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4.2.1 Decision to Look After and Care Planning

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This procedure applies to all decisions to Look After children.

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 Looked After Child. The care planning requirements are 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

Care and Supervision Proceedings and the Public Law Outline Procedure

Quick Guide for when a Child becomes Looked After Child

AMENDMENT

In April 2019, additional information was added in to Section 1.3, Section 20 Accommodation in line with recent case law.


Contents

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


1. Decision to Look After Child

1.1 The Decision

A child may not come into care in an emergency without the express permission of the Assistant Director or Service Director, or, for a planned admission, through an application to the Threshold and Resources Panel (TARP). The latter requires initial consideration at the local 'pre-TARP' meeting.

Outside office hours, the Emergency Duty Team will contact the on-call Head of Service for discussion/ authorisation of any decision needed to Look After a child.

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

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 'care' and to the purpose and nature of the proposed placement;
  • Whether admission should be through a Court Order or undertaken with parental consent using s20, Children Act 1989. It is important to consider:
  • Appropriate consultation has taken place;
  • However, where the circumstances constitute an emergency, opportunities for consultation may be limited, for example where a parent/carer cannot be contacted.

Before a decision is made to look after a child, consideration must be given to other extended family members or friends who might be prepared to care for the child without the need for them 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. If the local authority has 'placed' the child, they are likely to 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. In these circumstances, if the child is regarded as 'looked after' and placed with a relative or friend, the Placement with Connected Persons ('Regulation 24') Procedure should be followed.

Alternatively, if not looked after, the arrangement might come within the definition of being Privately Fostered (see Private Fostering Procedure).

N.B. Any arrangements whereby the child is not regarded as Looked After 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, however, a care placements is required, the child's social worker, with their Team Manager, must consider:

  • The child's immediate placement needs - including the child's views, those of their parents (and any others with parental responsibility) and any other person whose views might be relevant - and whether a placement with a Connected Person may be possible;
  • The timescales for the child's placement;
  • A date for the child to return home or when the decision will be reviewed;
  • The work to be included in the Care Plan to enable the necessary change for the child to return home wherever possible;
  • Obtaining parental consent to look after the child and consent to medical care;
  • Maintaining, wherever possible, current educational arrangements and making transport arrangements, etc.
  • The contact arrangements with birth parents, siblings, extended family and friends.

Where it is considered that Care Proceedings should be initiated to secure the child's placement, see the Care and Supervision Proceedings and the Public Law Outline Procedure.

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 that 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 (for example, a pattern of. short term breaks - see Short Breaks Procedure and where parents are unable to care for children for a short period.

In Accommodating a child under section 20, it must always be born in mind that the local authority does not have parental responsibility; and only the parents or any others with parental responsibility can make decisions for the child. The parent/carer with Parental Responsibility can remove the child from Accommodation at any time (Section 20(8)) and any such request must be responded to promptly by the local authority, or it must otherwise take action through the court. A number of court cases have confirmed that a local authority failing to permit a parent to remove a child in circumstances within section 20(8) acts unlawfully (see Herefordshire Council v AB [2018] EWFC 10 rtf – see also Ceasing to Look After a Child Procedure).

The parents/carers should be involved as much as possible in decision making for the child and promptly advised of any changes in the child's circumstances, or other significant event affecting them.

It is important to ensure that the parents have full information about their continuing responsibilities as well as those of the local authority and that this is detailed in the Care Plan and a Placement Plan.

1.3.1 Obtaining Parental Consent

A Court of Appeal judgement (L B Hackney v Williams & Anor [2017] EWCA Civ 26) confirmed that 'Consent' under any of the Section 20 provisions was not a statutory requirement, as such. It stated that the local authority has a duty to provide accommodation for children, (subject to a parent being able to legally object and / or remove) where the person who had been caring for them was 'prevented (whether or not permanently and for whatever reason) from providing them with suitable accommodation or care'.

This, therefore, supports the local authority in its duties towards children on those occasions where 'parental consent' cannot, for a variety of reasons, be obtained at the time of a child's accommodation or parents cannot effect care of the child themselves.

Obtaining parental consent is a matter of good practice and remains an essential part of Accommodating a child under s20. 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 give 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 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.

      The High Court in Re S (Child as parent: Adoption: Consent) [2017] EWHC 2729 (Fam) set out the relevant information that a parent would need to be able to understand, retain and weigh up in order to have competency to consent to the accommodation of a child:
      1. That the child will be staying with someone chosen by the local authority, probably a foster carer;
      2. That the parent can change their mind about the arrangements, and request the child back from accommodation at any time;
      3. That the parent will be able to see the child.
  • 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:
    • That the parent fully understands the consequences of giving such consent;
    • That they fully appreciate the range of choice available and the consequences of refusal as well as giving consent;
    • The parent is 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 them to be removed at this time?
    • Would it be fairer in this case for the matter to be the subject of a court hearing 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.

In all situations, the social worker should encourage parents to obtain independent legal advice though unless a parent is in Proceedings, or has already had a Letter Before Proceedings, they may be unable to qualify for Legal Aid.

