Placement of Children Looked After
See LCS User Guide.
SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This procedure applies to all placements of Children Looked After including placements with independent providers and includes the holding of the Placement Planning Meeting
See Decision to Look After and Initial Care Planning Procedure relating to the initial decision to looked after a child, the Placement Plan and consents and the drafting and approval of the Care Plan and other essential actions.
Additional procedures also apply regarding the placement of Children Looked After with Family and Friends (Connected Persons) (see Family and Friends/Connected Persons Policy and Placement Procedure (Including Regulation 24 Placements) Procedure).
Children may also be placed in foster care and residential care having acquired Looked After status following a Remand to Local Authority Accommodation, see Remands to Local Authority Accommodation or to Youth Detention Accommodation Procedure.
AMENDMENTSection 7, Information to be Included in Placement Plan was revised in March 2017 to make clear that any financial arrangements must be included in the Placement Plan.
1. Placement Request
Where a decision has been made by HARP or the Head of Service that a child requires a placement, the child's social worker should request a placement by contacting the Brokerage Service (Central Placement Team).
In making this request, the social worker will be asked to complete a Placement Request Form to provide information about the child, the type of placement sought, the Care Plan, the date by which the placement is required, the likely length of time for which the placement is required and the expected level of contact between the child and parents. The social worker should also outline any risks associated with the placement.
The Brokerage Team Duty Worker will check whether an in-house placement is available that appears to be appropriate to meet the child's needs. If such a placement is available or if there is a possibility of a placement by the required date, the social worker will be advised accordingly.
If no appropriate in-house placements are available and the child requires a placement without delay, the Brokerage Team Duty Worker will obtain the agreement of the Brokerage Team Manager to make enquiries with independent fostering agencies to identify a suitable placement.
Where there is a child already in the proposed placement, contact should be made with the social worker for that child and where the child is from a different local authority, the consent of that child's local authority should be sought by the duty worker at the Brokerage Team.
Sibling groups who become looked after, will wherever possible and compatible with each child's welfare, be placed together.
2. Identification and Approval of Placement
Once a potential placement has been identified, the child's social worker will liaise with the foster carer's supervising social worker (who may be from an independent fostering agency) or Residential Unit Manager to agree arrangements for the placement. At this stage, the social worker will also discuss the child with the prospective carers and, in particular, share any risks associated with the placement with the carers and the supervising social worker/ agency or Residential Manager.
If the placement is outside the foster carer's terms of approval or an exemption is required, see Exemptions and Variations of Approval Procedure.
The proposed placement will be presented to, the Herts Access to Resources Panel (see Authorisation for a Child to be Looked After and Funding Agreements Outside H.A.R.P. Procedure) which must approve the placement. If the placement is not in house then a written agreement must be drawn up by Brokerage Team and the fostering agency or Residential Agency, setting out the precise terms and conditions between the local authority and the agency in relation to the placement.
If the relevant manager approves the foster placement, the placement planning process can start - see Section 3, Placement Planning.
The social worker should then arrange for the child to be provided with accessible information about the foster home as well as an introductory visit for the child (and parents if appropriate) where the child can talk to the carer in private as appropriate. (S11 FNMS 2011), It is important that children understand house expectations before the placement is made.
S11 of the FNMS 2011 recognises that good matching (and the full exchange of information prior to placement) is linked with placement stability. It explicitly requires that children are not moved for reasons other than their best interests.
3. Placement Planning
S31 of the Fostering National Minimum Standards 2011 (FNMS 2011) sets out the expectation that the views of the child and the foster carer will be canvassed as part of the placement planning process; that the carer has the care plan and that they assist the child to understand the plans and contribute to their reviews and help to ensure that they get access to advocacy services where appropriate. The fostering service should contact the child's social worker to request a review or visit if these are overdue or if there has been a significant change which warrants an early review.
In all cases, the child should be accompanied to the placement by the social worker and helped to settle in.
The child will urgently need their clothes, school books and equipment, toys and phones/music with them to enable them to settle in placement. A suitcase should be used to transport belongings and a child's belongings should be treated with respect ensuring anything important to the child, goes with them. Staff should gather as much as possible together to transport to the placement the first night with the child, but if not possible within the first week. If this is not possible the Team Manager must inform the Services Manager who should endeavour to mobilise the support from another team to try and ensure staff time is made available to meet the first week deadline. If the service fails to meet this deadline a phone call must be made to the child with an explanation and a date when their belongings will be with them.
Before the child is placed, or within 72 hours if placed in an emergency, the child's social worker will arrange a Placement Planning Meeting after liaising with the carer and the foster carer's supervising social worker (who may be from an independent fostering agency).or Residential Agency The meeting will usually be held in the new placement.
