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1.9.3 Short Breaks

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This chapter covers short breaks provided for children by the Short Breaks Scheme and the Children’s Disability Team. The Short Breaks Scheme is part of the wider preventative services.

Short Breaks can be both planned or used in emergency situations. Their focus is on maintaining children with or ensuring a swift rehabilitation, to their families.

Section 25 of the Children Act requires local authorities to provide short breaks for families with disabled children and young people. Some short breaks are offered through universal and targeted support and some require an assessment by the Children’s Disability Team and agreement by the Children’s Disability Panel.

This guidance takes account of:

This procedure should be read in conjunction with Appendix 2: Short Breaks Summary Flow Chart.

See also Friendship for All (The Children’s Society) - this online resource aims to increase friendships for children who are in foster care or who use short break services.


Contents

  1. The Legal Basis for Short Breaks
  2. Consultation
  3. Assessment of Needs
  4. Placement Request
  5. Identification and Approval of Placement
  6. Plans
  7. Placement Planning
  8. Notification of Placement
  9. Support and Monitoring of Placements
  10. Reviews
  11. Ending of Placements
  12. Providing care in the carer's own home or in the community

    Appendix 1: Types of Short Break Settings

    Appendix 2: Short Breaks Summary Flow Chart


1. The Legal Basis for Short Breaks

Children may be provided with short breaks under either Section 17(6) or Section 20(4) of the Children Act 1989.

Situation 1 - Under Section 17 Children Act 1989, in which case they are not Looked After Children, the 2010 Regulations do not apply and there is no requirement to appoint an Independent Conference and Review Officer (ICRO). The decision to provide short breaks under Section 17 should be informed by assessment of the child’s needs, considering the range of factors - see Section 3, Assessment of Needs. A Child in Need Plan is required and reviews should be carried out at least every 6 months and more often if required. A Placement Plan and a Placement Planning Meeting are required for new placements.

Situation 2 - Under Section 20 Children Act 1989 where Regulation 48 applies. The decision to provide short breaks under Section 20 should be informed by assessment of the child’s needs, considering the range of factors – see Section 3 Assessment of Needs. If the decision is to provide short breaks under Section 20, regulation 48 will apply if:

  • Accommodation is provided in one setting;
  • Accommodation does not include a single episode of 17 days or more;
  • Accommodation is provided for not more than 75 days in a year.

In these circumstances, the child is looked after, an ICRO must be appointed, and a Care Plan drawn up. The 2010 Regulations have been modified (Regulation 48), so that Looked After Child Reviews and social work visits are less frequent, and the short breaks are treated as a single placement. A Placement Plan and a Placement Planning Meeting are required for new placements.

Situation 3 - Under Section 20 Children Act 1989 where Regulation 48 does not apply. The decision to provide short breaks under Section 20 should be informed by assessment of the child’s needs, considering the range of factors - see 3 below. If the decision is to provide short breaks under Section 20, regulation 48 will not apply if:

  • Accommodation is provided in more than one setting;
  • The short breaks exceed a total of 17 days per placement;
  • The short breaks exceed 75 days per 12 month period.

In these circumstances, the child is looked after, an ICRO must be appointed and a Care Plan drawn up. The 2010 Regulations apply in full, including the provisions on frequency of Looked After Child Reviews and social work visits. The child is part of the core looked after population. A Placement Plan and a Placement Planning Meeting are required for new placements.

Click here to view 'Legal basis for provision of short breaks when a child is provided with accommodation'.

In situations 1 and 2, the requirements which usually apply to looked after children in respect of health assessments and reports, and notification of placements, do not apply.

The legal basis on which services are provided should be clear. The decision to provide a short break under Section 17 or under Section 20 should be informed by the assessment of the child's needs and should take account of parenting capacity and wider family and environmental factors, the wishes and feelings of the child and his/her parents and the nature of the service to be provided.

The key question to ask in deciding whether to provide the short break provision under Section 17 or Section 20 is how to promote and safeguard the welfare of the child most effectively.

