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5.1.3 Family and Friends Care Policy

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This chapter sets out and describes the number of arrangements and placements that can be made for a child and the basis on which they can be made, together with the support the Local Authority should be considering and the role of Social Care Staff.

RELATED CHAPTERS

Special Guardianship Orders Procedure

Court Reports in Adoption and Special Guardianship

Residence Order Allowances Procedure

Placement with Connected Persons Procedure

AMENDMENT

This chapter was reviewed and amended in December 2016.


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Values and Principles
  3. Legal Framework
  4. Different Situations whereby Children may be Living with Family and Friends Carers
  5. Provision of Financial Support - General Principles
  6. Accommodation
  7. Supporting Contact with Parents
  8. Family Group Conferences
  9. Complaints Procedure

    Annex A: Caring for Somebody Else's Child - Options


1. Introduction

Children may be brought up by members of their extended families, friends or other people who are connected with them for a variety of reasons and in a variety of different arrangements and legal statuses, including Looked After Children that are placed with family members and friends who are approved as Family and Friend foster carers.

This policy sets out the local authority’s approach towards promoting and supporting the needs of such children and covers the assessments which will be carried out to determine the services required and how such services will then be provided.

In drawing up this policy, we have consulted children and young people, family and friends carers and parents. Family and Friends carers have a valuable and unique role in enabling children and young people to remain with people who they know and trust, when for whatever reason they cannot live with their parent(s). Children who are cared for by family members, usually the grandparents, aunts and uncles may or may not be classed as Looked After.

We know through research that children achieve better outcomes if they can remain with their family or friends, if the right support is provided to enable their carers to meet their needs. Every child must have their needs assessed individually. This policy aims to provide information regarding the needs and support required.

Children who live in fully private arrangements between a parent and relative/friend, or are privately fostered, are not the focus of this policy. (See Private Fostering Procedure).


2. Values and Principles

Consideration of children's welfare and best interests will always be at the centre of the work Knowsley undertake.

It is an underlying principle that children should be enabled to live within their families unless this is not consistent with their welfare. We will therefore endeavour to maintain children within their own families, and facilitate services to support any such arrangements, wherever this is consistent with the child's safety and well-being. This principle applies to all children in need, including those who are looked after by the local authority. Where a child cannot live within his or her immediate family and the local authority is considering the need to look after the child, we will make strenuous efforts to identify potential carers within the child’s network of family or friends who are able and willing to care for the child.

We will provide support for any such arrangements based on the assessed needs of the child, not simply on his or her legal status, and will seek to ensure that family and friends carers are provided with support to ensure that children do not become looked after by the local authority, or do not have to remain looked after longer than is needed.


3. Legal Framework

The local authority has a general duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of Children in Need* living within its area and to promote the upbringing of such children by their families. The way in which we fulfil this duty is by providing a range and level of services appropriate to those children’s assessed needs (Section 17, Children Act 1989). This can include financial, practical or other support.

It is important to note that the local authority does not have a general duty to assess all arrangements where children are living with their wider family or friends network rather than their parents but it does have a duty where it appears that services may be necessary to safeguard or promote the welfare of a Child in Need.

*A Child in Need is defined in Section 17(10) of the Children Act 1989 as a child who is disabled or who is unlikely to achieve or maintain a reasonable standard of health or development without the provision of services by the local authority.

Children in Need may live with members of their family or friends in a variety of different legal arrangements, some formal and some informal. Different court orders are available to formalise these arrangements.

Looked after children will always come within the definition of Children in Need, whether they are accommodated under Section 20 of the Children Act 1989, (with parental consent), or in care subject to a Court Order whereby the local authority shares Parental Responsibility for the child. The local authority has a responsibility wherever possible to make arrangements for a Looked After Child to live with a member of the family (Section 22 of the Children Act 1989).

For a detailed summary of the meaning and implications of different legal situations, the rights of carers and parents, and the nature of decisions which family and friends carers will be able to make in relation to the child, please see Annex A: Caring for Somebody Else's Child - Options. Section 4, Different Situations whereby Children may be Living with Family and Friends Carer which sets out the local authority powers and duties in relation to the various options.

