Holidays with Parents, Other Family and Friends (Including 16 Plus Travel)

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This chapter provides guidance in relation to parental requests to take their looked after child / young person on holiday or for a young person in care (16 plus) requesting to go on holiday with other family members or their own friends; whether the child or young person is in a 'Placement with Parent' arrangement, living with a foster carer or in residential placement. This chapter includes details regarding when requests can be made, planning for trips, what happens while the child/ young person is away and upon return.

This chapter was added in September 2022.

1. Introduction

Whilst in care, children and young people are encouraged to keep in contact with family, friends and their community, where it is safe to do so and in their best interests. Contact arrangements support maintaining familial connections throughout their time in care or as a means of supporting the transition from care to returning home. Holidays with parents, other family and friends may be beneficial in this process. However, holiday arrangements need to be considered, risk assessed and planned in consideration of the accommodation guidelines set out in the Children Act 1989 (2004) (see Appendix 1: Guidance References).

2. Forms

Access to required forms for the processes below is as follow:

Forms located on the Intranet:

  • Parental Travel Request Form - For parents requesting to take the child on holiday;
  • 16 Plus Travel Request Form - For young people aged 16 plus requesting to go on holiday with family and friends;
  • Holiday Risk Assessment - parents;
  • Holiday Risk Assessment - 16 plus.

Standalone forms located on LCS:

There are 3 LCS forms in relation to returning home:

  • Overnight contact agreement;
  • Returning home case chronology;
  • CLA returning home form.

For more learning about the forms on LCS see ilearn courses for LCS (CLA).

3. Criteria for Travel

Criteria for Travel with Parents (Locally and Abroad)

Travel with parents may be considered under the following circumstances:

  1. As part of building / maintaining a positive relationship between a child / young person and their birth family / family links;
  2. As part of reunification plans for a child/young person to return home with parents;
  3. As a form of assessment to decide what would be in the best interests of the child/young person in relation to returning home or remaining in a long-term foster placement;
  4. Special circumstances which require a child/young person to go away with their parents (i.e. to see a significant person who is unwell, attend a funeral).

For any other holidays / school trips (not with parent(s)), please see the Holidays and School Trips In and Outside the UK Procedure.

Criteria for 16 Plus Travel with Other Family or Friends

Travel with other family members, friends, boyfriends/girlfriends may be considered under the following circumstances:

  1. To support the young person maintaining a connection with family and friends whilst in care;
  2. As a means of developing relationships to help improve the young person's support network;
  3. As a form of developing independent living skills to support transition to leaving care / adulthood.

In addition:

  • A risk assessment will be required for any travel;
  • If the child / young person will be travelling outside of the UK, the child's/YP's SW and the parents will review the GOV.UK website to identify if there are any travel warnings for the respective countries (i.e. health issues, terrorist attack warning). This to be included in the Placement with Parent Assessment or other Risk Assessment;
  • The latest guidance in relation to Covid-19 rules for other countries can be found on the GOV.UK website and should be consulted before any trips abroad are considered;
  • The Overnight Contact Agreement Assessment or any other risk assessment completed for children and young people should include contingency planning detailing what would happen should there be an emergency whilst on holiday (or if a child fails to return) and the parent, other family members and friends should be made aware of and agree to carry out the contingency plans if required;
  • Social Workers should inform parents that any person travelling with their child / young person will be subject to PCN (Police) checks;
  • The Social Worker will obtain the views of relevant professionals, if required (i.e. IRO, Health – if any advice is required about health concerns or immunisations);
  • To reduce the risk of disappointment for the child or young person, agreement to travel must be secured before booking travel;
  • Requests for travel forms (link to follow) should be completed as soon as possible to allow time for the required risk assessments to be completed;
  • Discussions about travel and agreed travel plans should also be included as part CLA Reviews and care planning.

If at any point there are child protection concerns whilst the child or young person is on holiday, the following guidance should be followed - Practice Guidance in Regard to Children and Young People Subject to Child Protection Plan that Travel Within and Outside the UK, Child Protection Procedures.

4. Travel Procedures - Care Orders

Should there be a Full Care Order in place, the Court would need to agree the holiday arrangements if the holiday takes place outside of England or Wales. (See Appendix). Head of Service should also be notified of and agree all holiday arrangements with family members when child is subject of a Full Care Order.

A risk assessment would need to be undertaken

To initiate a request for travel with parents, please complete the following:

  1. Parent completes request form (see Intranet);
  2. Social Worker seeks advice from the Child Litigation Unit as to whether the child will require permission from the Court to go on holiday with parent;
  3. Social worker completes the Overnight Contact Arrangement Assessment (If completed within the last 6 weeks, a new one is not required, unless there have been significant changes since the last one i.e. change in household members). If there are any risks identified, the assessment must address how the risk can be managed and any contingency plans required during the holiday;
  4. If permission from the Court is required, the child's Social Worker and Team Manager will liaise with the Child Litigation Unit to submit an application.

If a child or young person is subject to an Interim Care Order (ICO), consultation with the Legal Team is required.

5. Travel Procedures - Section 20 (Voluntary Agreement)

Should parents wish to take their children away on holiday for 24 hours or more, the legal guidelines noted in the Appendix may affect the child's accommodation arrangements, as once a child is removed from Section 20 accommodation by their parents, they are no longer considered as being children "looked after" by the local authority.

The holiday risk assessment process will need to identify whether holiday arrangements need to be considered as a step towards reunification (see Section 3, Criteria for Travel).