4. Placement Planning Meeting
The Placement Planning Meeting will usually be held before the placement is made. The meeting may constitute more than one part, and will include:
- The child/young person;
- The parent(s) or those with parental responsibility;
- Anyone else taking an active part in the welfare of the child/young person;
- The foster carer/residential unit staff representative;
- The Team Manager;
- The foster carer's Supervising Social Worker.
If it is not reasonably practicable to prepare the placement plan before making the placement, the placement plan must be prepared within five working days of the start of the placement. It may be started on ICS prior to the Placement commencing.
The purpose of this meeting is to confirm that the placement meets the child/young person's needs and develop plans for the placement. This is to include the date the placement will commence, completion of the remaining parts of the Placement Plan and a date to be set within 28 days of placement for the statutory review.
The Placement Plan (ICS) is a record of the meeting. It will be completed at the meeting and signed by those attending. Attendees will be sent a copy and the young person sent a version, appropriate to his or her age or understanding. It will not be appropriate to complete all fields.
This is an important document that details the delegated authorities (see Scheme of Delegation to Officers Procedure) i.e. who will make various every day decisions for the child i.e. the child, the carer, the parent or Children Services. It will be reviewed at each statutory review by the Independent Reviewing Officer.The case record must be updated at the soonest opportunity following the making of any placement.
5. Placement Plan Timescale
A Placement Plan must be drawn up by the social worker before the child is placed, or, if not reasonably practicable, within 5 working days of the start of the placement, and forms part of the overarching Care Plan.
Currently the Placement Plan is recorded on LCS using the Placement Plan.
6. Contact with SiblingsWhen the child is not able to be placed with his or her siblings CS will ensure they are supported to maintain contact by arranging face to face contact at the earliest opportunity and as a minimum ensure telephone contact is set up within 24 hours.
Social workers should ensure carers of siblings are provided with contact phone numbers within 24 hours and that older siblings are given their younger sibling's phone numbers within the same timescale, unless this represents an identifiable risk to one of the sibling's welfare or placement, for example, where there is a justifiable concern that contact details may be passed on to parents or where one of the children/young people is subject to a criminal investigation and this may jeopardise the investigation.
Where the social worker considers that passing on contact details may put a child's welfare at risk, they must discuss with the Team Manager/Services Manager and obtain their consent to withhold the details which must be recorded on LCS.
The withholding of contact details between siblings must be reviewed weekly for the first month then monthly for the first year by the Services Manager.
Where contact details are withheld, the siblings must be informed of the reasons why in writing, by the Team Manager and given access to complaints procedure within 1 week from the decision.
7. Information to be Included in Placement Plan
How on a day-to-day basis the child will be cared for and the child's welfare will be safeguarded and promoted by the appropriate person
Any arrangements for contact between the child and parents/anyone with Parental Responsibility/any other connected person, including, if appropriate, reasons why contact is not reasonably practicable or not consistent with the child's welfare; details of any Child Arrangements Order; the arrangements for notifying any changes in contact arrangements.
Arrangements for the child's health (physical, emotional and mental) and dental care, including the name and address of registered medical and dental practitioners; arrangements for giving/withholding consent to medical/dental examination/treatment.
Arrangements for the child's education and training, including the name and address of the child's school/other educational institution/provider and designated teacher; the Local Authority maintaining any Education, Health and Care Plan.
Any financial arrangements must be included in the Placement Plan (e.g. managing saving, trusts, CICA, etc…).
The arrangements for and frequency of visits by the child's social worker; and for advice, support and assistance between visits.
If an Independent Visitor is appointed, the arrangements for them to visit the child.
The circumstances in which the placement may be terminated.
The name and contact details of the Independent Reviewing Officer, the Independent Visitor if one is appointed, the social worker who will be visiting the child, and the Personal Adviser for an Eligible Young Person.
Additional information to be included where the child is placed with parents
Details of the support and services to be provided to the parents during the placement.
The obligation on the parents to notify the Local Authority of any relevant change in circumstances including any intention to change address, any changes in the household in which the child lives and any serious incident involving the child
The obligation on the parents to ensure that any information relating to the child or the child's family or any other person given in confidence to the parents in connection with the placement is kept confidential and that such information is not disclosed to any person without the consent of the Authority.
The circumstances in which it is necessary to obtain the prior approval of the Authority for the child to live in a household other than that of the parents.
The circumstances in which the placement of the child with the parents pending completion of the assessment of suitability will be terminated if the decision following completion of the assessment is not to confirm the placement
Additional information to be included where the child is placed with foster carers, in a children's home or in other arrangements
The type of accommodation to be provided, the address and, where the child is placed in 'other arrangements', the name of the person who will be responsible for the child at that accommodation.
The child's personal history, religious persuasion, cultural and linguistic background and racial origin.