In relation to financial support, the local authority may provide carers of children in need with such support on a regular or one-off basis, under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989. This may include discretionary funding based upon a financial means test. There are other different legislative provisions which apply to financial support for children living with family or friends in looked after/adoption/Special Guardianship/Child Arrangements Order arrangements. The following sections of this policy set out the financial support that we may provide to family and friends who are caring for children in these different contexts. The legal status of the child may have a bearing on the nature and levels of financial support which may be available to carers and who can authorise its payment.


4. Different Situations whereby Children may be Living with Family and Friends Carers

4.1 Informal family and friends care arrangements

Where a child cannot be cared for within his or her immediate family, the family may make their own arrangements to care for the child within the family and friends network.

The local authority does not have a duty to assess any such informal family and friends care arrangements (subject to Private Fostering Regulations, see below), unless it appears to the authority that services may be necessary to safeguard or promote the welfare of a Child in Need. In such cases, the local authority has a responsibility under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989 to assess the child’s needs and provide services to meet any assessed needs of the child. Following assessment, a Child in Need Plan will be drawn up and a package of support will be identified. This can comprise a variety of different types of services and support, including financial support.

Financial Support is available subject to assessment and individual circumstance. Financial support may take the form of one-off or regular payments.

Family and friends care can be defined in a number of ways. Two types of family and friends care are detailed in this policy:

  • Family and Friends Foster Care - (carers who are planned to be or have been assessed and approved by the council for ‘Looked After Children’);
  • Family and friends arrangements - whereby the family and friends have not been approved by the council's Fostering Panel and the council has not placed the child with the family and friends (such arrangements may be supported under Section 17 Children Act 1989).

4.2 Private fostering arrangements

(See also ‘Private Fostering Procedure')

A privately fostered child is a child under 16 (or 18 if disabled) who is cared for by an adult who is not a parent or close relative, where the child is to be cared for in that home for 28 days or more. Close relative is defined as ‘a grandparent, brother, sister, uncle or aunt (whether of the full blood or half blood or by marriage or civil partnership) or step-parent.’ It does not include a child who is Looked After by a local authority. In a private fostering arrangement, the parent still holds parental responsibility and agrees the arrangement with the private foster carer.

The local authority has a duty to assess and monitor the welfare of all privately fostered children and the way in which they carry out these duties is set out in the Children (Private Arrangements for Fostering) Regulations 2005. However, the local authority may also become involved with a child in a private fostering arrangement where the child comes within the definition of a Child in Need. In such cases, the local authority has a responsibility to provide services to meet the assessed needs of the child under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989. Following assessment, a Child in Need Plan will be drawn up and a package of support will be identified. As in 4.1 above, this can comprise a variety of different types of services and support, including financial support. A parent has financial responsibility for a child  In such circumstances it is expected that the parent will have agreed financial arrangements for the care and maintenance of the child with the private foster carer, in accordance with the parent’s duties under the law.

Subject to the above financial assessment, support maybe available subject to assessment and individual circumstance. Financial support may take the form of one-off or regular payments and is subject to regular review. The agreement and review of such payments would remain with the Head of Service for CP and CIN.

4.3 Family and friends foster carers - 'Connected Persons'

Where a child is looked after by the local authority, we have a responsibility wherever possible to make arrangements for the child to live with a member of the family who is approved as a foster carer (Section 22 of the Children Act 1989). The child can be placed with the family members prior to such approval, subject to an assessment of the placement, for up to 16 weeks. This temporary approval can only be extended in exceptional circumstances, agreed by the Head of Service/ ADM. In this context the carer is referred to as a Connected Person and the process of obtaining approval for the placement is set out in the Placement with Connected Persons Procedure. Where temporary approval is given to such a placement under the procedure, the carers will receive financial support on a regular basis and will be supported and supervised on a regular basis in line with Fostering Regulations. The assessment and approval shall only be given where the family or friend is willing to adhere by fostering regulations and or for the purpose of a full assessment led by the child’s plan to be in foster care.

Friends and family carers who are approved by the authority as foster carers for a specific child or sibling group are entitled to receive a fostering allowance, in line with the child’s age. The fostering allowance for friends and family carers is not means-tested and is in line with the Government’s National Minimum Allowance. These are assessed to provide appropriate payment to provide care and accommodation for children within the relevant age groups. The rates are reviewed annually. Discretionary allowances can be paid for birthdays, one significant religious festival and holidays.

Friends and family carers may also receive special discretionary payments for the following:

  • Initial clothing grant;
  • Initial furniture grant for items such as beds, cots etc;
  • Possible assistance for travel significant distances for school or medical appointments.

