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4.9.5 Former Looked After Children and Young People in Custody


This chapter is based on statutory guidance for local authorities on young people who lose their looked-after status when remanded or sentenced to custody. See, Children Act 1989: former looked-after children in custody.


Looked After Children and Young People In Contact With Youth Justice Services Procedure

Remands to Local Authority Accommodation or to Youth Detention Accommodation Procedure


In April 2019, this procedure was updated in relation to requesting transfers for young people in custody.


  1. Introduction
  2. 'Relevant' Young People in Custody
  3. Young People in Custody who are not 'Relevant'
  4. Monitoring Visits and Support

1. Introduction

Some young people may cease to be Looked After when they are convicted and receive a custodial sentence (see Changes to Care Status as a Result of Criminal Justice Decisions, Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations - Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Case Review).

This may be because, once sentenced to custody, they are no longer voluntarily Accommodated (s20, Children Act 1989), or because they became Looked After solely by virtue of being remanded to local authority accommodation or Youth Detention Accommodation.

Local authorities still have responsibilities towards these young people, however, and these responsibilities will differ depending on whether or not the young person is 'Relevant' and entitled to support as a care leaver.

Where a YOS worker becomes aware that a young person who is, or was, a looked after child, is in custody, they should immediately notify the child's social worker or Personal Adviser.

2. 'Relevant' Young People in Custody

If the young person is a 'relevant child' and entitled to support and services as a care leaver, this status remains unchanged while they are serving a custodial sentence, and the local authority that looked after the young person retains responsibility for providing support during his/her time in custody and on release.

Some young people, including young people who become looked after as a result of being remanded, will become 'relevant children' if they are in custody on their 16th birthday. This includes young people who have spent at least 13 weeks looked after since the age of 14 and may include those remanded to local authority accommodation immediately prior to sentence. A Care Order would remain in force, such that a young person would remain an 'eligible' child whilst in custody.

The authority must keep in touch with relevant young people in custody throughout their sentence, allocate a Personal Adviser and work with the young person to prepare a Pathway Plan. This should cover arrangements for the support that they will be provided with on release, including arranging for their accommodation and maintenance if they will be under 18. The young person's social worker should ensure that the relevant YOS case manager is made aware of their status as Relevant. For some young people, their social worker will also fulfil the role of Personal Adviser.

For further information, see Leaving Care and Transition Procedure.

3. Young People in Custody who are not 'Relevant'

Local authorities also have a duty to young people who, upon being sentenced, cease to be Looked After, but who are not Relevant and so not entitled to support as care leavers. This may be because they were, prior to detention, Accommodated (s20, Children Act 1989) and will leave custody before their 16th birthday, or they are aged 16 or 17 but have been Looked After for less than 13 weeks since the age of 14 (perhaps because they only became looked after when remanded into local authority accommodation immediately prior to sentence).

In this situation, the allocated social worker retains case responsibility and must visit the young person to assess their needs.

The social worker must determine what, if any, advice, support and assistance is needed by the young person, including where necessary, arranging for their accommodation on release, which might involve planning for them to be Looked After again.

There may be other ongoing duties towards this group of young people. Where they are aged 16 or 17, they may be entitled to advice and assistance as Qualifying young people under section 24(1B) of the Children Act 1989. All young people who may be in need are entitled to an assessment under Section 17 of the 1989 Act.

Notification and Visiting

If the social worker has not attended Court for the Sentencing Hearing, the responsible YOS should notify them of details of the young person's sentence, and where they have been detained.

Visits will normally be undertaken by the social worker or Personal Adviser who was allocated to the young person's case and was responsible for maintaining the Care Plan /Pathway Plan or Detention Placement Plan before they were sentenced. The role must not be fulfilled by a YOS worker.

Note: The term 'social worker' is used in this document to outline the role that might also be fulfilled by the PA or others.

The social worker should inform the young person's Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) of their sentence and confirm their current looked after status.

Within five working days of the young person being sentenced, the social worker should provide information to the custodial establishment by contacting the offender supervisor based in the YOI, or equivalent post in the Secure Training Centre or Secure Children's Home, to inform them of:

  • The young person's previous care status;
  • Persons with Parental Responsibility for the young person;
  • The name and contact details of the social worker and team manager;
  • Any immediate information necessary to ensure the young person's safety;
  • Relevant information about the young person's family/carers and contact arrangements;
  • Relevant information about the young person's needs that will enhance the establishment's ability to care for the young person, especially in responding to the young person's health and education needs;
  • The date when the social worker will be visiting the young person.
They should seek information from the secure establishment about how the young person has settled in and agree arrangements to visit.

Timing of visits

The social worker must visit the young person within 5 working days of their sentence. This may be coordinated with arrangements for the initial planning meeting (see timetable in Appendix A of the statutory guidance (Local Authority Responsibilities towards Former Looked After Children in Custody).

On each visit, the social worker must speak to the young person in private unless the young person, being of sufficient age and understanding to do so, refuses; or the social worker is unable to do so, or considers it inappropriate to do so, having regard to the young person's age and understanding.