For disabled children and young people, a range of short breaks are available from birth to their 18th birthday if they have a disability and/or complex health need and their disability has a significant impact on them and their family. Each case is considered on it’s own merit but as a guide it is anticipated that additional support will be available to children and young people who have a Education, Health and Care Plan and/or are eligible for a service from the Children and Families Disabilities Team, This includes children and young people with learning disabilities, autistic spectrum disorders, sensory and physical impairments.


2. Consultation

At the point that it is determined that a placement may be required, and throughout the subsequent process of identification, planning and placement, the social worker must consult and take account of the views of the following people:

  1. The child;
  2. The child's parents;
  3. Anyone who is not a parent but has been caring for or looking after the child;
  4. Other members of the child's family who are significant to the child or who have a Contact Order in their favour in relation to the child;
  5. The child's school or the education service ( to be consulted if there is a particular issue);
  6. The Youth Justice Service, if the young person is known to them;
  7. Any other relevant person, e.g. nursery, health care professional, Children's Guardian;
  8. For disabled children and young people, an independent Advocate can support.

The views of these people should be given by them, in writing, or should be recorded by the social worker.


3. Assessment of Needs

Before making, and when reviewing, a decision about whether to provide accommodation under Section 17 or Section 20, there should be a careful assessment of the child and family's needs that addresses:

  • Particular vulnerabilities of the child, including communication method;
  • Parenting capacity of the parents within their family and environmental context;
  • The length of time away from home and the frequency of such stays - the less time the child spends away from home, the more likely it is to be appropriate to provide the accommodation under Section 17;
  • Whether short breaks are to be provided in more than one place - where the child has substantial packages of short breaks in different settings, it is more likely to be provided under Section 20;
  • Potential impact on the child's place in the family and on primary attachments;
  • Observation of the child (especially children who do not communicate verbally) during or immediately after the break by a person familiar with the mood and behaviour of the child (e.g. parents or school staff);
  • Views of the child and parents - some children and parents may be reassured by and in favour of the status of a looked after child, while others may resent the implications and associations of the 'looked after' status;
  • Extent of contact between short break carers and family and between the child and family during the placement;
  • Distance from home; and
  • The need for an Independent Conference and Review Officer (ICRO) to monitor the child's case and to chair reviews;
  • Additionally for disabled children and young people, the impact of their disability/complex health need on them and their family. Parents can also request a Carer’s assessment which will also inform need.

It is more likely that the arrangements come within Section 20 where families have limited resources and may have difficulties providing support to their child while s/he is away from home or monitoring the quality of care. 

There is not an upper limit on the number of days that the local authority can provide accommodation under Section 17, although in most circumstances where substantial packages of overnight care are provided, it is envisaged that children will be provided with accommodation under Section 20.

Early discussions with short break placement providers (either the Short Breaks Team or the Children and Families Disability Team) are advisable at this stage, as in practice, the process of placement request, identification and approval is likely to go alongside the assessment of needs. For short breaks for children and young people with a disability, the assessment will also need to be presented to the Children’s Disability Panel for agreement.

Levels of Assessment

The level of assessment should be proportionate to the needs of the child and family.

  • Children’s Social Care Assessment: For relatively low levels of short break provision, an authority may not need to prepare its own assessment for disabled children who have been assessed through other processes, for example, access to existing local health or educational facilities, receipt of higher level Disability Living Allowance, or locally agreed criteria;
  • However, where a child's needs and family circumstances are more complex a Children’s Social Care Assessment will identify what types and level of services will be most appropriate to meet the identified needs;
  • Carer's Assessment: Parents of disabled children have the right to request an assessment of their own needs. Such a request indicates the need for a Children’s Social Care Assessment. The needs of the parents can be recorded under the dimension of family functioning of the Assessment Framework. While there has to be a discrete focus on the needs of the carer the outcome of this assessment should be integrated with the broader assessment of the disabled child and family. Carers' assessments should not be conducted in isolation. Guidance on carer’s assessments is contained in Children's Disability Panel Guidance for Social Workers Procedure.


