Looked After Children and Young People who are Placed in Another Local Authority Area
Note that different provisions apply to children who acquire Looked After status as a result of a remand to Local Authority Accommodation or Youth Detention Accommodation. In relation to those children, please see Remands to Local Authority Accommodation or to Youth Detention Accommodation Procedure, Care Planning for Young People on Remand or Youth Detention Accommodation.
AMENDMENTThis chapter was updated in March 2015 in line with the above guidance, and should be re-read.
This guidance is relevant to children and young people who are Looked After (subject to s31 Care Orders or accommodated under s20 of the Children Act 1989) and who are placed out of area but still within England and Wales. The placement of children outside England and Wales is dealt with in Placements outside England and Wales Procedure.
N.B. In this guidance 'child' refers to child or young person.
Wherever possible, a placement near to the child's home should be prioritised. As far as reasonably practicable, the placement should:
- Allow the child to live near his/her home;
- Not disrupt his/her education (particularly at Key Stage 4);
- Enable the child and his/her sibling to live together, if the child has a sibling who is also looked after by the local authority;
- Provide accommodation which is suitable to the child's needs if the child is disabled; and
- Be within the local authority's area.
Looked after children may be placed 'out of county/area' for a number of reasons: they may be placed with Hull foster carers who live outside the Hull area; placed with family or friends; placed in a residential home; with foster carers employed by an independent fostering provider out of the area; or be placed with carers who are matched for adoption.
Whenever a child is placed out of the area there are factors that should be considered as outlined in Section 3, Factors to consider in placing any looked after child out of the Hull area. In most cases the social work support continues to be provided by Hull. However in a small number of cases, a part of that support is delegated to the host authority (please see Section 7, Protocol for formal agreements with other area Local Authorities to undertake support for a Hull looked after child).
2. General Considerations
Placements at a Distance will require effective planning, engagement and information sharing with the services likely to be responsible for meeting the child's needs in the future. Consultation with the area authority must (except in an emergency) be undertaken in good time to enable a thorough assessment of appropriateness to be made. The Children Act 1989 guidance and regulations, Annex 4: Suggested information for discussion between authorities when planning distant placements suggests information that might be discussed with the area authority.
Where the placement under consideration is in a children's home, account should be taken of the information in the home's Statement of Purpose and its location assessment (which should include details of the home's safeguarding arrangements, including any measures taken by the home to manage safeguarding concerns arising from the neighbourhood where the home is located).
In assessing the suitability of an out of authority placement, consideration should be given to the arrangements which will need to be put in place to enable the child to access services such as primary and secondary health care. Where the child will require specialist health services such as CAMHS, the Clinical Commissioning Group (local health board in Wales) that commissions secondary healthcare in the area authority should be consulted, to establish whether the placement is appropriate and able to meet the child's needs. The designated nurse for looked-after children in the area authority will also be a valuable source of advice and information.
Similarly, the Virtual School Head for looked-after children in the area authority (Looked After Children Education Co-ordinators (LACE) in Wales) should be able to advise about access to school support.For children vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, children's services in the area authority will be an important source of intelligence and information about local arrangements for safeguarding children.
3. Factors to Consider on Placing any Looked After Child Out of the Hull Area
Whenever a child looked after by Hull Children and Families Service is placed out of the Hull area there are a number of factors to take into account. The significance of a placement out of Hull depends on the distance from the child's home and the impact on the child of that distance. For example, Hull has a sizeable proportion of foster carers who live outside the boundaries of the City but still live close by in the immediate surrounding area. A placement with a Hull foster carer in the immediate surrounding area will not have the same issues as a placement that is a considerable distance away.