These require the approval of the fostering team manager, or in exceptional circumstances a Head of Service.

The Local Authority may also contribute towards the legal costs for seeking a Special Guardianship Order / Child Arrangements Order in exceptional circumstances and or where this is the local authority's plan. This may only be paid when the local authority agrees that a legal order is appropriate for that person, likely to be granted and the person cannot obtain public funding and in exceptional circumstances, in this respect each and every application would be assessed on its merits. The rate of any payment will not exceed the current rates for public funding.

In addition, the child will have a placement plan which sets out the specific arrangements surrounding the child and the carers including the expectations of the foster carers and the support they can expect to receive to enable to fulfil their responsibilities for the child.

The assessment and approval process family and friends who apply to be foster carers for a specific Looked After child will be the same as for any other foster carer. In all other respects the process is the same as for any other potential foster carers and is set out in the Assessment and Approval of Foster Carer Procedure. An information pack will be available to potential foster carers about the process and they will be given the name and contact details of the social worker from the Fostering Service allocated to carry out the assessment.

An objective of the Knowsley Fostering Service is to provide a resource as part of the services to children who are fostered with a family member. To achieve this, connected persons seeking approval as a foster carer will receive the same support as other potential foster carers.

Once approved as foster carers (temporary or fully), they will be allocated a supervising social worker from the fostering service to provide them with support and supervision; and they will receive fostering allowances for as long as they care for the child as a foster carer. In addition carers will be able to attend regular support groups with other carers where common themes and issues can be discussed.

While the child remains a looked after child, as a foster carer, they will be expected to cooperate with all the processes that are in place to ensure that the child receives appropriate care and support, for example, contributing to reviews of the child’s Care Plan, cooperating with the child’s social worker and promoting the child’s education and health needs.

(See also Assessment and Approval of Foster Carer Procedure and Placement with Connected Persons Procedure).

4.4 Child Arrangements Order

A Child Arrangements Order is a Court Order which sets out the arrangements as to when and with whom a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact.

These orders replace the previous Contact Orders and Residence Orders.

A Child Arrangements Order may give Parental Responsibility to the person in whose favour it is made, Parental responsibility is shared with the parents.

Child Arrangements Orders may be made in private family proceedings in which the local authority is not a party nor involved in any way in the arrangements. However, a Child Arrangements Order in favour of a relative or foster carer (who was a ‘Connected Person’) with whom a child is placed may be an appropriate outcome as part of a Permanence Plan for a Child in Need or a ‘Looked After’ child.

The local authority may make contributions towards the cost of the accommodation and maintenance of the child. to relatives or friends, unless they are a spouse or civil partner of a parent, with whom a child is living under a Residence/Child Arrangements Order. This is set out in paragraph 15 of Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989. However this is discretionary and would require a needs led assessment.

In promoting permanent stable family placements for children, consideration will be given to the payment of contributions towards the cost of the accommodation and maintenance of the child. and support with legal and court costs in exceptional circumstances, however, each and every application would be assessed on its merits.

It is not anticipated that Child Arrangements Order Allowances will be paid to families in private child care proceedings, however, each and every application would be assessed on its merits It may be appropriate to offer other support subject to an assessment of need, using the framework. For further information, please see the Residence Order Allowances Procedure.

4.5 Special Guardianship Order

Special Guardianship offers a further option for children needing permanent care outside their birth family. It can offer greater security without absolute severance from the birth family as in adoption.

Relatives may apply for a Special Guardianship Order after caring for the child for one year. As Special Guardians, they will have Parental Responsibility for the child which, while it is still shared with the parents, can be exercised with greater autonomy on day-to-day matters than where there is a Residence/Child Arrangements Order.

Special Guardianship Orders may be made in private family proceedings and the local authority may not be a party to any such arrangements. However, a Special Guardianship Order in favour of a relative or foster carer (who was a ‘Connected Person’) with whom a child is living may be an appropriate outcome as part of a permanence plan for a Child in Need or a ‘Looked After’ child.

For further information, please see the Special Guardianship Orders Procedure.

4.6 Adoption Order

Adoption is the process by which all parental rights and responsibilities for a child are permanently transferred to an adoptive parent by a court. As a result the child legally becomes part of the adoptive family.

