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5.1.2 Decision to Look After and Post Placement Arrangements

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This procedure applies to all decisions to Look After children. 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 requirement will be amended in relation to such children- see Remands to Local Authority Accommodation or to Youth Detention Accommodation Procedure.

This chapter should be read in conjunction with Family and Friends Care Policy.

Please note that the Designated Manager (Decision to Look After is the Children and Families Service Manager).

Chapter updated June 2010 - to incorporate:

The “Legal Gate Keep Record/Decision” form used to record the instances where the initiation of care proceedings is considered and Revised arrangements for seeking out-of-borough placements.

RELVEVANT CHAPTER

Practice Standards Procedure

Agreement to Accommodate a Child Procedure

AMENDMENT

This chapter was reviewed and refreshed in May 2016 to reflect the organisational structure.


Contents

  1. Decision to Look After Child 
  2. The Role of the Accommodation Panel
  3. The Care Plan 
  4. Information to be included in the Care Plan
  5. Timescales for Completion 
  6. Approval of the Care Plan 
  7. Circulation of the Care Plan 
  8. Other Required Plans, Documentation and Actions  
  9. Children Looked After in Knowsley Placed in Other Local Authority Areas
  10. Children Looked After From Other Authorities- Placed in Knowsley


1. Decision to Look After Child

1.1 The Decision

Where a Single Assessment identifies that a placement in foster care or residential care is required to meet the child’s needs, a request that a child be Looked After will be referred for a decision to the Team Manager (Decision to Look After). A child cannot become Looked After in Knowsley without the authority of the Children's Head of Service.

In an emergency, the Emergency Duty Officer can make the decision. 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. 

The circumstances will be that:

  • All attempts at intervention to maintain and support the child with his or her family have broken down; or
  • The child has been abandoned; or
  • The child would be at risk of Significant Harm by remaining with the family; or
  • The child is disabled and a series of short break placements is necessary to provide respite for his or her carers.

1.2 Considerations before a Decision to Look After is made

The decision to look after a child will only be made where the Head of Service (Decision to Look After) (or, in an emergency, the Emergency Duty Officer) is satisfied that appropriate consultation has taken place on and appropriate consideration has been given to the necessity, purpose and nature of the proposed placement or, where the circumstances constitute an emergency, opportunities for consultation are limited.

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 be Looked After. (See Family and Friends Care Policy).

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. If the child is deemed to be looked after a regulation 24 assessment for temporary approval should commence immediately. (See Placement with Connected Persons Procedure). Alternatively, the child may come within the definition of a Privately Fostered child 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, 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 social worker, with his or her Children's Team Manager or Senior Practice Lead, 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 Looked After 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 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 (see Section 1.3, Obtaining Parental Consent to Look After a Child);
  • The obtaining of parental consent to look after the child and consent to medical care;
  • The need for Care Proceedings to secure the child’s placement;
  • The contact arrangements with birth parents, siblings, extended family and friends.

Wherever possible the above should be considered within a Care Planning Meeting, chaired by the Children's Team Manager and attended by the child, parents and all relevant professionals.

The social worker and Children's Team Manager will then seek the approval of the Head of Service (Decision to Look After), who will also (subject to compliance with the Pre-Procedures Checklist of the Public Law Outline) authorise Care Proceedings where necessary. On each occasion when the initiation of Care Proceedings is considered the “Legal Gate Keep Record/Decision“ form must be completed by the Children’s Team Manager. A copy must be retained on the child’s file and circulated to those involved with courtesy copies to those indicated on the form. All decisions made should be recorded on Casenotes including the reason for reaching the decision. The Social Worker should complete the Pre-CLA request form and pass it to their manager for authorisation. Where the Team Manager concurs with the recommendation they should discuss it with the Area Children’s Services Manager and reassign the Pre-CLA request to them for a decision on whether the child should become looked after. The ACSM will discuss this with the Children’s Services Manager to seek their approval also. (Where the ACSM has not as yet been trained in using Protocol the Team Management should consult the ACSM and record this as a Case Note). If this is agreed but there is no placement available then the child should not be recorded as Looked After at this stage. Alternative forms of support should be recorded. The decision of the CSM should be recorded as a Case Note on Protocol.

In all cases other than an emergency, the Section 2, The Role of the Accommodation Panel should consider the application for the child to be Looked After.

1.3 Obtaining Parental Consent to Look After a Child

Section 20 agreements are not valid unless the parent giving consent has capacity to do so, the consent is 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 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?

