Decision to Look After and Post Placement Arrangements


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 Child Looked After. 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 for decision to Look After is the Head of Service: Permanence and Provision.


In December 2018, additional information was added in to Section 1.3, Section 20 Accommodation, in line with recent case-law. Also, amendments were made regarding Knowsley processes: note Careful consideration must be given to matching the placement to the needs of the young person, in order to maximise the opportunity to support and care for the child or young person (see Section 1.4, Placement Planning) and any care plan must be signed by the practitioner and agreed by the Team Manager before the Head of Service can consider authorisation (see Section 6, Approval of the Care Plan).

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 out of hours permission for a child to become looked after can be given by the Head of Service or Assistant Executive Director on call. The EDT Social worker should make the request verbally by a telephone call, and this should be followed up by a recording of the request and decision by the relevant senior manager on ICS. The EDT social worker should copy the relevant senior manager into the case note to ensure accuracy of the decision made.

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 the child and his or her carers and the number of nights exceeds seventy five in one year.

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 / Assistant Executive Director are satisfied that appropriate consultation has taken place and 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 Friends and Family Carers 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 Team Manager 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 1.3.1, 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 Team Manager and attended by the child, parents and all relevant professionals.

The Social Worker and 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. All decisions made should be recorded on ICS. If the request is out of hours and the child/ren is/are not open to Children's Social Care, the EDT social worker should send an EDT contact to the MASH in advance of the 8.30 am the following morning.

1.3 Section 20 Accommodation

There are many scenarios in which Section 20 is used positively and these include situations of family support (e.g. Short Term Breaks) and where parents are temporarily unable to care for children, for whatever reason, and there are no agreed alternative family or friends to undertake this.

When accommodating a child under Section 20, it must always be borne in mind that the local authority does not have Parental Responsibility; only the parents / those carers 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 Hereforshire Council v AB [2018] EWFC 10 rtf.)

The parents / carers should be advised of any changes in the child's circumstances whilst the child is in local authority care.

It is therefore important to ensure that the parents/carers have full information about their continuing responsibilities as well as those of the local authority and that this is enshrined in the Care Plan and a written agreement.

1.3.1 Obtaining Parental Consent to Look After a Child

A recent Court of Appeal hearing (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.

Nevertheless, with regard to previous court judgments on 'consent', it reflected that they were, 'in short, good practice guidance and a description of the process that the family court expects to be followed'.

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.
  • 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:
    • 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?

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. Equally, within the context of 'assessing capacity', social workers should approach with great care relying on Section 20 agreements from mothers after giving birth, (especially where there is no immediate danger to the child and where probably no order would be made).

Where there is any concern about a parent / carer's capacity, the social worker should ensure they discuss this issue with their team manager, or that the parent has information from a legal adviser or professional advice (1). Note: In Coventry City Council v C, B, CA and CH (2012) EWHC2190 (Fam) 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'.

(1) Note: Unless a parent is subject to Proceedings, or Letter Before Proceedings, they will be unable to qualify for Legal Aid.

1.3.2 Recording Parental Consent

In Re N (Children) (Adoption: Jurisdiction) [2015] EWCA Civ 1112 good practice the President of the Family Division, Sir James Munby sets 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 Section 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 an unnecessary delay in the issuing of proceedings and cases must not be allowed to drift, (including those cases when children are placed with relatives under a Section 20 agreement). Proceedings still need to be issued in a timely fashion. The ADCS/Cafcass Practice Guidance for the Use of Section 20 seeks to clarify good practice in this area.

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 the local authority's Legal Services and include a clear (written) agreement and Care Plan with the outcome considered at a Children Looked After's Review to which the parents have been invited.

Where the threshold criteria of Section 31 is met, (where a child is at risk of significant harm, or the likelihood of significant harm), 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 Placement Planning

Careful consideration must be given to matching the placement to the needs of the young person, in order to maximise the opportunity to support and care for the child or young person. Placement instability is associated with disrupted school attendance, educational underachievement and involvement in anti-social and criminal behaviour. In order to support the placement a placement planning meeting should take place in advance of the child becoming looked after.

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.

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 Team manager should seek the agreement of a Head of Service to complete a placement search Via the ART Team. If a placement is identified only the Assistant Executive Director can approve the placement request following the case being presented to Resource Panel or in an emergency directly to him/her.

Where a decision is made to pursue a Looked After placement with a family member or friend, Regulation 24 (Care Planning, Placement and Case Review 2010) must be followed and a joint assessment should be completed by the child's social workers and a carers' assessment should be undertaken by the fostering social workers. A viable Reg 24 assessment (see Schedule 4 Assessment) should be signed off by the Assistant Executive Director before a child is placed. Such placements must be assessed as foster placements and be considered at the fostering panel within 16 weeks.

For secure placements, see Placements in Secure Accommodation Procedure.

As soon as the child is recorded 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 Resource Panel

Any requests in house or out of Borough should be presented by the child's social worker to resource Panel in advance of any child being placed this is to ensure the placement is matched to the childs needs and the child can be prepared for entering care.

All requests should be sent to the Panel's business support officer by 12 noon, the Thursday prior to the Panel which meets every Monday at 3pm, (excluding bank holidays). 

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 Team 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 Child Looked After; 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 Child Looked After;
  • Social presentation;
  • Self-care skills;
  • Any proposed deprivations of liberties and the need for authorisations.

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 signed by the Social Worker and Team Manager and endorsed by Head of Service for Children Looked After.

All other Care Plans must be endorsed and signed by the Social Worker's Team 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 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;
  • The Independent Reviewing Officer.

8. Other Required Plans, Documentation and Actions

Caption: other required plans documentation and actions


Placement Information Record (PIR)

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 PIR 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.

It is then the Social Worker's responsibility to coordinate the process of completing or updating the Placement 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 PIR should be updated as necessary before every Looked After Review.


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;
  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.


Health Care

Many Children Looked After 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 CLA Health Advisor to assist with providing any information to complete the record.

A Health Care 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 Health Assessment will lead to 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.


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. 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. The Social Worker and Team Manager are responsible for ensuring that Single Assessments are completed for all children who have become looked after in a timely manner. All children should have a Single Assessment that is no more the twelve months old.

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 receiving Local Authority where the child will be placed authority on the appropriate statutory notification form 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 visits 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 to Children Looked After Procedure). 

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

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

Child Looked After by another Local Authority notifications are sent to the Knowsley MASH.

The child's Demographic details, including full details of the child's placement and social work responsibility must be entered into ICS by creating a contact.

Unless the other Local Authority request services from Knowsley, the case is closed as 'No further Action' as outcome of the Contact.

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

Click here to view Statutory Notification Form.