3.3.3 Family and Friends and Connected Person Carers
SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This procedure applies to all children being brought up by extended family, friends or other Connected Persons, whatever the status of the arrangement and whether or not the children are Looked After. It summarises the statutory guidance published by the Department for Health in March 2011.
For more detailed information in specific cases, you will need to refer to related chapters (depending on the child's circumstances), Placement with Family and Friends/Connected Persons (Including Regulation 24 Placements) Procedure and Private Fostering Procedure.
For detailed information on family and friends/connected persons care and local authorities' statutory duties, see Family and Friends Care: Statutory Guidance for Local Authorities.
- Family and Friends (Connected Persons) Care Policy
Appendix: Caring for Somebody Else's Child - Options
Children may be being 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:
- In informal arrangements with a relative;
- In informal arrangements with friends or other family members which last for a period of less than 28 days;
- As a Private Fostering arrangement (see also Private Fostering Procedure);
- As a Child Looked After placed with relatives approved as foster carers (see also Placement with Family and Friends/Connected Persons (Including Regulation 24 Placements) Procedure);
- Under a Residence Order or Special Guardianship Order (see also Application for Special Guardianship Orders Procedure);
- In arrangements which may lead to an Adoption Order.
Local authority responsibilities will vary depending on the legal status of the child and the arrangement - see Appendix: Caring for Somebody Else's Child - Options.
Whether or not a child who is cared for by a Family and Friends (Connected Persons) carer should be Looked After, or whether that child's needs should be met by providing support under section 17 of the Children Act 1989, will be a matter to be decided by the authority on a case by case basis.
In collaboration with local partners, each local authority with responsibility for children's services must, no later than 30 September 2011, publish a policy setting out its approach towards promoting and supporting the needs of children living with Family and Friends (Connected Persons) carers. The policy must address the needs of children in Family and Friends (Connected Persons) care, whether or not they are Looked After children, and should be clearly expressed, regularly updated, made freely and widely available and publicised by relevant means, such as websites and leaflets.
The policy must address the following matters:
- Values, principles and objectives - the principles underlying the Children Act 1989 provide a sound foundation. The key principle is that children should be enabled to live within their families unless this is not consistent with their welfare. Policies should be underpinned by the principle that support should be based on the needs of the child rather than merely their legal status and should seek to ensure that Family and Friends (Connected Persons) carers (whether or not they are approved foster carers) are provided with support to ensure that children do not become, or remain longer than is needed, voluntarily accommodated by the local authority under section 20(1) of the Children Act 1989;
- Evidence base - Authorities must consult children and young people, Family and Friends (Connected Persons) carers and parents as appropriate in drawing up their policies, and set out how policies have been informed by their views;
- Management accountability - The Director of Children's Services should identify a senior manager who holds overall responsibility for the Family and Friends (Connected Persons) care policy (this does not need to be a dedicated post). S/he will need to ensure that the policy meets the statutory requirements, and is responsive to the identified needs of children and carers; that local authority staff understand the policy and it is applied in a consistent and fair manner across the authority; that local partners are aware of their responsibilities towards children living in Family and Friends (Connected Persons) care and are proactive in meeting those needs; that the policy is publicised sufficiently to ensure that anyone who may be considering becoming a Family and Friends (Connected Persons) carer can be aware of its content and be clear about how to contact the local authority and other agencies for further information about relevant services; and that staff who are responsible for implementing the policy have appropriate training;
- Legal framework - it should set out, in a format which is accessible to family and friends carers and for parents, the relevant legal framework including an explanation of the authority's powers and duties in relation to Children in Need and Children Looked After, and address the effect of a Residence Order, Special Guardianship Order or Adoption Order. Information should be provided about the meaning and implications of different legal situations, the rights of carers and of the children's parents, and the nature of decisions which Family and Friends (Connected Persons) carers will be able to make in relation to the child. See Appendix: Caring for Somebody Else's Child - Options;
- Information about services and support, including support groups - there should be clear eligibility criteria in relation to the provision of support services under section 17 of the Children Act 1989, including financial support. It is essential that services are not allocated solely on the basis of the child's legal status. No child should have to become Looked After for the sole purpose of enabling financial, practical or other support to be provided to the child's carer;
- Financial support - it must identify how to apply for any financial help and how and when decisions are made about eligibility. A written agreement should be drawn up detailing the level and duration of the support that is to be provided, and the mechanism for review. Section 17(6) has been amended to remove the restriction on the local authority to provide financial assistance only 'in exceptional circumstances'. A local authority may now provide financial support on a regular basis under section 17;
- Accommodation - Housing authorities and registered social landlords should be engaged to ensure that their policies recognise the importance of the role performed by Family and Friends (Connected Persons) carers, and that whenever possible Family and Friends (Connected Persons) 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;
- Supporting contact - Local authorities are under a duty to promote contact for all Children in Need, although there are differences in the way in which that duty is expressed depending on whether or not the child is Looked After. Authorities are required to promote contact between a child who is not Looked After but who is living away from home and his family where it is necessary to do so in order to safeguard and promote his or her welfare. Where a child is Looked After, authorities 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;
- Information should be made available to Family and Friends (Connected Persons) carers about local contact centres and family mediation services, and how to make use of their services;
- Family Group Conferences - Local authorities should ensure that they have arrangements in place to offer a Family Group Conference or other form of family meeting as a means to engage families at an early stage. If a child becomes Looked After, perhaps following an emergency, without a Family Group Conference having been held, then this step should be considered as soon as possible. See Family Group Conferences Procedure;
- Private fostering arrangements - see Private Fostering Procedure;
- Family and friends foster carers - including information about the local authority's powers and duties including circumstances in which a child may become Accommodated by the local authority or in which Care Proceedings may be instigated, and how and by whom such decisions are made; and information from the authority's fostering service's Statement of Purpose in so far as it relates particularly to Family and Friends (Connected Persons) who are approved as foster carers;
- Special Guardianship, Residence Orders and Adoption - To support the stable placement of children within their families, the 1989 Act has been amended to allow relatives to apply for a Residence Order or Special Guardianship Order without the permission of the court after caring for the child for one year, instead of three years as was previously the case. See Complaints, Compliments and Representations Procedure.
The assessment and approval process for Family and Friends (Connected Persons) who apply to be foster carers for a specific Child Looked After, so that those to be assessed are clear about what is expected of them, how they will be judged, what support will be offered during the assessment process, and the reasons for this. See Assessment and Approval of Foster Carers Procedure.
The local authority does not have a duty to assess informal Family and Friends (Connected Persons) care arrangements, unless it appears to the authority that services may be necessary to safeguard or promote the welfare of a Child in Need in their area, in which case the Framework for the Assessment of Children in Need and their Families should be used. Or the carer is not a close relative and the child is being cared for for more than 28 days, in which case the private fostering regulations apply. Authorities should provide information for parents and carers about the stages of the assessment process, likely timescales and the contact points for enquiries.
Caring for Somebody Else's Child - Options