When a placement outside the Hull area is being considered the following factors should be taken into account:
- It is good practice in any placement decision to ensure that it is the most appropriate placement available and that it will meet the child's needs as identified in the Care Plan and takes account of the wishes and feelings of the child, subject to his/her age and understanding. The child's parents must also be consulted when considering the suitability of a placement of an accommodated child and where appropriate for a child who is the subject of a care order;
- It is good practice that in most circumstances, as part of introductions, the child's social worker and his/her parents, where appropriate, will accompany the child on a visit before a final decision is made. This is to ensure that the wishes and feelings of the child are informed by detailed information about the proposed placement, its location and distance from home;
- The child's Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) must be consulted. If the placement is a considerable distance for the child's home, this will enable the IRO to discuss the proposed arrangements with the child;
- There will be circumstances where a placement outside the Hull area will be the most suitable for the child, such as where s/he has complex treatment needs or where there are safeguarding concerns in relation to the child which mean a placement out of the Hull area is the most appropriate. Where a child with complex needs is being placed at some distance from Hull, part of the decision-making process before final decisions are made will involve ensuring that services such as primary health care, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) or appropriate school support will be available in the new local authority area, and that the placement can meet the other developmental needs as set out in the care plan, including contact with family members. Where the child will require specialist health services such as CAMHS, the Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG) involved in commissioning secondary healthcare in the area where the child will be living should be consulted;
- When a child is placed outside of the Hull area some duties will automatically fall to the host Local Authority, even though Hull Children and Families Service continues to be responsible for the child and to be fully involved. For example, if there are concerns about Significant Harm, and that harm has occurred within the host authority, it is the duty of the host Local Authority to convene a Strategy Discussion which should include representatives from the responsible Local Authority (Hull). Whereas if the harm has occurred in the area of the Responsible Authority (Hull) then it would be Hull's responsibility to convene a Strategy Discussion. At the Strategy Discussion it should be decided which Local Authority should take responsibility for the next steps.
4. Approval of Placements by the Nominated Officer / Director of Children's Services
If the out of area placement is with a Hull foster carer (approved and supported by Hull Fostering) or if it is a person who is connected to the child (e.g. family and friends carer approved by Hull Fostering) then there is no need to obtain the approval of the Nominated Officer (at least Assistant Head of Service level).
For any other type of out of area placement the Nominated Officer needs to give their approval to the placement unless it is a Placement at a Distance, (i.e. outside the area of the local authority and not within the area of any adjoining local authority), in which case the approval of the Director of Children's Services is required.
Before approving a decision the Nominated Officer / Director of Children's Services must be satisfied the placement is the most appropriate placement available for the child; is consistent with the care plan; that the child's relatives have been consulted where appropriate; that the child's wishes and feelings have been ascertained and given due consideration; that the area authority has been notified, or, for a Placement at a Distance, the area authority have been consulted and have been provided with a copy of the child's Care Plan and that the IRO has been consulted. For any agency residential or foster placement, the approval of the Legal Gateway Panel is required. See Scheme of Delegation Procedure;
5. Notification of Placements
Written notification must be given to the area authority of the arrangements for the placement before the placement is made or, if the placement is made in an emergency, within five working days of the start of the placement unless it is not reasonably practicable to do so.
On any significant change of circumstances including the move to a carer outside the area, the social worker informs Events. The Events Team then informs the host Local Authority that a child looked after by Hull City Council is living in their area. The notification must include:
- Details of the assessment of the child's needs and the reasons why the placement is the most suitable for responding to these; and
- A copy of the child's care plan (unless already provided in the case of a Placement at a Distance).
6. Emergency Placements
In the case of a placement made in an emergency, the approval of the Nominated Officer/ Director of Children's Services is still required and s/he must be satisfied that the child's wishes and feelings have been ascertained and given due consideration and that the placement is the most appropriate placement available consistent with the Care Plan. Within 5 working days the IRCO must be informed; relatives be consulted (where appropriate) and the area authority notified.
7. Protocol for formal agreements with other area Local Authorities to undertake support for a Hull looked after child
NB this protocol is not relevant for most cases where children are placed out of the Hull area. It only applies in a very small number of cases, as below:
A Formal agreement is needed when:
A formal agreement is not needed when:
Circumstances in which a formal agreement is needed / not needed:
Where a child is subject to a Care Order made to Hull City Council, then Hull Children and Families Service remains responsible for the child as the 'corporate parent', wherever they are placed. The practicalities of meeting the responsibilities of the 'corporate parent' are likely to be influenced by the distance of the placement from Hull and how long term the placement is. In most cases, Hull Children and Families Service will continue to meet all the requirements of its role in supporting a looked after child placed out of county.
