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3.1.5 Care Plans Guidance


  1. Who Must Have a Care Plan
  2. Who is Responsible for the Plan
  3. Timescales for Completion
  4. Approval of the Plan
  5. Consultation
  6. Purpose of the Care Plan and Permanence Planning
  7. Review
  8. Contents
  9. The Relationship Between the Care Plan and the Other Plans
  10. Circulation

1. Who Must Have a Care Plan

All Children Looked After must have a written Care Plan or Pathway Plan.

2. Who is Responsible for the Plan

The Care Plan must be completed and updated by the child's social worker.

3. 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 prepared in advance or within 10 working days of start of the child's first placement. See Decision to Look After and Care Planning Procedure.

If there are exceptional reasons that prevent the Care Plan from being drawn up prior to the child's placement, the key objectives of the child's admission to care and details of the proposed placement must still be identified and recorded.

The Care Plan can be updated by the social worker, with the team manager's approval, at any time.

The Care Plan is then subject to scrutiny at each Looked After Review and should be updated after each review unless there are no changes.

4. Approval of the Plan

A final Care Plan taken before the court in Care Proceedings must be endorsed and signed by the Designated Manager (Care Plans).

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

5. Consultation

The 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 Clinical Commissioning Group;
  7. The Youth Offending Service, if the child is known to them;
  8. Any other agency involved with the child's care.

6. Purpose of the Care Plan and Permanence Planning

The purpose of the Care Plan is to safeguard and promote the interests of the child, prevent drift and focus work on achieving permanence for the child.

Care Plans are detailed and 'live' documents which describe the overall aims and desired outcomes for the individual child, based on a thorough assessment of their needs. The core feature of the child care planning process is for it to be child centred and with the aim of achieving long term permanence for the child.

Every child should have a plan for permanence by the time of the second review. Achieving permanence for the child is a key consideration from the day the child becomes Looked After. The Permanence Plan is the long term plan for the child's upbringing to which everyone is working, including the team around the child, the child themselves and where appropriate, the family.

The Care Plan must be clear about the desired outcomes for the child and what actions and outcomes can be expected from each agency. It must describe the services and interventions that are required to meet both the child's day-to-day and longer term needs. In particular, this must include the type of placement required to meet the child's individual development needs, and clear detailed proposals for maintaining contact between the child and their family and friends. The plan should identify how best to meet the specific needs of individual children, in particular children with disabilities and those children with particular needs in relation to identity - e.g. gender identity, culture, faith, language and sexuality.

'Permanence is the framework of emotional permanence (attachment), physical permanence (stability) and legal permanence (the carer has parental responsibility for the child) which gives a child a sense of security, continuity, commitment and identity. The objective of planning for permanence is therefore to ensure that children have a secure, stable and loving family to support them through childhood and beyond'. (The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Case Review).

There are a range of options for permanence and the planning process should identify which option is most likely to meet the needs of the individual child and take account of their wishes and feelings. The Care Plan must set out the desired outcomes for the child and the arrangements for implementing the plan, including multi-agency contributions.

Options for permanence include:

  • Successful return to the child's birth parents, where it has been possible to address the factors in family life which led to the child becoming looked after;
  • Kinship care that can be supported by Child Arrangements Order, special guardianship order or adoption;
  • Long term foster care where attachments have been formed and it has been agreed through the care planning and review process that this option should continue into adulthood;
  • Where children are unable to return to their birth or wider family, adoption offers a lifelong and legally permanent new family. Twin track, parallel or concurrent planning can secure permanence at an early stage for the child;
  • For more information on permanence options please see Permanence Planning Policy, Permanence Options and the Permanence Options Grid.
It is also important to think about the needs and preferences of older children and young people in relation to achieving permanence in their lives. They may not wish to engage with a new family. The care planning process must identify adults such as wider family members and friends or other connected persons who can provide emotional support and long term trusting relationships which will provide continuing support, especially during periods of transition.

7. Review

This section should be read in conjunction with Looked After Reviews Procedures.

The Care Plan must be regularly reviewed at Looked After Reviews. However, it is the responsibility of the social worker and their team manager to make decisions and amendments in relation to the Care Plan.

By the time of the second Looked After Review, the Care Plan must contain a plan for achieving permanence for the child within a timescale that is realistic, achievable and meets the child's needs. If it is considered that the chosen avenue to permanence is not viable, the Independent Reviewing Officer should ensure that a Permanency Planning Meeting or equivalent is convened as a matter of urgency to consider the most appropriate permanent alternative.

All subsequent Reviews should review the progress and validity of the Permanence Plan.