4. Placement Request

All emergency requests to the Short Breaks Scheme are made through SET (Service Enquiry Team) where they are assessed for appropriateness. In an emergency SET will liaise with the short break team to identify an appropriate carer and will advise the Out of Hours Services and/or Marlborough Avenue of specific issues that may lead to a placement disruption and of the contingency plan, should placement disruption occur out of office hours. Requests for planned placements should be made directly to the Short break team and will be discussed at weekly allocation meetings.

If the placement is outside the foster carer's terms of approval or an exemption is required, see Fostering Exemptions and Out of Approvals Notices Procedure.

All requests for planned Short Break placements should be made direct to the Short Breaks Team. Request for planned placements will be discussed at allocation meetings were availability and needs matching will be considered.

In making this request, the social worker will be asked to complete the Placement Plan to provide additional and more detailed information about the child. This will include the type of placement sought, the team’s plan, the date by which the placement is required, the frequency and likely length of time for which the placement is required. The social worker should also outline any risks associated with the placement as well as any areas such as behaviour that need to be addressed working with the parents.

A referral for a short breaks placement for a disabled child or young person should be made to the Children’s Disability Panel. The Panel can agree a range of daytime and overnight short breaks at Kinloss Garth, Limetree Court, Barnardos Sitter Service and through Direct Payment Packages. The referral process is described in Children's Disability Panel Guidance for Social Workers Procedure. The Children and Families Disability Team are happy to advise colleagues in the locality areas.


5. Identification and Approval of Placement

Placement within the Short Breaks Scheme

Once a potential placement has been identified, the Short Breaks supervising social worker will liaise with the child's social worker to agree arrangements for the placement. At this stage, the Short Breaks supervising social worker will also discuss the child with the prospective foster carer and, in particular, share any risks associated with the placement with the foster carers and the supervising social worker. The needs of the child will be carefully considered when matching them with carers who can offer a placement at the allocation meeting.

The Short Breaks social worker and the child's social worker will then arrange an introductory visit and planning meeting to the proposed placement, with the child and parents. All placement information forms must be completed prior to commencement of the placement. Placement information forms can be completed at the planning meeting along with the placement agreement.

Placement for a Disabled Child

The identification and approval of a short breaks placement for a disabled child is undertaken via the Children’s Disability Panel (see Children's Disability Panel Guidance for Social Workers Procedure).


6. Plans

Plans for children in situation 1: receiving short breaks under Section 17 Children Act 1989.

The following plans are required:

  • Child’s Plan (Plan Type: Child in Need);
  • Placement Plan.

The Child in Need Plan should be in writing and set out clearly all the services that are to be provided to meet the child's needs. Many families with disabled children receive a range of services to meet their child's needs. The Child in Need Plan should include the full range of family support services on a multi-agency basis. The parents must be fully involved in all aspects of agreeing the Child in Need Plan and as far as practicable the child should be involved in agreeing the Child in Need Plan.

The Placement Plan will show in detail how the short break placement will meet the needs of the child and family including all the information necessary to ensure the welfare of the child in the short break. Children and young people receiving short breaks as a Section 17 arrangement are not looked after children and it is particularly important that the parents or those with parental responsibility are fully involved in formulating the Placement Plan. It should be signed by the parents, the local authority, those providing the care/the provider agency and where appropriate the child.

Much information may already be available from a variety of sources including the parent-held child record.

Plans for children in situation 2: receiving short breaks under Section 20 of the Children Act 1989 where Regulation 48 applies

The following plans are required:

  • Child’s Plan (Plan Type: Plan for looked after child);
  • Placement Plan.

The parents and, as far as practicable the child, should be fully involved in all aspects of agreeing the Child’s Plan. The Placement Plan will show in detail how the short break placement will meet the needs of the child and family including all the information necessary to ensure the welfare of the child in the short break. The Placement Plan should be signed by the parents, the local authority, those providing the care/the provider agency and where appropriate the child.

Children in this group are looked after but the requirements of the 2010 Regulations are modified in recognition that the parents have primary responsibility for planning their child’s future. PEPs and LAC Health Assessments and Health Plans are not required.