The social worker must also visit when reasonably requested to do so by the young person; a member of staff of the establishment where the young person is detained; the young person's parent(s) or person with Parental Responsibility; or the relevant YOS case manager.

Assessment and planning process

The purpose of the initial visit is to complete an assessment of the young person's needs whilst in custody and on release. This will take into account previous assessments that have informed the young person's Care Plan or Detention Placement Plan and any new information from the assessments undertaken by the YOS or custodial establishment. The assessment should be based on the format for Assessments provided in Working Together to Safeguard Children.

The assessment should consider the following issues:

  • Any risk of self-harm;
  • The young person's emotional state;
  • Whether the young person needs money, clothes, books, other practical support, etc.;
  • Ensuring that education staff are aware of, and able to meet, the young person's educational needs, including any special needs or abilities;
  • Ensuring that the health Team and wing staff are aware of, and able to meet, the young person's health needs;
  • Whether staff are aware of, and able to meet, the young person's religious and cultural needs;
  • Whether the young is person worried about anything and understands how they can access advocacy and other services to express any concerns and make their views known;
  • Whether the young person's parents are able to fulfil their Parental Responsibility to the young person whilst in custody;
  • Whether there has been any change in the parents' situation/capacity to enable them to resume care of the young person upon release in a way that will meet the young person's needs, or whether additional support might enable them to do so;
  • If it is not appropriate for the young person to return home or to become Looked After again, the alternative arrangements planned.

The young person's views, wishes and feelings on these matters must be sought. The assessment must also take into account the views of their parents (or any other person with Parental Responsibility) and key staff in the custodial establishment (including pastoral care, education and health staff). The views of the young person's previous carers and the IRO should also be sought. If the social worker is not the social worker who was previously allocated to the young person's case, their views should also be sought.

The assessment should be completed within 20 working days of the young person entering custody and should conclude with an analysis that sets out clearly the social worker's recommendations about the advice, assistance and support that the young person will need whilst in custody and on release.

The following information must be included in the assessment:

  • Whether the young person's welfare is being adequately safeguarded and promoted (taking account of the young person's wishes and feelings);
  • Whether further visits are required;
  • Who will keep in touch with the young person whilst they are detained. Whether assistance is required with contact arrangements;
  • Whether it might be in the young person's best interests to become Looked After again by the local authority on release;
  • Whether the young person and their family might require other services provided by Cambridgeshire or any other local authority.

The recommendations should include proposals as to the future involvement of the local authority, for example whether visits should be maintained whilst the young person remains in custody and on release. If parents are unavailable or otherwise unable to exercise their Parental Responsibility by providing the young person with support whilst in custody, the young person will require ongoing visits, support and practical help from the local authority whilst in custody as a Child in Need.

Options for the young person on release will be as follows:

  • Their parents or wider family will be able to resume care of them upon release from custody, with support from the local authority under section 17 of the Children Act 1989 and with continuing supervision from the YOS;
  • Their parents or wider family will be able to resume care of them on release from custody, solely with supervision from the YOS for as long as any order continues;
  • They will need to become Looked After again on release;
  • They will not be able to return home to parents but it will be inappropriate for them to become Looked After again because of their age or particular circumstances, in which case the YOS and local authority will need to meet with housing and other relevant services well before the planned release date to determine arrangements to provide them with suitable accommodation and support in the community.

A copy of the report must be given to:

  • The young person;
  • Their parents, or those with Parental Responsibility, unless this would not be in the young person's interests;
  • The governor/director/registered manager of the establishment where the young person is detained;
  • The relevant YOS case manager;
  • The local authority where the young person is being detained (if different from the authority that formerly looked after the young person); and
  • Any other person the responsible authority considers should receive a copy of the report.


The social worker's assessment must initially be sent to the Team Manager who may consult with YOS on the proposed approach.

Where there is a proposal that the young person would need to become looked after upon release, this must first be discussed/agreed with them and their parents. The social worker will take an application to the Threshold and Resources Panel (TARP) at this stage and agreement sought for accommodation (s20). Seeking agreement as early as possible will ensure that robust plans can be in place ready for a young person's release.

Details of the plan confirming how the authority will contribute to the young person's support in future should be sent to:

  • The young person, their parents and others with Parental Responsibility;
  • The young person's case manager in the YOS;
  • The Governor or manager of the custodial establishment;
  • Any other agencies that would be responsible for implementing the recommendations relating to the young person, such as a provider of supported housing;
  • Other relevant parties, with the young person's consent.

Where the local authority has decided that it will not be providing any continuing support, the social worker must inform the young person, their parents and others with parental responsibility, the case manager in the YOS and the Governor or manager of the custodial establishment.

Where it has been agreed that the young person will need ongoing support from the local authority, either whilst they are in custody or following release, or that the young person will need to become Looked After again, arrangements must be made by the social worker to maintain contact with the young person whilst they remain in custody.