8. Contents

There is a template for the Care Plan, which covers the following areas.

  1. The overall aims and timescales for achieving permanence (to be included by the second Looked After Review at the latest):
    1. The objectives of the plan, phrased in terms of how permanence will be achieved for the child;
    2. How these objectives will be met including the order sought and why (Before a court grants a care order it must be satisfied that a suitable care plan has been drawn up);
    3. Time-scales for achieving the plan.
  2. The child's needs and wishes.

    The child's identified needs (including those arising from race, culture, religion or language, special education, health or disability):
    1. The extent to which the wishes and feelings of the child have been obtained and acted upon;
    2. Reasons for supporting the child's wishes or explanations of why the child's wishes and views have not been given absolute precedence;
    3. Summary of how the child's needs might be met;
    4. Arrangements for and purpose of contact in meeting the child's needs (e.g. parent, step parent, other family member, former carers, friends, siblings (including those in care who may have a separate placement);
    5. Any proposals to restrict or terminate contact.
  3. Views of others.

    The extent to which the wishes and feelings of the parents and others with sufficient interest in the child (including representatives of other agencies, current carers and former carers) have been obtained and acted on:
    1. The reasons for supporting them or explanations of why their wishes and views have not been given precedence.
  4. Placement details and timetable.

    Proposed placement:
    1. Time that is likely to elapse before the proposed placement is made;
    2. Likely duration of the placement;
    3. Arrangements for health care including consent to examination and treatment;
    4. Arrangements for education (including any pre-school day care/activity);
    5. Arrangements for reunification/rehabilitation;
    6. Other services to be provided to the child;
    7. Other services to be provided to the parents and other family members;
    8. Details of proposed support services in the placement for the carers;
    9. Specific details of the parent's role in day to day arrangements.
  5. Management and support by local authority.

    Who is to be responsible for implementing the plan:
    1. Who is responsible for implementing specific tasks within the plan;
    2. Date of last and next Looked After Review;
    3. Contingency Plan if the placement breaks down or if preferred placement is not available;
    4. Arrangements for input by the child, parent and others in the on-going decision-making process;
    5. Arrangements for notifying the responsible local authority of disagreements about the implementation of the Care Plan or for making representations/complaints.

9. The Relationship Between the Care Plan and the Other Plans

9.1 Individual Health Plan and Personal Education Plan (PEP)

The child's Care Plan provides the overarching vehicle for bringing together information from the assessment across the seven dimensions of the child's developmental need and from any other assessments of the child and their family. The health and education dimensions of the Care Plan are populated by the Individual Health Plan (see Health Needs Assessments and Individual Health Plans Procedure) and the Personal Education Plan (PEP) ( see also, Education of Looked After and Previously Looked After Children Procedure).

9.2 Placement Plan

When a suitable placement has been identified for the child the Placement Plan will set out in detail how the placement is intended to contribute to meeting the child's needs as set out in the care plan. The Placement Plan is concerned both with what may need to happen in the placement to achieve the Permanence Plan.

9.3 Pathway Plan

At the point at which a young person becomes an eligible child and it is envisaged that they will be leaving care, the Pathway Plan must be prepared which must include the child's Care Plan. This is in order to capture the actions that will be necessary from the responsible authority, the young person's carer, young person, parent and other identified parties in order for the young person to make a successful transition from care. (See Leaving Care Procedure)

9.4 Child Protection Plan

In most cases where a child who is the subject of a Child Protection Plan becomes looked after it will no longer be necessary to maintain the child protection plan. However, there are a few cases where safeguarding issues will remain and a Child Looked After will also have a child protection plan. For example:

  • Where a local authority obtains an interim care order in family proceedings but the child who is the subject of a child protection plan remains at home, pending the outcome of a final hearing;
  • Where a child or young person's behaviour is likely to result in significant harm to themselves or others.
Where a Child Looked After remains the subject of a child protection plan it is expected that there will be a single planning and reviewing process led by the Independent Reviewing Officer. In some circumstances, responsibility for chairing maybe shared with the child protection conference chair.

10. Circulation

The Care Plan must be circulated to the following people:

  • The child - care must be taken to ensure the child understands it. If necessary, the child should be given additional material, suitable to their needs and abilities, which can better explain the Care Plan;
  • The parent(s) - who may also require help to understand the plan;
  • 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 Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO).

The child’s Care Plan or Pathway Plan will be distributed after the Looked After Review, along with the review documents. The social worker should inform the IRO of any reason why the Care Plan / Pathway Plan should not be distributed alongside the review records.