Plans for children in situation 3: receiving short breaks under Section 20 of the Children Act 1989 where Regulation 48 does not apply

The following plans are required:

The full range of requirements which usually apply to looked after children in respect of health assessments and reports, and notification of placements apply. The parents and, as far as practicable the child, should be fully involved in all aspects of agreeing the Child’s Plan. The Placement Plan will show in detail how the short break placement will meet the needs of the child and family including all the information necessary to ensure the welfare of the child in the short break. The Placement Plan should be signed by the parents, the local authority, those providing the care/the provider agency and where appropriate the child.


7. Placement Planning

Whichever legal status applies, before the child is placed, the child's social worker will arrange a Placement Planning Meeting after liaising with the foster carer (or residential worker) and the foster carer's supervising social worker. The meeting will usually be held in the new placement.

See also Placement Planning, Maintenance and Disruption Meetings Procedure.

Participants will include:

  • The parent;
  • The child (if appropriate);
  • The foster carer;
  • The supervising social worker;
  • The carer(s);
  • Any other relevant professionals, e.g. a representative from the child's school;
  • Anyone else considered appropriate or who will have a role in the placement.

The purpose of the first Placement Planning Meeting is to finalise the Placement Plan. This will involve a discussion of the child's needs and who is responsible for meeting them. It will also give an opportunity to organise practical matters, such as transport for school and contact. It will identify how responsibilities will be shared between parents, carers and the local authority. It is important to discuss with parents those areas of responsibility they are willing to delegate and those they wish to retain in the context of the needs of the child.

The foster carers / residential carers should be given a copy of any relevant court order and full information about the child's needs and any behaviour management issues.

The child's social worker will complete and bring the Child's Plan (see Section 6, The Plans) and Placement Plan to the Placement Planning meeting or at the latest, within 72 hours of the placement.

At the time of the placement, the foster 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 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. For a disabled child receiving short breaks, depending on the child’s specific conditions it may be necessary to undertake detailed risk assessments in respect of moving and handling, behaviour management and any clinical procedures which may require training.

The child's social worker must ensure the child, parents and carers understand the legal basis of the short breaks arrangement and the planning and review arrangements. Information about the Complaints Procedure should be given. See Representation and Complaints Procedure.

In addition, the social worker should ensure that any other information about the placement that is available for the child is obtained and given to him/her.

In all cases, the child should be accompanied to the placement by their parent(s) or carers and helped to settle in.


8. Notification of Placement

The child's social worker will update the child's electronic records with the details of the placement. The required notifications are as follows:

For short breaks provided under Section 17 (situation 1), the Events Team should be informed. This provides a log of the short break arrangement on Liquidlogic.

For short breaks provided under Section 20 the Events Team should be informed. The Events Team should also be informed whether Regulation 48 applies (situation 2) or not (situation 3). Sometimes it will be clear from the start of a new short breaks placement under Section 20 that the criteria for Regulation 48 will be met or not. In other cases, it may only be evident later that the number of placement days or the placement arrangements have exceeded the criteria for Regulation 48 to apply (situation 2), tipping the child’s arrangement into situation 3, where Regulation 48 does not apply and the child is part of the core looked after population.

It is the social worker’s responsibility to keep track of the arrangements and be aware if the legal status of the child changes from situation 2 to situation 3 and to inform the Events Team. The Events Team will then log which arrangement applies. The Events Team will inform ICRO admin that the child is s20 looked after. In cases where Regulation 48 does not apply (situation 3) and the child is therefore part of the core looked after population, the Events Team will notify the LAC Health Team and the Education Team.

Whatever the legal status of the arrangement, the child's social worker will notify all family members consulted and involved in the decision-making process of the placement. The 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 YOT worker actively involved with the child.

For children receiving short breaks with the Short Breaks Team, it is the responsibility of the Fostering Social Worker to ensure that payments are made to the Short Break Foster Carers. Agency carers or residential children's homes providers will submit invoices for their services, accordingly.

For those children provided with short breaks under Section 20 where Regulation 48 does not apply (situation 3), 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 Assessment (see Health Assessments, Health Plans and Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaires Procedure). 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 completion of a Personal Education Plan (see Education for Looked After Children Procedure).

The notifications should be before the start of the placement, wherever possible, or within 5 working days.