However there are a small number of cases (often those where there are very long distances between Hull and the placement and where the arrangements are likely to be long term) where some aspects of the role of supporting the child may need to be undertaken by the Local Authority in the area where the child is placed. Most typically these are cases where a looked after child is placed with family and friends. (As well as children subject to care orders, this may also be the case for a small number of s20 accommodated children.)
In these circumstances - where some part of the role of the Hull corporate parent is delegated to the host Local Authority - it is vital that roles and responsibilities are clear and working well so that the child's needs are met. In these circumstances (in addition to the points above regarding any placement out of the area) a formal agreement between Hull Children and Families Service (as the responsible Authority) and the host Local Authority should be negotiated and agreed. This agreement should be placed on the child's case file.
The detail of such a formal agreement should be decided on a case by case basis but should include the following:
Social work support:
Every looked after child needs to have a trusted adult outside their placement. If the host Local Authority is going to undertake support of the child that would normally be undertaken by a social worker, there should be a named social worker (from the host Local Authority) allocated to the child in addition to the named qualified social worker in Hull. If the social worker in the host Local Authority is going to undertake statutory visits - they should be a qualified social worker (for further information please see Social Worker Visits Procedure). The social work role involves seeing the child in their placement alone, taking account of their wishes and feelings, maintaining a regular and up to date assessment of the child's needs as part of the statutory responsibility for planning the child's care. There should be clarity about which parts of the social work role will be undertaken by which social worker including:
- Statutory visits;
- Any additional or ad hoc visits or contacts with the child, for example if there are difficulties in the placement and more support is needed;
- Arrangements for the social worker from the host Local Authority reporting information to the Hull social worker;
- Contribution to assessments and reporting to reviews;
- Informing the IRO if there is a significant change or event in the child's life such as running away or where the child is excluded from school;
- Liaising with and engaging the necessary support from other agencies such as education, health or specialist services.
The Hull social worker should introduce the child to the social worker in the host Local Authority. The child must be clear who they contact and how, when they need to speak to their social worker.
Hull Children and Families Service (as the responsible Authority) must maintain a written case record for the child. If the host Local Authority is visiting the child and providing support, they will record their involvement. Copies of this recording should be sent to the Hull social worker for inclusion in the child's record. There should be agreement about the recording of visits and social work activity by the host Local Authority and the communication of these to the Hull social worker.
Management oversight and care planning:
Both host area and Hull area social workers will receive case supervision from their respective managers. The responsibility for making key decisions rest with Hull. The key elements of the care plan, such as the plan for permanence, would be the responsibility of Hull Children and Families Service and the reviewing of the Care Plan would be undertaken at Looked After Child Reviews (LAC) by the Hull IRO. However the responsibility for agreeing smaller decisions may be delegated to the host social worker / manager on a case by case basis. The detail of such delegated decision making should be set out in the formal agreement and further detailed in the Care Plan and the Placement Plan.
Even where a child is subject to a care order, parents retain Parental Responsibility for the child, although the local authority may determine how it is exercised. There should be clarity between the host Authority and Hull Children and Families Service about the agreed level of involvement of parents in the child's life including decision making, keeping parents informed and who is the point of contact for parents.
When a child is placed out of their home area, consideration should be given to the child's need to maintain contact with parents and family members. The practical aspects of facilitating contact and the respective roles of Hull Children and Families Service and the host Authority in should be set out in the formal agreement.
Support of carers:
The support provided to carers should be set out in the agreement and further detailed in the Care Plan and the Placement Plan. The arrangements are likely to vary depending on the case. For example, they may be relative carers approved and supported by the Hull Family and Friends Fostering Team or they may be approved and supported by the host Authority. Routes of communication between social workers supporting the child and those supporting the carers should also be clear and set out in the formal agreement.
The responsibility for arranging LAC reviews remains with the Hull Social worker and chairing them with the Hull IRO Team. The IRO's function is to chair the child's reviews and monitor the child's case on an ongoing basis. In addition to the Care Plan, a copy of the formal agreement should be made available to the IRO prior to the LAC review.