An Adoption Order in favour of a relative or foster carer (who was a ‘Connected Person’) with whom a child is living may be an appropriate outcome as part of a permanence plan for a Child in Need or a ‘Looked After’ child.

Local authorities must make arrangements, as part of their adoption service, for the provision of a range of adoption support services. They then have to undertake assessments of the need for adoption support services at the request of the adopted child, adoptive parents and their families, as well as birth relatives. The support required is then set out in an Adoption Support Plan and this may include financial support.

See also the Adoption Support Procedure, Financial Support, for details of what financial assistance may be available to holders of Adoption Orders, the applicable criteria and who within the local authority will make decisions under the policy.


5. Provision of Financial Support - General Principles

There are three categories of payment, which may be considered. One or more of these may be applicable, depending on the particular circumstances of the case:

  • Subsistence crisis (one-off) payments;

    These should be used to overcome a crisis, following the best assessment that can be achieved in the circumstances. 
  • Setting-up;

    These are for such items as clothing, furniture, or bedding. This support is available subject to a social worker's needs assessment and individual circumstance. Assistance may be given subject to conditions, including repayment in certain situations. However, in most situations, it will be inappropriate for the Department to seek to recover money provided under these circumstances.
  • Weekly living contribution;

    It is possible for the local authority to make regular payments where family members or friends care for a child whether or not the child is Looked After. Where regular payments are to be made, relative carers should be assisted to maximise their Income/Benefit as regular payments may adversely affect an individual’s claim to income support;

    In all cases where regular financial support is agreed, a written agreement will be drawn up detailing the level and duration of the financial support that is to be provided, and the mechanism for review.

The following criteria will be applied to all such payments:

  • The purpose of the payments must be to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child;
  • As part of the assessment, a view should be taken as to whether the carers need financial support based on their reasonable requirements in taking on the care of the child;
  • There are no other legitimate sources of finance that can be claimed;
  • Payments will be paid to the carer, not the parents;
  • The payment would not place any person in a fraudulent position.


6. Accommodation

The authority works with landlords to ensure that, whenever possible, family and friends carers living in social housing are given appropriate priority to move to more suitable accommodation if this will prevent the need for a child to become looked after.


7. Supporting Contact with Parents

The authority is under a duty to promote contact for all Children in Need, although this differs depending on whether or not the child is Looked After.

Where the child is not Looked After, the Local Authority is required to promote contact between the child and his/her family ‘where it is necessary to do so in order to safeguard and promote his or her welfare’. As part of the support arrangements, it may be identified that specific assistance is required to ensure that any such contact can be managed safely. If necessary, information will be made available to family and friends carers about local contact centres and family mediation services, and how to make use of their services.

Where a child is Looked After, we are required to endeavour to promote contact between the child and his or her family ‘unless it is not practicable or consistent with the child’s welfare’. The overall objective of the contact arrangements will be included in the child’s Care Plan and the specific arrangements will be set out in the child’s Placement Plan - see Contact with Family and Friends Procedure. Family and friends carers will be expected to adhere to the plan and where appropriate support and facilitate contact with other family members and or parents.


8. Family Group Conferences

Family Group Conferences are meetings held with family members and supported by professionals; the aim of the meeting is to achieve the best outcomes for children. They promote the involvement of the wider family to achieve a resolution of difficulties for Children in Need, and may help to identify short-term and/or permanent solutions for children within the family network.

We will offer a Family Group Conference or other form of family meeting at an early stage. If a child becomes Looked After, perhaps following an emergency, without a Family Group Conference having been held, then consideration will be given to arrange one as soon as possible.

(See also Family Group Conferences Procedure).


9. Complaints Procedure

Where a family or friends carer is not satisfied with the level of support provided to enable them to care for the child, then they have access to the local authority’s complaints process. Our aim would be to resolve any such dissatisfaction without the need for a formal investigation but where an informal resolution is not possible, then a formal investigation will be arranged.

The Head of Service for Children Looked After, Permanence and Provision is the responsible senior manager for this policy. The carer may contact the Head of Service if they wish for an informal resolution to be sought and or have any issues and comments they wish to raise. The details can be gained from the social worker, Independent Review Officer or by direct line on 0151 443 2952.

Useful Information Website:

Independent information and advice can be found at the Family Rights Group or Freephone helpline 0808 801 0366


Annex A: Caring For Somebody Else's Child - Options

Click here to view Annex A

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