9. Support and Monitoring of Placements

Social Work Visits

Visits should usually be undertaken by a qualified social worker and always by a person with the skills and experience to communicate effectively with the child and fulfil the functions of the visit.

Short breaks provided under Section 17 Children Act 1989 (situation 1)

There is no statutory requirement for visits, the frequency of visiting should therefore be a matter for professional judgement based on the need of the child and family and agreed with a Team Manager / Consultant Social Worker in supervision.

Short breaks provided under Section 20 Children Act 1989 where Regulation 48 applies (situation 2)

Visits should take place at regular intervals to be agreed with the Independent Conference and Review Officer and parents/person(s) with Parental Responsibility and recorded in the Short Break Care Plan before the start of the first placement. 

In any event:

  • The first visit must take place within 3 months of the first placement day or as soon as practicable thereafter; 
  • Subsequent visits must take place at intervals of no more than 6 months for as long as the short breaks continue.

Short breaks provided under Section 20 Children Act 1989, where Regulation 48 does not apply (situation 3)

Visits must take place:

  • Within one week of the start of the placement;
  • Thereafter, at intervals of no more than six weeks for the first year.

The foster carer will also receive support and supervision from their supervising social worker (for in-house placements) - see Supervision of Foster Carers Procedure.

Where there are concerns in relation to the progress of the placement, consideration should be given to seeking additional resources to assist the carers.

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 Liquidlogic record and inform the Events Team and the ICRO.


10. Reviews

All Cases

No significant change to a Child’s Plan should be made unless it has first been considered at a review. 

In each case, whether children are provided with accommodation under Section 17 or under Section 20, the review should consider whether this continues to be the most appropriate legislative basis for the service provided.

A record should be kept, recording the views of those involved in the review, decisions taken and the identity of the persons responsible for implementing them. 

Children in receipt of Short Breaks under Section 17 Children Act 1989 (Situation 1)

A case review for a child who is not looked after should:

  • Ensure the service(s) provided meet the needs identified in the Child in Need Plan and safeguard and promote the welfare of the child;
  • Focus on outcomes for the child and family;
  • Be a multi-agency review whenever possible. Different elements of a child's care package should not require a separate review;
  • Include the ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child and the views of the family;
  • Take place at least six monthly. The needs of the child and family may indicate that a review should take place before the statutory minimum, for example if the child's condition is changing quickly, or there are changed family circumstances, or where there is a complex package of services including direct payments. For packages agreed through the Children’s Disability Panel, a review needs to be submitted every 6 months.

A review will usually include a face to face meeting. Generally it should be possible to include a review of short breaks with a review of other aspects of a child's health, education or development, where some of the same people will already be together. In certain circumstances, a Child in Need review may be held by consultation rather than as a meeting. This may be in an ongoing case where there are no significant changes in circumstances. A review by consultation should take place in supervision between the social worker and the Team Manager / Consultant Social Worker. The social worker should ensure that consultation documents have been sent to all relevant professionals and family members so that their views can be taken into consideration. A record of the review should be made on the child’s Liquidlogic record by the Team Manager / Consultant Social Worker and circulated to all relevant parties by the social worker. There should not be two consecutive reviews held by consultation – a review meeting should take place at least once every 12 months.

Depending on the level of service for the child and family and the vulnerability of the child, local authorities may wish to consider including an element in the review which is independent of the service provider and those with Parental Responsibility, for example arranging for an 'independent' chair with a role similar to the role of the Independent Conference and Reviewing Officer in the case of a looked after child.

Having an advocate may be particularly useful for disabled young people moving towards adulthood.

Children in receipt of Short Breaks under Section 20 Children Act 1989 where Regulation 48 applies (Situation 2)

Children in this category are looked after and their Looked After Child Reviews are chaired by an ICRO. Reviews are less frequent than for looked after children in receipt of short breaks under Section 20 Children Act 1989 where regulation 48 applies (Situation 3).

  • The first review must take place within 3 months of the start of the first placement;
  • Second and subsequent reviews must take place at intervals of not more than 6 months;
  • Reviews may be convened earlier, e.g. at the request of the child, parents or carer; or in cases where the child is particularly vulnerable; or where the child is provided with a high level of short breaks.