1.4 Placement planning

Careful consideration must be given to matching the placement to the needs of the young person so as to ensure that it does not break down. Placement instability is associated with disrupted school attendance, educational underachievement and involvement in anti-social and criminal behaviour. If, within six months of a placement beginning, a further placement is to be made then the care planning meeting should address the issues of why the placement came to an end and what additional support can be offered to prevent further instability. It is vital that those invited to this meeting are in a position to ensure that the resources required can be provided. The minutes of this meeting should be sent to the Accommodation Panel for monitoring purposes. In relation to the young person the following are likely to be pertinent considerations:

  • Contact with parents/relatives and friends;
  • Emotional support to child/young person;
  • Resilience of the child/young person;
  • Placement suitability.

1.5 Actions required after a Decision to Look After is made 

In all cases, if it is agreed that the child should be 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. 

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 Children's Homes Procedure.

The duty officer in the Fostering Team should be contacted to assist with placement identification.

Where the placement request is for provision by a third party (out of borough placement) the social worker should seek the agreement of their Team Manager who should discuss it with their ACSM (or the duty ACSM in their absence). If they agree that such a placement is required, the social worker should consult the Procurement Team for a list of approved providers or advice on reaching agreements with a provider if not on that list. Should the request be for an approved foster placement the following should be noted and process applied.

Knowsley MBC is a member of the Placement North West consortium and agreed to implement the new North-West Foster Care Contract from 5th April 2010 and for the purposes of this contract/chapter is known as Contracted Local Authority (CLA). This contract has been awarded to 28 independent fostering agencies (IFA’s) thus increasing the pool of contracted foster carers in the North-West and therefore increasing the opportunities for looked after children and young people to reside close to their place of origin.

The contract uses a 3 tiered approach based on a quality and cost basis; with tier 1 providers scoring highest against the tendering evaluation for cost and quality. All requests are to be made using an anonymised (no name or address) Placement Plan which should be emailed to DWSprocurement@knowsley.gov.uk. It should made clear in the e-mail the timescale by which a response is required. Consideration should be given to allowing providers an appropriate time to respond given the urgency of the placement. In an emergency the request must be followed up by a telephone call to the purchasing support assistant(s) in the procurement team.

Once responses have been received from the providers in a particular tier, they will be returned to the originating Social Worker by e-mail to go through a matching process and select the most appropriately suited carers for the child or young person being referred. If there are no suitable placement matches found from providers listed in Tier 1 then the originating social worker needs to inform the procurement team by e-mail (using the DWSprocurement@knowsley.gov.uk address). The procurement team will then approach those providers featuring in Tier Two and then onto Tier Three.

Finding the best match within the responses is crucial to achieving good placement stability and subsequently better outcomes and therefore this process will not introduce a prescriptive hierarchy where you can only approach the provider placed first, then second and so on. In situations when an emergency placement is required, the procurement team will approach all providers.

For urgent requests outside of standard working hours (i.e. after 17.00 Monday - Friday, weekends and bank holidays), the duty social worker should contact the IFA’s out of hours service these details are available via their line manager. Where an emergency placement is required Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 3 providers can all be contacted but suitable matches from Tier 1 providers should be considered first, then Tier 2, then Tier 3.

Once an appropriate vacancy has been identified the social worker should complete form CF47 (CF47A for review) which should be approved by their manager and sent to the Assistant Director for a decision on whether funding for the proposed plan and placement is agreed.

Where a decision is made to pursue a Looked After placement with a Connected Person (or the child’s placement with a Connected Person is judged to be a Looked After placement), an immediate assessment of the Connected Person must be undertaken by the child's social worker. This was formerly known as a Regulation 38 Placement (See Placement with Connected Persons Procedure). Such placements must be assessed as foster placements and be considered at the fostering panel within 16 weeks. In these cases the child's Social Worker must ensure that there is:

before the child is placed.

For secure placements, see Placements in Secure Accommodation Procedure.

As soon as the child is recorded on Protocol as being 'currently Looked After', the Social Worker must:

  • Create a Care Plan (see Section 3, The Care Plan);
  • Complete the required information for the first CLA Review meeting (This information will automatically be sent to the Quality Assurance Unit (see Child Looked After Reviews Procedure);
  • Complete the information regarding the current episode of care.

Once the decision to Look After a child has been made this should be recorded on the electronic record.


2. The Role of the Accommodation Panel

If there are no Connected Persons able to care for the child the social worker and team manager should discuss accommodating him/her within local authority resources. The team manager will consult the Head of Service (Decision to Look After). If agreement is reached that the child must be accommodated, the Social Worker should send a referral to the to the administration staff for the Management Team by 12 noon on Monday, prior to the Accommodation Panel meeting on Monday afternoon. The Accommodation panel meets weekly and is designed to allocate resources fairly and in accordance with the child’s assessed needs. It also identifies foster care/residential vacancies for use in emergency situations. In making such decisions the Service Manager must be satisfied that the following have been given proper consideration:

 Is it in the interests of the child/young person to become accommodated? 

