time of referral.

Children referred must be living at home with members of their birth families, children under Placement with Parents regulations, or children placed with Kinship Carers. The scheme is also available to those children and young people who are adopted. The scheme is unable to offer Support Care placements to registered mainstream foster carers.

Arranged placements will be between 6 and 18 months in duration, with the possibility of extending placements beyond 18 months only in exceptional cases. Requests to extend placements beyond 18 months will be considered by the Children’s Service Delivery Manager and the Fostering Team Manager.

All children must have an allocated social worker. The Support Care scheme is not a stand-alone service and must be provided in the context of an integrated support package to children and families, with a view to enabling families to function independently in the long term. Such a package of services may need to be carefully planned in collaboration with other agencies. These may be local authority, faith or voluntary family support services.

The service will be most effective for families where parents normally provide adequate parenting but are experiencing a short-term crisis, or for families who are able to work alongside Social Work services to find realistic long-term solutions to problems. The service will be less appropriate, but not excluding of, those parents who have limited parenting skills which have not improved over time, or where there is likely to be little change in the general family situation requiring longer-term support.

The offer of a Support Care placement is not a short cut to the provision of full time care.


5. Support Carers

The number of carers and placements available to the scheme is limited. All placements are dependent on a suitable match being found and on the carer’s availability.

Support Care placements will be arranged with approved foster carers referred to as Support Carers who are specifically approved for this task. Many of the carers will be in full time employment and so this will sometimes limit their availability. Some carers will be in a position to take a sibling group. The carers will make the final decision in consultation with the scheme Co-ordinators about which children they feel able to care for.

The scheme is unable to offer Support Care placements in an emergency, unless a child is already matched to a carer, and then only in exceptional circumstances. In this case the Co-ordinator will approach the carer to see if they can help. However the proposed placement must be clearly short term at the outset and have a clear end date (for example a parent’s hospital admission).

Support Carers are subject to the payment for skills model and are approved and paid accordingly. (See financial support for Support Carers). Financial support can be given at the co-ordinator’s discretion and approval of team manager for additional expenses such as weekend trips away or necessary clothing. The Scheme has a small cohort of full time Support Carers who are able to offer placements to a number of children.


6. Making Placements

See also Appendix 1: Flowchart on 'How to use Planned Short Breaks - A Guide for Social Workers'.

If a suitable match is identified then the Co-ordinator will visit the child’s family, with the child’s social worker, to explain the benefits of Support Care, its aims and objectives, and give brief details on the proposed carer.

If the family wish to proceed, the Co-ordinator will arrange a pre-placement visit at the Support Carer’s home with the child and their family and social worker. This is an introductory visit to allow all the parties involved to decide whether they wish to progress the placement further.

If all parties are in agreement, introductory visits are arranged for the child with the Support Carer. The Social Worker is responsible for arranging transport.

If everyone continues to be happy with the arrangements, then the Co-ordinator will arrange a Placement Planning meeting where a Placement agreement (provided by the co-ordinator) will be drawn up, signed and circulated to all parties. The social worker should provide the carer with the current Child in Need Plan and update Mosaic.


7. Legal Context

Children using the Support Care provision will generally do so under Section 17 of the Children Act amended by the Adoption and Children Act 2002 S.17(6), unless the S/W and team manager make the decision, within their assessment of the child’s needs and circumstances, that accommodation should be provided under Sec 20(4) of the Children Act. Those children referred who are already subject to a Care Order (Placement with Parents or Kinship Carers) will access the scheme within the Child Looked After legal framework.

See Appendix 2: Deciding which Provision is most Appropriate for the Child

Placements under S17(6)

'The Local Authority in the exercise of their functions conferred upon them by this section may include the provision of accommodation.' This is executed with the consent of those who hold parental responsibility for the child/young person. The provision of placements generally arise from a recommendation made within a Child in Need/ Child Protection meeting which is reviewed regularly within the area team along with other agencies involved in the support of the family. For the purposes of the Scheme it has been deemed that:

  • Placement episodes will last no longer that 72hrs at one time;
  • Placement days will not exceed 75 in any one year;
  • Those children accessing the scheme for day care provision will do so under an agreement with the parent/carer/co-ordinator and the social worker;
  • The provision of Support Care placements generally arise from a recommendation made following a core assessment, within a Child in Need meeting or child protection conference. The Decision and Review Panel (DARP) may also suggest the use of Support Care as a means of support for families in crisis. All placements are reviewed regularly within the area team along with other agencies involved in the support of the child/ren and family.

Placements under S20(4)

  • An Independent Reviewing Officer will be appointed by the Safeguarding and Reviewing Service;
  • Care planning regulations apply, although easement can be applied if:
    • The placement does not exceed 75 days in one calendar year and the placement is with one carer.
  • Neither a personal education plan or health needs assessment are required.

Placements for children with Kinship/Connected carers and Placement with Parents

  • Children Looked After procedures apply.