Children in receipt of Short Breaks under Section 20 Children Act 1989 where Regulation 48 does not apply (Situation 3)

Children in this category are looked after and their Looked After Child Reviews are chaired by an ICRO. The 2010 Regulations in relation to Looked After Child Review apply in full, and reviews will take place as follows:

  • The first review must take place within 20 working days of the first placement;
  • The second review must take place not more than 3 months after the first;
  • Subsequent reviews must take place at intervals of not more than 6 months;
  • Reviews may be convened earlier, e.g. at the request of the child, parents or carer; or in cases where the child is particularly vulnerable; or where the child is provided with a high level of short breaks.

For further details, see the Looked After Children (LAC) Reviews Procedure.


11. Ending of Placements

When the short break arrangement ends, the child's social worker must update the child's electronic records. The Events Team should be informed.

For Short Breaks Scheme placements, the Short Breaks Fostering Social Worker will inform the Short Breaks Administration Officer of the placement ending. The payment forms are authorised by the Team Manager / Consultant Social Worker and then sent on the Fostering Finance Section.

All written information on the child, which the foster carer holds, should be transferred to the supervising social worker for transfer to the child's social worker.

In appropriate cases, the foster carer should be asked to complete an end of placement report.

Where the placement ends in an unplanned way, consideration should be given to holding a Disruption Meeting - see Placement Planning, Maintenance and Disruption Meetings Procedure.


12. Providing care in the carer's own home or in the community

It is essential that individuals providing care in their own homes are subject to full employment and personal checks, as well as safe recruitment methods, and that they are provided with induction and training.

There are no requirements for agencies to register with Ofsted or the Care Quality Commission if they provide services to support disabled children in the community or in their own homes, unless they provide personal care. If personal care is provided, services must register with the Care Quality Commission and comply with the relevant standards.

The Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) Regulations 2010 Regulation 2 defines personal care as follows:

  • Physical assistance given to a person in connection with: eating or drinking, toileting, washing or bathing, dressing, oral care or the care of skin, hair and nails (with the exception of nail care provided by a chiropodist or podiatrist); or

  • The prompting, together with supervision, of a person, in relation to the performance of any of the activities listed above, where that person is unable to make a decision for themselves in relation to performing such an activity without such prompting and supervision.

However any form of care or supervision provided for children on a frequent, intensive, or overnight basis comes within the definition of 'Regulated Activity' and the requirements of the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) in relation to regulated activities will apply, unless it is a family arrangement or a personal arrangement for no commercial consideration.

Where families arrange care themselves by employing carers in a private capacity, funded by direct payments, this comes within the definition of Regulated Activity if it is frequent, intensive or overnight. Direct payments cannot be spent on employing someone who has not had Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) and List of Children with a Child Protection Plan checks or references or someone subject to a drug or alcohol treatment requirement, youth rehabilitation order or released on licence.


Appendix 1: Types of Short Break Settings

Following the assessment of the child and family, short breaks can be arranged in a number of settings which are subject to different registration and inspection requirements.

Outline Requirements on Settings Where Short Breaks Might Take Place

Hospices Regulated by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) under the Care Quality Commission (Registration) Requirements 2009. See Care Quality Commission website for further information.

 

Local authority foster care Fostering services are registered with and inspected by Ofsted. Revised Fostering Services (England) Regulations 2011, Associated Guidance and National Minimum Standards came into force in April 2011.
Children's homes Children's homes are registered with and inspected by Ofsted.

Children's Home Regulations (including the Quality Standards) (2015).

Residential special schools Different regimes apply

depending on whether the residential special school is maintained, non-maintained or independent.

Residential special schools: national minimum standards (April 2015 GOV.UK).

Additionally, short breaks, particularly for children and young people with a disability, can take place in their own home, their PA’s Home if they have childminder status or their home has been risk assessed and anyone else living there has had a DBS check. Short breaks can also take place in universal settings, both statutory, community and voluntary with appropriate risk assessment.


Appendix 2: Short Breaks Summary Flow Chart

Click here to view Appendix 2: Short Breaks Summary Flow Chart.

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