Where the child is not in care, the respective responsibilities of the Local Authority and parents/anyone with Parental Responsibility; any delegation of responsibility by parents/anyone with Parental Responsibility to the Local Authority for the child's day-to-day care; the expected duration of the arrangements and the steps to bring the arrangements to an end, including arrangements for the child to return to live with parents/anyone with Parental Responsibility; where the child is aged 16 or over and agrees to being provided with accommodation under Section 20 Children Act 1989, that fact.
The circumstances in which it is necessary to obtain in advance the Authority's approval for the child to take part in school trips or overnight stays.
The Authority's arrangements for the financial support of the child during the placement.
Where the child is placed with foster carers, the obligation on the carers to comply with the terms of the foster care agreement.
In order to support foster carers and children, CS is developing the use of the Supporting Placement Planning Handbook on Delegated Authority (see the Delegated Authority Handbook).
8. Notification of Placement
The child's social worker will update the child's electronic records with the details of the placement and ensure that Brokerage Team is notified if they have not provided the placement
The social worker is required to notify interested parties and agencies in advance of each placement or, where this is not possible, within 5 working days of placement. The notifications required are as follows:
Notification of the placement will be sent by the child's social worker to the Designated Nurse for CLA, the education service, the relevant local Children's Services (if the placement is in the area of a different local authority and the child's GP.
The child's social worker will notify all family members consulted and involved in the decision-making process of the placement.
The Brokerage Team notify the allocated Independent Reviewing Officer or, if it is the first placement, the Independent Review Unit of the placement. This notification will trigger the appointment of an Independent Reviewing Officer if it is the first placement, and the setting up of arrangements for a Looked After Review.
These notifications must be made in writing, advising of the placement decision and the name and address of the person with whom the child is to be placed.
The child's social worker should also notify - preferably in writing but it may be verbally - all those involved in the day to day arrangements for the child, including nursery/school and any health professional or Targeted Youth Support Service worker actively involved with the child.
It will be necessary for the carer or the child's social worker to ensure the child is registered with a GP, Dentist and Optician, either retaining practices known to him or her (which is preferable) or in the area where they are placed.
In relation to a first Looked After placement it will also be necessary for the social worker to liaise with the Designated Nurse for LAC to arrange a Health Care Assessment (please see Health and Wellbeing Procedures of this manual). Before the placement, or within 10 working days the social worker must also contact the relevant school or, where the child does not have a school place, the relevant education officer with a view to the initiating the development of a Personal Education Plan which should be available with the first 14 days of a child becoming looked after (see Education of Children Looked After Procedure).
For any new placement, every effort should be made to enable the child to remain at the same school unless there are reasons which would be detrimental to his or her well being.
9. Support and Monitoring of Placements
The child's social worker must visit the child in all placements within one week of being placed and then, at a minimum, every six weeks. In Hertfordshire the general statutory visiting frequencies are regarded as a minimum and social workers should aim to see a child alone on a four weekly basis except where the regulations require a greater frequency. (see Statutory Visits to Children Looked After Procedure.
Additional regulations apply regarding visits to children placed with parents and children placed with connected persons (see Statutory Visits to Children Looked After Procedure).
On each occasion the social worker must speak to the child in private unless he/she is unable to do so, considers it inappropriate or the child (being of sufficient age and understanding) refuses.
When recording visits on LCS-it must be recorded whether children have been seen alone see Statutory Visits to Children Looked After Procedure.
The foster carer will also receive support and supervision from their supervising social worker (for in-house placements) - see Support and Supervision of Foster Carers Procedure - and from the independent fostering agency (for external placements). Residential Placements have their own management arrangements
Where there are concerns in relation to the progress of the placement, consideration should be given to holding a Placement Support Meeting (see Placement Support Meetings Procedure).
Where there are any changes to the type of placement or to the child's legal status during the placement, the child's social worker must update the child's electronic records.
10. Ending of Placements
When the placement ends, the child's social worker must update the child's electronic records and notify Brokerage Team who notify the finance section so that payments to the carer/provider will cease. The Brokerage Team will also send copies to those notified when the placement was made. The Social Worker should notify the IRO and all relevant family and professionals working with the child.
All written information on the child, which the placement holds, should be transferred to the supervising social worker for transfer to the child's social worker. This should either be shredded if it is printed off LCS anyway or scanned into LCS if it is additional information. Any original documents like Birth Certificates, Passports, Life Story work, education certificates etc should be kept safe and their location be recorded on LCS.
In appropriate cases, the carer should be asked to complete an end of placement report.
Where the placement was intended to be long term and it ends in an unplanned way, consideration should be given to holding a Disruption Meeting - see Placement Support Meetings Procedure and Placement Planning and Disruption Meetings Procedure.