8. Reviews

S17(4) placements

  1. The Support Care placement will be reviewed at the Child in Need meeting and it will be the responsibility of the Team Manager/Advanced Practitioner to invite the Support Carer and the Co-ordinator. If the young person is subject to a Child Protection Plan the placement will be reviewed at the Child Protection meetings (Core groups, conferences and reviews). If the young person is in a kinship care placement or placement with parents the placement will be reviewed at the Child Looked After review;
  2. It is intended that a review of the placement will take place 3 months following the young person’s first overnight stay with the Support Carer. If a Child in Need meeting has not been arranged within this timescale it is the responsibility of the Social Worker to arrange to meet with the Co-ordinator, family and Support Carer. This review will determine any future placement dates and arrangements and any change in circumstances. Delays in reviewing the placement may lead to delays and disruption and lack of continuity in support;
  3. Support Care/Child in Need/Child Protection/Child Looked After consultation forms should be used to review the placement;
  4. Discussions should be around the continuation of the Support Care placement as part of the Child in Need Child Protection Plan referring to the Placement Agreement to ascertain whether Support Care is meeting their agreed aims. If Support Care is no longer appropriate then plans for ending the placement should be discussed;
  5. The first review should take place within 3 months of the commencement of the placement. The next review would be 6 months after this (if the child is still using the placement);
  6. If it is decided that the Support Care placement should continue then the date and time of the next review due, no later than 6 months time, should be arranged;
  1. Following the review minutes of the meetings should be sent to the carer and co-ordinator - these can be used to monitor the quality and usefulness of the scheme to the child and family.

N.B. Because of the focused nature of family support and the need to end the Support Care placements within agreed time scales, it may be necessary for the Social Worker, Co-ordinator, parents and carers to meet together regularly between the reviews to evaluate the progress of the plan and the continuing appropriateness of the placement agreement. The Co-ordinator will be responsible for convening these meetings.

S20(4) placements

In the case of a child being placed under S20(4):

  1. The S/W will contact the Safeguarding and Reviewing team and request the allocation of and Independent Reviewing Officer;
  2. The S/W will be responsible for inviting those agencies involved in supporting the child and family. Consultation forms should be sent to those invited;
  3. The S/W should prepare a report outlining the Child’s Support Care plan;
  4. The first review should take place 3 months after the commencement of the placement. The next review would be 6 months after this and at 6 monthly intervals (if the child is still using the placement).

Reviews - CLA Kinship/Connected carer placement and Placement with Parents

  • Children Looked After procedures apply.


9. Visiting Requirements

S17 placements

  1. The first visit will be the pre placement introductory visit and will involve the social worker, the child and the parent/carer meeting the prospective carers;
  2. Social Workers should visit the young person in placement prior to a review;
  3. There should be a further visit within the next 3 months of the placement and the authority must arrange a visit whenever reasonably requested by a child, parent or carer.

S20(4) placements

  1. The first visit will be the pre placement introductory visit and will involve the social worker, the child and the parent(s) meeting the prospective carers;
  2. The Social Worker should visit the young person in line with Child Looked After procedures.

Children placed with Kinship/Connected Carers and Placement with Parents

  • Children Looked After procedures apply.

Social Workers are reminded that Support Cares are in a relatively isolated position and need to be kept informed of any changes or developments within the family’s situation to avoid carers being put in difficult situations with a family, or feeling undervalued as participants to the Child in Need/Child Protection/Child Looked After Plan. Carers also value regular telephone (or other) contact to enable them to feedback on placement issues and access support.


10. Carer Support and Monitoring

  1. The Co-ordinator for the scheme will maintain regular contact with the Support Carer to offer advice and support, and help carers in identifying any future training needs;
  2. The appraisal and monitoring of Support Carers will be undertaken through the statutory supervisory visits, the carers personal development plan and the annual foster carers review. The Review will incorporate the views of the Social Workers who have had children placed with carers and the views of the young person in placement as well as parents/main carers;
  3. The views of the parents and children will also be obtained through the review consultation process and the forms used for this will be sent to the Co-ordinator by the Social Worker.


Appendix 1: Flowchart on 'How to use Planned Short Breaks - A Guide for Social Workers'

Click here to view Appendix 1: Flowchart on 'How to use Planned Short Breaks - A Guide for Social Workers'


Appendix 2: Deciding which Provision is most Appropriate for the Child

Not applicable to children who are 'looked after' at point of referral.

Before making a decision about whether to provide accommodation under section 17(6) or section 20(4) of the 1989 Act there should be a careful assessment of the child’s and family’s needs that addresses the following considerations:

  • Particular vulnerabilities of the child;
  • Parenting capacity of the parents – main carer – within their family and environmental context;
  • The length of time away from home and the frequency of such stays – the less time the child spends away from home the more likely it is to be appropriate to provide accommodation under section 17(6);
  • Whether Support Care are to be provided in more than one place – where the child spends Support Care in different settings – it is more likely to be appropriate to accommodate under section 20(4);
  • Potential impact on the child’s place in the family and on primary attachments;
  • Observation of the child during or immediately after the break by a person familiar with the mood and behaviour of the child;
  • Views of the child and views of the parents – some children and parents may be reassured, and in favour of, the status of a Child Looked After, whilst others may resent the implications and associations of the looked after status;
  • Extent of contact between the Support Carer and family and between the child and family during the placement;
  • Distance from home;
  • The need for an independent reviewing officer (IRO) to monitor the child’s case and to chair reviews.

It is the responsibility of Team Manager to decide under which section of the Children Act 1989 the provision of Support Care is provided. It is the responsibility of the S/W to monitor placement days accessed in one calendar year and determine a change in legal status if required.


Appendix 3: Support Care Review Forms

Mosaic – referral process to the Support Care Scheme

Child’s personal detail screen

New Episode

Short breaks/Support Care referral

Click create

Pick option Support Care referral NOT SHORT BREAKS

Please ensure that when completing the document you press ‘add’ at each stage

Please include telephone number for family as this does not pre-populate

Please include your area office details as this does not pre-populate

Please ensure you include GP details

Once complete choose save and close to close form

Click on NEXT

Choose task- Service Delivery Manager to confirm decision

Service Delivery Manager to Choose task – ‘inform appropriate short breaks/Support Care team’ and choose Support Care team NOT SHORT BREAKS

Choose save and close to close the episode.

End