The review of the arrangement between the host Local Authority and Hull Children and Families Service may also be done as part of the LAC review (if appropriate for the child) although if there are any problems with how the arrangements between the two authorities are working they should be dealt with as and when they arise by the respective social workers and their managers.
Any payment to be made to the host Local authority to undertake support to of the child should be detailed in the agreement.
The Group Manager should oversee the making of a formal agreement between the Hull Children and Families Service as the responsible authority for a looked after child and a host Local Authority who are providing some part of the support for the child. The Assistant Head of Service is responsible for agreeing and signing off the formal agreement.
The need of the child for permanence should be considered on an ongoing basis and addressed at each LAC review. This should include consideration of any other legal order that would help to achieve permanence for the child. If the placement is planned to be long term, consideration should also be given to the transfer of the Care Order to the Host authority, subject to legal advice and the best interests of the child.
8. Placements in Wales
For placements in Wales, the Welsh Government has developed a protocol for notifying the local authority and the local health board when a child has been placed there from outside the area, and again when the placement ends. This protocol is attached at The Children Act 1989 guidance and regulations, Annex 5: Welsh Model Out of Area Notification Protocol.
Appendix 1: Template for a Formal Agreement with Another Area Local Authority to Undertake Support for a Hull Looked After Child
Appendix B: Suggested information for discussion between authorities when planning distant placements
Basic information about the child
- Name and date of birth;
- Legal status (subject of a care order (s.31 Children Act); voluntarily accommodated (s.20) remanded (s. 21);
- Number of previous placements – outline reasons for child leaving earlier placements.
Plans for the child's care
- Details of the assessment of the child's needs, with information about the child's wishes and feelings, with reasons the planned placement is suitable;
- Duration of placement (emergency/short-term/long-term/permanent). If it is not possible to assess the intended duration of placement – reasons for this and when this information will be available.
- Arrangements for contact;
- Details of who will be responsible for implementing plans for the child's day to day care (the 'placement plan') including details of arrangements for delegating responsibilities to the child's carer(s);
- Details of any plans to offer the child care leaving support (as an 'eligible child') during the anticipated duration of the placement;
- Contingency arrangements if the plan to support the child in the current placement does not succeed.
Services to support the child
- Details of plans to meet the child's educational needs – information about the school the child is expected to attend; details of plans for supporting the child if a school has not been identified;
- Information about plans to meet the child's health needs, e.g. whether the child requires secondary health care (including metal health and other specialist health care), including details about the CCG acting as "responsible commissioner."
- Details of any youth justice supervision order that would need to be overseen by youth justice services in the area authority.
Local authorities have a common interest in supporting high standards of corporate parenting for all looked-after children.
When approached for consultation about potential placements, area authorities should be able to offer a professional view about the benefits of a planned placement, the benefits of living in the neighbourhood where the placement is located and the potential for local services to respond appropriately to the needs of the child concerned.
Local authorities could also advise about other sources of information to assist social workers and commissioners in determining whether a distant out of authority placement is the most appropriate for the child concerned (e.g. the Virtual School Head or the Designated Nurse for looked-after children).
Appendix C: Welsh Model Out of Area Notification Protocol
(This protocol was developed by the Welsh Government in conjunction with the children's residential care sector in Wales).
Where a child who is looked-after is placed at distance the responsible authority has a statutory duty to notify the local authority and the health care provider, in the area in which the child is to be placed, of the arrangements for placement prior to placement and no later than 10 days thereafter.
Similarly, where a child is provided with accommodation by any Local Health Board, Special Health Authority, Clinical Commissioning Group, NHS Trust or by a local authority in exercise of education functions for three months or more or with the intention of the placement lasting for this time the Accommodating Authority has a duty to notify the appropriate officer of the responsible authority.
Where a child is provided with accommodation in any care home or independent hospital for three months or more or with the intention of the placement lasting for this time the residential setting has a statutory duty to notify the lead Director of Social Services in the area in which the establishment is situated.
Notification should be sent to the Director of Social Services in the local authority in which the home is situated.