Parental Request to Withdrawal from Care

Where a parent wishes to withdraw Section 20 agreement prior to the holiday, the following considerations should be made:

  1. If the professional recommendation is to end Section 20 arrangements and step down to Child in Need Plan, the child's Social Worker should complete the Ceasing to Look After a Child Procedure prior to the child going on holiday. Should be referring to the Return Home Process;
  2. If the professional recommendation indicates that it is NOT suitable for the child/ young person to be removed from care due to presenting concerns then a discussion with the Child Litigation Unit should be conducted in order to determine if the Legal Planning Meeting Procedures need to be initiated.

6. Travel Procedures - 16 Plus

Where a young person wishes to go on holiday with other family (i.e. aunt, cousin, etc.) or non-family members such as friends, boyfriend/girlfriend on their own or with the family of friends/ boyfriend/girlfriend then a Young Person Travel with Other Family or Friends Request Form (see intranet) will need to be completed jointly by the Social Worker and the Young Person.

In these instances, a risk assessment to ensure young people are safeguarded would be required.

7. Outcome of Requests and Risk Assessment

Decisions Regarding Travel

Permission for Holiday Not Granted - The child's/ young person's Social Worker will:

  • Notify the parents in writing of the manager's decision, including the reasons permission was not granted;
  • 16 Plus - Notify the young person and parent in writing of the manager's decision, including the reason(s) permission was not granted.

Permission for Holiday Granted - The child/ young person's Social Worker will:

  • Add holiday arrangements to the placement plan;
  • Inform parent(s) / young person in writing of the manager's decision and include any required actions or contingency planning that must be adhered to during the holiday and upon return;
  • Inform both foster carers and residential workers of decision to the agreed holiday arrangements.

The Foster Carers or Residential Workers will:

  • Support holiday preparations and packing for the young person. This will include supporting with transport arrangement.

8. Travel Arrangements

Travel with Parents

  • Parents will be responsible for funding and arranging travel for their child/ young person.

16 Plus Travel with Other Family or Friends

  • Funding arrangements for young people going on holiday with other family or friends need to be confirmed as part of the assessment process;
  • It is recommended that a responsible adult, carer, residential staff, or adult family member provide guidance and support in assisting the young person to arrange travel.

9. Responsibilities During Travel and Upon Return

During Holiday

Parents, children and young people must be contactable throughout the duration of the holiday, as travel plans will need to take into consideration whether the time spent away will impact upon statutory and/or other work being undertaken with families. A schedule of contact should be agreed before departure.

Issues Affecting Return Travel Plans

Parents / Young People must contact Children's Services as soon as possible of any event that would prevent return at the agreed date/time such as return flight cancellations, adverse weather, unable to travel back due to illness, etc. indicating reasons why return is not possible and identify alternative dates of return.

Once information is received from parent or young person, the child/ young person's Social Worker should inform:

  • Line Manager;
  • Supervising Social Worker (who will need to inform placement);
  • Residential Placement;
  • Any professionals who need to know.

If there is no contact with parent, child or young person and there is a failure to return, the contingency plan agreed as part of the Overnight Contact Assessment / 16 Plus Travel with Other Family and Friends must be followed (i.e. follow Child Protection processes - see Section 3, Criteria for Travel).

Upon Return from Travel

Travel with Parent - The Parent Must:

  • Update the Social Worker and Foster Carer if there are any unexpected changes to travel plans or if arrival back will be early or late.

16 Plus Travel with Other Family or Friends - The Young Person Must:

  • Contact their Social Worker / Placement to arrange return to placement;
  • The young person could make their way themselves or with assistance from other family or friends who could drop them off to the placement if suitable or agree a drop off point.

The Child/YP's Social Worker Must:

  • Upon receiving contact from parent, the child / YP's Social Worker must contact the Supervising Social Worker / residential placement to arrange for child/young person to be returned;
  • Inform the IRO and other professionals involved that the child/young person has returned from holiday;
  • Upon return to the placement, the child's/young person's Social Worker should visit with the child / young person within timescales agreed within the care plan (or earlier if required) and discuss the holiday with them.

The Supervising Social Worker Must:

  • Contact the foster carer / placement to arrange for child to be returned.

If there are any placement stability issues following return (i.e. foster carer can no longer look after child/YP, please follow the Placement Support Meetings and Placement Disruption and Disruption Meetings Procedures.

10. Case Recording

Information regarding parental requests, young person's requests, decision making, actions that have occurred during the holiday and return from holiday should be included in LCS case notes - copy to chronology.

The case summary should include the following details during the duration of the holiday:

  • Dates of travel;
  • Date returned to placement;
  • Travel details (where they are staying);
  • Communication Plan;
  • Contingency Plan.

Appendix 1: Guidance References

The Children Act 1989 sets out the guidelines for children being removed from placement. Considerations include:

Children Act 1989 Section 20:

  • Local authorities may not provide accommodation where a parent who has parental responsibility does not wish for their child or young person to be looked after and/or can provide accommodation or arrange accommodation for their child /young person, unless the child or young person is living with someone under a Child Arrangement Order, other Court ordered arrangement or Special Guardian arrangement, and that person wishes for the child/ young person to be looked after;
  • Or where a child turns 16 can agree themselves to be looked after.

Children Act 1989 Section 33(3) Care Order - the local authority shares parental responsibility for the child and whilst under a Care Order "no person may:

  • Remove him from the United Kingdom, without either the written consent of every person who has parental responsibility for the child or the leave of the court;
  • Section 33(8) Subsequent (7)(b) does not prevent the removal of such child, for a period of less than one month, by the authority in whose care he is."

HOLIDAYS DURING TERM TIME

Government guidance recommends that holidays are taken during designated school breaks only, as research suggests that taking a child / young person out of school during term time negatively impacts upon their chances for success at school.
DfE Research - Short breaks damage young people's futures.
See also: School Attendance and Absence - GOV.UK