4. Monitoring Visits and Support

4.1 General

Whilst the young person remains in custody, they should be visited in the same way as any other Looked After young person with visits taking place at intervals of not more than six weeks. Additional visits should also take place if reasonably requested by the young person, the establishment or the YOS case manager or if there are particular circumstances that require a visit. For example, it will be good practice for the social worker to attend the young person's sentence planning meetings. Where the child is serving their sentence in a Secure Children's Home (SCH) or Secure Training Centre (STC), a visit should also take place if there has been a notification by the Ofsted Chief Inspector of the underperformance of a placement provider or, where the child is placed in a YOI, concerns about the welfare or safety of children are raised by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Prisons.

When released, visits would continue at a minimum frequency of six-weekly if the young person is still Looked After; eight-weekly if they are classed as 'Relevant' or 'Former Relevant'.

4.2 Young people serving long sentences

Where a young person is serving a long sentence, this may involve Children's Services negotiating with the YOS and Probation Provider about the young person's release plan in adulthood. These services should be advised about whether in future the young person will be eligible for leaving care services. The Youth Custody Service (YCS) Placement Team has additional responsibility for planning for young people on long sentences and the local authority should inform them of their involvement and intentions.

If young people reach the age of 18 whilst in custody, they may be moved to an adult prison. Responsibility for their supervision will then transfer from the YOS to the relevant Probation provider.

4.3 When there are concerns about safety or welfare

Where there are concerns that the young person is not being safeguarded or their welfare promoted (for example, relating to the quality of care the young person is receiving, the suitability of the type of placement or concerns around bullying, self harm, violence or intimidation), in the first instance it may be possible to resolve the concerns by discussion/agreement with the establishment itself.

Depending upon the nature of the concern, particularly if it relates to the actions (or inaction) of a member of staff, it may be appropriate to discuss this first with the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO) for the area in which the placement is located. The social worker should immediately discuss this with their manager and agree a course of action.

Where issues cannot be resolved at establishment level, and if the responsible authority is of the view that the young person needs to be moved to another establishment, it may be appropriate to request a transfer.

4.4 How to Request a Transfer or Placement Review

The Youth Custody Service (YCS) carries out placement reviews to decide whether a transfer is required for a young person.

YOTs can ask for a transfer if they are responsible for a young person and:

  • Their circumstances change;
  • There is a risk or issue with their current placement.

To request a transfer, the YOS should follow the Placement Review Guidance and then:

Other people can ask for a transfer but only the YOS and/or staff at the establishment where the young person is placed should contact the YCS Placement Team.

The YCS Placement Team is responsible for making the final decision in the best interests of the young person after considering all of the information available and opinions stated.

4.5 Planning for release

The local authority must be involved in plans for release where the plan is for the young person to be Looked After again or for them to be provided with support in the community from Children's Services, and also if the young person is being considered for early release or home curfew detention. Discussions/planning should consider the young person's ability to cope with any additional supervision requirements, such as electronic monitoring or an Intensive Supervision and Surveillance Programme (ISSP); or any MAPPA arrangements that might be set on release.

Wherever possible, arrangements should be made for young people to visit prospective placements and employment or educational facilities and to meet relevant practitioners before their release. There are facilities for a young person to be granted Release on Temporary Licence (ROTL) or Mobility to allow outside visits to take place, subject to relevant agreements.

As soon as possible and, ideally, no later than 14 days before release, the young person must know:
  • Who is collecting them;
  • Where they will be living;
  • The reporting arrangements/requirements;
  • Sources of support - including out of hours;
  • The arrangements for education or employment;
  • Arrangements for meeting continuing health needs;
  • How and when they will receive financial support;
  • When they will first be seeing their social worker;
  • The roles and responsibilities of the respective practitioners.

It is essential that there is clarity about who is responsible for each element of the young person's plan and the arrangements for communication and enforcement. The local authority should record this plan and make copies available to the young person, the supervising YOS officer, IRO, the establishment, other agencies that will be involved with supporting the young person after release and the young person's family, if appropriate.

4.6 Support in the community

Sentenced young people returning to the community will continue to be supervised by the YOS. Where the local authority has agreed to support the young person on release, the social worker will work alongside the YOS case manager during the period of supervision. The function of the social worker/ Personal Adviser is to plan for the young person's care or for their support in the community and is different to, and more wide-ranging than, that of the YOS case manager.

It is good practice to have some joint appointments with the young person so that information is shared. The YOS should consult the local authority over enforcement issues, particularly if there is a possibility of the young person being returned to custody for breach of the conditions of their Notice of Supervision/Licence. Where the young person is having difficulty in complying with their conditions, the social worker/PA should work with the YOS to put additional support in place. The social worker/PA and supervising YOS officer should keep each other informed of significant events, including any changes in service delivery or plans.

Where the young person becomes Looked After, their Care Plan must be reinstated and the Placement Plan agreed with their placement provider should include information about the support that the placement will provide to minimise the likelihood of the young person committing further offences in future.