  • What alternatives have been considered? 
  • Can the local authority provide a better standard of care and greater placement stability than the child/young person at present has? 
  • Does the care plan consider how long it will be necessary for the child to be looked after? 

The parent and child should be informed of the purpose of the Accommodation Panel.

The social worker should complete and submit to the accommodation panel:

  • A Single Assessment, or if one has been completed within the last three months, a more comprehensive Assessment should be considered;
  • Accommodation Panel: Request for Placement;
  • A Care Plan.

Placements with a Connected Person must also be referred to the Accommodation Panel by the Social Worker.


3. The Care Plan

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

The Care Plan must give an overview of the reasons for the child being looked after, the aim of the Care Plan, and the type of placement the child requires.

The Care Plan should contain the detail of the child’s needs, what outcomes are to be sought for the child and the services that are to be put in place in order to achieve them.

The ICS Care plan is linked to the Single Assessment and areas of need in the child's life and the plan should be devised to address these areas.

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 Children's Social Care 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 looked after;
  • Describe the contingency plan;
  • Give the date of the child’s first Looked After Review which must be within 20 working days.

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 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. Any other person who holds parental responsibility for the child;
  4. Anyone who is not a parent but has been caring for or looking after the child;
  5. Other members of the child’s family network who are significant to the child;
  6. The child’s school or education authority;
  7. The relevant health trust;
  8. The Youth Offending Service, if the child is known to them;
  9. 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. 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.


4. Information to be included in the Care Plan

The child’s overarching Care Plan should include:

  • Placement Plan (setting out why the placement was chosen and how the placement will contribute to meeting the child’s needs);
  • Permanence Plan (long-term plans for the child’s upbringing including timescales);
  • Pathway Plan (where appropriate, for young people leaving care);
  • Health Plan;
  • Personal Education Plan.

In addition, it should include the arrangements made to meet the child’s needs in relation to:

  • Emotional and behavioural development;
  • The child’s identity in relation to religious persuasion, racial origin and cultural and linguistic background;
  • Family and social relationships: arrangements for contact with sibling(s) accommodated by the authority or another local authority; details of any Section 8 Order in relation to a Looked After child; details of any order in relation to contact with a child in care; arrangements for contact with parents/anyone with Parental Responsibility/any other Connected Person; arrangements for the appointment of an Independent Visitor for a Looked After child;
  • Social presentation;
  • Self-care skills.

It should include the name of the Independent Reviewing Officer.

It should include the wishes and feelings of the following about the arrangements and about any proposed changes to the Care Plan: the child; parents/person(s) with Parental Responsibility; any other person whose wishes and feelings the Authority considers relevant.


5. Timescales for Completion

A Care Plan must be prepared prior to a child’s first placement, or, if it is not practicable to do so, within 10 working days of the child’s first placement. In Knowsley 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 at the placement within 5 working days of the placement being made.


6. 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 Children's Social Care Manager.


7. 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 Adoption and 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;
  • The Independent Reviewing Officer.


8. Other Required Plans, Documentation and Actions

8.1

Referral and Information Record (RIR)

This should be completed at the time the decision to Look After a child is made and before the child is placed. 

Even in an emergency when it is not possible to complete the RIR in full, essential information about the child should always be given to the carers/residential staff by the worker(s) involved when the child is placed.

See Emergency Placements Procedure - to follow.

It is then the social worker’s responsibility to coordinate the process of completing or updating the Referral and Information Record as well as updating any new information on Demographics. If a section is not applicable at this stage, it should be left blank and completed at a later stage if the child remains Looked After.

The RIR should be updated as necessary before every Looked After Review, using supplementary sheets if necessary.

8.2

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 available to the child (if of sufficient age and understanding), the parents and must be available to the residential staff/carers before the child is placed. 

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.

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.
8.3 Once the child is placed, the social worker should complete the required administrative information. This will include:
  1. Update;
  2. Request for a Health Assessment (Paragraph 8.7);
  3. The relevant school or Education Authority;
  4. Where the child is placed outside Knowsley, notification to the Children's Social Care Service where the child lives.

8.4

Health Care

Many looked after children have been through adverse life experiences and may have missed out on routine child health surveillance. Because of this, 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 the Personal Child Health record is lost or not available, the social worker should ask for a replacement to be issued and ask the LAC Health Advisor to assist with providing any information to complete the record.

A Health Assessment should be completed before the child’s first placement, or, if not reasonably practicable before the first review unless one has been completed within the previous 3 months. If a child refuses consent to undertake a medical (when age appropriate) this should be noted on the documentation.

The Business Support Assistant should also contact the LAC Health Team to arrange a Health Care Assessment within one month of the placement and the completion of a Health Care Plan in time for the child’s first Looked After Review. See Health Care Assessments and 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.