In a noted 2012 court case 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'.

More recently, the High Court in Re S (Child as parent: Adoption: Consent) made clear that parental capacity to consent to a child being accommodated under s.20, does not equate to their capacity to consent to an adoption order in respect of the child - the capacity to consent is decision-specific.

1.3.2 Recording Parental Consent

In Re N (a 2015 court case) the President of the Family Division, Sir James Munby, set 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

High Court Judgements have considered that in circumstances where the threshold criteria (for Care/ Supervision Orders) under Section 31 Children Act 1989 are met, (i.e. where a child is at risk of significant harm, or the likelihood of significant harm), then care proceedings should be issued without delay.

Nevertheless, 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 any unnecessary delay in the issuing of proceedings and cases must not be allowed to drift (including those cases where children are placed with relatives). Proceedings still need to be issued in a timely fashion.

Even where a parent/carer's legal adviser 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 LGSS and include a clear (written) agreement and Care Plan with the outcome considered at a Looked After Children's Review to which the parents are 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 complete form SOC 408 with details of the new arrangement. They will also complete a Placement Information Record (PIR) and draw up a draft Care Plan (see Section 2, 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. It is vital that all LAC paperwork requiring parental consent is completed at the earliest opportunity prior to the placement.

If a foster or residential placement is required, including the requirement to hold a Placement Planning Meeting, see the Placement in Foster Care Procedure or the Placement 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. See Placement with Connected Persons ('Regulation 24') Procedure.

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

For placements outside the local authority area, see Out of Area Placements 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. Siblings should normally only be separated where a sibling assessment has determined this would be in their best interests. There are, however, sometimes situations where siblings are placed apart due to a lack of suitable placements. In such circumstances, there would be an expectation that carers would facilitate a high level of sibling contact.


2. The Care Plan

See also Remands to Local Authority Accommodation or to Youth Detention Accommodation Procedure, Care Planning.

2.1 The Care Plan - Contents

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 include:

  • The child's Placement Plan (setting out why the placement was chosen and how the placement will contribute to meeting the child's needs);
  • The child's Permanence Plan (setting out the long term plans for the child's upbringing including timescales);
  • The Pathway Plan (where appropriate, for young people leaving care);
  • The child's Health Action Plan;
  • The child's Personal Education Plan;
  • The contingency plan;
  • The date of the child's first Looked After Review (within 20 working days);
  • The name of the Independent Reviewing Officer.

2.1.1 The Care Plan Where the Matter is Before the Court

In addition to the above, a Care Plan should reflect that the court is required under s. 8 Children and Social Work Act 2017 which amends section 31(3B) Children Act 1989 to consider the 'permanence provisions' of the Care Plan for the child:

  1. The provisions setting out the long-term plan for the upbringing of the child - to live with a parent/family member/family friend; adoption; or other long-term care, and,
  2. The plan's provisions in relation to any of the following:
    1. The impact on the child concerned of any harm that he or she suffered or was likely to suffer;
    2. The current and future needs of the child (including needs arising out of that impact);
    3. The way in which the long-term plan for the upbringing of the child would meet those current and future needs.

2.2 The Care Plan - Process

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

The care plan needs to be completed by social worker in advance of the child becoming looked after or if an emergency situation within 10 working days. The care plan is drawn up in consultation with:

  1. The child;
  2. The child's parents and those with Parental Responsibility;
  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 e.g. CAMH.

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 the main plan. This should say what the child/young person's needs are, how they will be met and what the plan is. This brings together other plans, including the Health Assessment and Personal Education Plan, to make sure they work together. It should say who the child/young person can expect to help to keep them safe and well and how they will be supported to do well, both now and in the future.

One of the key functions of the Care Plan is to ensure that each child has a Permanence Plan by the time of the second Looked After Review. The Care Plan is subject to scrutiny at each Looked After Review - see Looked After Review Procedure.

The care plan must include:

Overall Plan

  • Reason for being looked after (history);
  • Family and social relationships;
  • What alternative arrangements were looked at so could remain with family - identify interventions and resources;
  • Aim of plan long term/short term. Give specific timescales;
  • Legal status/issues what needs to change to achieve the plan;
  • Contingency plan;
  • Who has contributed to this plan - include names and role and include the IRO;
  • Who has Parental Responsibility;
  • If second LAC review, discuss, agree permanency plan (first review may make permanency plan);
  • Placement Plan - is child in permanent placement, if not what would this be and the timescales when should be achieved;
  • Evidence outcomes that need to be achieved.

Issues relating to the child:

  • Health - health assessment date, date of dental appointments and opticians etc. specific actions that need to be included;
  • Emotional and behavioural development;
  • Education, school, date of PEP and any specific action that need to be included so child achieves full potential;
  • Transport for school, friends and activities;
  • Any specific needs;
  • Friendships that are important to child/young person;
  • How are ethnic/religious needs being met;
  • Identify - life story work;
  • Social presentation;
  • Self care skills;
  • Evidence outcomes that need to be achieved.

Contact:

  • Family and social relationships;
  • Arrangements for promoting and maintaining contact with parents or anyone else with PR;
  • Arrangements for contact with a brother and sister who is also looked after but not placed with the child, Who with, when and frequency. Contact plan to be drawn up;
  • Any court orders around contact with parents, siblings, others with PR - under Section 8 or Section 34;
  • Evidence who is important from the child's perspective that they see and what level of frequency include different means of contacts, i.e. face to face, phone calls, texts, media sites etc.
  • Evidence outcomes that need to be achieved.

Child and others views

Child's view to include the following as age appropriate:

  • Wishes, what you want to do, want to happen or want someone to do for you;
  • Feelings, just being happy, sad, ok, worried or frightened about something - even if you don't know why and even if you don't understand what is happening;
  • Involved in the decisions that affect your life and future.

Children can express views via speaking, in writing or print, in art, in email:

  • Does child want an advocate to express wishes and feelings;
  • Others views - parents, those with PR, connected people, foster carers, residential workers and professionals involved with the child agree with care plan;
  • Agreement and disagreement;
  • Evidence outcomes that need to be achieved.

Actions

  • Actions needed to deliver the Care Plan, including by whom and when to ensure progress towards the intended outcomes outlined in the plan.


3. Timescales for Completion

A Care Plan must be prepared in advance of a child's first placement, or, if an emergency situation, within 10 working days. It will be the focus of the first Looked after Review held within 20 days of admission.


4. Approval of the Care Plan

Any final Care Plan taken before the Court within Care Proceedings must be endorsed and signed by the responsible Head of Service.

All other Care Plans must be endorsed and signed by the Team Manager.


5. Circulation of Care Plan

Unless there are issues of confidentiality of placements and/or safeguarding, 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 foster care provider, where the child is in foster care;
  • The Independent Reviewing Officer.


6. Other Required Plans, Documentation and Actions

6.1 Placement Plan (recorded on the Placement Information Record on ICS)

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 or, if not reasonably practicable, within 5 working days of the start of the placement.

The information within the Placement Plan will include:

  1. How on a day-to-day basis the child will be cared for and the child's welfare will be safeguarded and promoted by the appropriate person;
  2. Any arrangements for contact between the child and parents/anyone with Parental Responsibility/any other connected person, including, if appropriate, reasons why contact is not reasonably practicable or not consistent with the child's welfare; details of any Contact Order (under Section 8 or 34 of the Children Act 1989); the arrangements for notifying any changes in contact arrangements;
  3. Arrangements for the child's health (physical, emotional and mental) and dental care, including the name and address of registered medical and dental practitioners; arrangements for giving/withholding consent to medical/dental examination/treatment;
  4. Arrangements for the child's education and training, including the name and address of the child's school/other educational institution/provider and designated teacher; the Local Authority maintaining any Education, Health and Care Plans for 0 - 25 years;
  5. The arrangements for and frequency of visits by the child's social worker; and for advice, support and assistance between visits;
  6. If an Independent Visitor is appointed, the arrangements for them to visit the child;
  7. The circumstances in which the placement may be terminated;
  8. The name and contact details of the Independent Reviewing Officer, the Independent Visitor if one is appointed and the social worker/Personal Adviser who will be visiting the child.

Copies of the Placement Information Record must be provided to the child (if of sufficient age and understanding), the parents and the residential staff/carers before, or at the time, the child is placed. A copy should also be given to the fostering service provider.

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 Information Record 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.

6.2 Chronology

Whenever a new placement is made or the child moves placement, the child's Chronology should be updated.

6.3 Arrangement of first Looked After Review

The child's social worker must immediately complete SOC 408 through which the Partnerships and Quality Assurance service (PQA) are notified of the placement and an Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) can be allocated(within 5 working days wherever possible) and the first Looked After Review can be arranged. See the Looked After Review Procedure for the procedures relating to reviews, including the responsibility for invitations to reviews.

6.4 Health Care

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

The social worker should contact the Designated Nurse for LAC to arrange a Health Assessment, if possible before the placement or alternatively always before the first Looked After Review (i.e. within 20 working days of the placement) so that the completion of a Health Care Plan is in time for the Review meeting. See Health Assessments and Action 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.

Parental consent is needed for medication/medicals.

6.5 Personal Education Plan (PEP)

The social worker should also liaise with the Designated Teacher at the child's school so that a Personal Education Plan (PEP) can be completed as part of the Care Plan, ideally before the child becomes looked after or within 10 working days of placement and be available in time for the first Looked After Review. See Education of Looked After and Previously Looked After Children Procedure.

6.6 Provision of information

The child's social worker must provide the child and parents with written information about the placement. If there is concern that the child or carers might be at risk should the address of the placement be known, the agreement of the team manager is required to withhold the address from parents or others.

The child and parents must also be provided with information about the complaints process and the availability of advocates.

6.7 Changes in Legal Status

Any changes in a child's legal status as a result of court proceedings or other event must immediately be recorded on the child's electronic record.

End