8.5

Personal Education Plan (PEP)

The process of completing the PEP requires the Social Worker to provide certain basic information about the child, PEP can be initiated as part of the Care Plan before the child becomes Looked After (or within 10 working days in the case of an emergency placement), and be available for the first statutory review meeting. The school produce a plan about how the child’s educational needs will be met in accordance to their individual expected outcomes. This should involve a meeting (or series of meetings) and involve the child, the parent and staff from Education and Social Care as required. In Protocol there is a pre-meeting record and the Knowsley PEP which includes information about the child’s wishes and feelings. This should be completed as far as possible and printed by the social worker. The remaining information should be added by the person responsible in the school. The paper version can then be copy typed into Protocol by the Business Support Assistant in the social work team. The relevant sections of the Knowsley PEP should be copied to the PEP record in the system, finalised by the social worker and authorised by the team management. See Education of Children Looked After section of the manual.
8.6

If the Single Assessment has not been completed the tasks involved in completing it should be allotted to the relevant agencies here. The team management are responsible for ensuring that Single Assessments are completed for all children who have become looked after in a timely manner.

8.7

Health Care Assessment

The BAAF health assessment forms A, B and C are reproduced in Protocol. The form A, which replaces the CF31A, must at present be completed by the social worker though in due course most of it will be filled automatically from information already in the system. This should be printed from the record in Protocol by CLA Health at the QAU once they have been notified by the social worker that the information in it has been checked. CLA health will arrange the medical assessment and provide the form B which will be completed by the assessing doctor/health representative. The child, if of an appropriate age will also be seen by the CAMHS health representative. The information produced will be held confidentially outside of the system in paper and as a scanned copy in EDM when that system becomes available. The information in it will be used by the health staff at the QAU to produce part C, the health plan, which is then incorporated into the overall care plan by reassigning the current care plan temporarily to that member of CLA health at QAU.


9. Children Looked After in Knowsley Placed in Other Local Authority Areas

When the decision is made to place a child in another local authority area, the child’s social worker must inform the Quality Assurance Unit on the appropriate statutory notification form who will then inform the corresponding Unit in which the child will be living. A copy should be sent to the Independent Reviewing Officer, Children Looked After health and Virtual School by e-mail. 

The Social worker must then arrange a planning meeting for child, including relevant agencies/service providers from other Local Authority. Social Work must be carried on in accordance with regulation as for a new placement - once in first week, then at a minimum of once every six weeks during the first year of placement, thereafter a minimum of once in every three months (see Social Worker Visits Procedure). 

The Independent Reviewing Officer must ensure that Child Looked After review is brought forward, unless already scheduled within six weeks of change of placement. 

When the placement in another local authority area ends, the social worker must notify the Quality Assurance Unit in Knowsley who will inform the other Local Authority area team and Designated Manager by standard letter and form. This should be copied to the Independent Reviewing Officer, Children Looked After health and Virtual School by e-mail. 

The Information Officer will run a report from ICS every month for Team Managers. The Team Manager must request Business Support Assistants to verify from case information that all notifications have been sent to the other Local Authority and to Independent Reviewing Officer, Child Looked After health and Virtual School.


10. Children Looked After from other Authorities - Placed in Knowsley

Child Looked After by another Local Authority is notified to the social work team or Quality Assurance Unit.

The child’s Demographic details and a Contact, including full details of the child’s placement and social work responsibility must be entered in the system by the person receiving the information. Contact is assigned to relevant area team duty tray. The Duty Officer must ensure that all relevant and necessary details are included in the Contact information.

If the information is received by the area team, the Team Manager must ensure that Quality Assurance Unit, CLA health, and Virtual School are notified by e-mail or in writing of young person being present in the area. Child Looked After (E) record is created in Demographics tab by Duty Officer. 

If the information is received at the Quality Assurance Unit, the Business Support Assistant must ensure that Principal Officer, CLA health and Virtual School are notified of young person being present in the area. A Child Looked After (E) record must be created in the Demographics tab by Quality Assurance Unit Business Support Assistant.

Unless the other Local Authority request services from Knowsley, the case is closed as ‘No further Action’ as outcome of the Contact. When there is a notification by another Local Authority that the child no longer resides in Knowsley, the Quality Assurance Unit Business Support Assistant must close down the Child Looked After (E) record in the child’s Demographic information in ICS. 

The information officer produces a report on Children Looked After(E) from ICS-Protocol on a 6 monthly basis. Other local authority (Designated Managers) are asked to confirm that young person remains in this area. If they are no longer resident the Quality Assurance Unit Business Support Assistant is requested to close down CLA (E) record on Demographics. 

Click here to view children moving out of Local Authority standard letter.

Click here to view Statutory Notification Form.

End