External / Agency Placements for Children and Young People
SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This chapter describes the process for obtaining external / agency placements for Looked After Children or young people whose individual needs cannot be met within Hull City Council resources.
AMENDMENTIn October 2017, this guidance was reviewed locally and updated as required to reflect current processes for obtaining external or agency placements for children and young people. Appendix 1: Joint Commissioning Panel Terms of Reference was replaced with the most recent version.
1. Placements Process
1.1 Legal Gateway Panel
Any requests to accommodate a child or young person will be presented to the Legal Gateway Panel. If the child or young person's needs cannot be met within Hull City Council resources, the Legal Gateway Panel will consider whether it is appropriate to seek an agency placement. This includes circumstances where the child is already Looked After and a new placement is to be sought from an agency because their needs cannot be met through use of internal resources.
In the event of an emergency need for an agency placement between Legal Gateway Panel dates, consent from Head of Service (HoS) must be obtained for such a placement and this decision must be put on the agenda for the next Legal Gateway Panel for a decision on the longer-term use of the resource.
The Legal Gateway Panel may:
- Decide not to approve the need for an external placement and make suggestions for alternative in-house arrangements;
- Defer a decision on an external placement due to a change of circumstances or requirement for further information;
- Agree with the need for an external placement and make recommendations regarding the type of placement.
If an agency placement or additional resource is recommended, then the decision will be subject to the to the funding approval arrangements and, if the placement is outside of Hull, approval to place out of area (see below). Where there is the possibility that other agencies (Education/Health) may part fund such placements, this will be considered at the Children and Young People's Joint Commissioning Panel (see Section 4, Children & Young People's Joint Commissioning Panel).
1.2 Out of Area Placements/Placements at a Distance
The decision to place the child out of area must be approved by the Nominated Manager (Designated Manager - Placements outside the Authority), unless it is a Placement at a Distance, 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. The relevant Head of Service should be contacted in both circumstances and will seek this consent.
The Nominated Officer / Director of Children's Services must be satisfied of the following:
- That the child's wishes and feelings have been ascertained and given due consideration;
- That the placement is the most appropriate placement available for the child and consistent with the Care Plan;
- That relatives have been consulted where appropriate;
- That the area local authority has been notified or, for a Placement at a Distance, the area local authority have been consulted and have been provided with a copy of the child's Care Plan (see Section 1.7, Notifications);
- That the Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) has been consulted (usually the IRO will discuss with the child after the child has visited the proposed placement).
It is the responsibility of the Team Manager to ensure that the Designated Manager's decision is recorded within the child's electronic record.
Upon receiving consent to seek an agency placement, the social worker (SW) or Team Manager for the child or young person will contact the Contract & Quality Assurance Officers (referred to hereafter as Contract Officers) to discuss the requirements of the placement. The Contract Officer will provide the SW with a Placement Referral form to complete, and then send this to all relevant preferred providers within the White Rose Framework (depending on the type of placement being sought i.e. fostering, residential or 16+ provision). This will commence the search for a suitable placement to meet the child's needs.
The referral will be added to the Agency Log sheet for tracking the progress of the search and the Finance Officer will be notified to enable financial monitoring and forecasting.
In the event of no suitable placement being identified amongst White Rose providers, the Contract Officer will extend the search to other agencies nationally.
The Contract Officer will undertake an initial filter of the responses from providers and will send details of any suitable placements that match with the child's needs to the Team Manager / Social Worker.
Once a suitable placement or, in the case of agency supported lodgings providers / foster agency carers, suitable matches, has been identified, the Contract Officer will request the agency's Statement of Purpose, last Regulation 44 report, latest Ofsted Inspection Report, insurance certificate and weekly fee (on Fee Breakdown form). The proposed fees will be confirmed/negotiated to an appropriate level including any short-term additional support required such as 1:1 staffing. In the case of Independent Fostering Agencies, the foster carers' profile and matching details will be requested.
Visits to an establishment or carer will take place only when there is a strong likelihood that the placement will be suitable. Wherever possible the Team Manager will take part in this visit, together with the child or young person, parents and/or carers wherever appropriate. Involving young people in the selection is best practice unless circumstances of risk or urgency prevent this.
Any other person who has significant interest in the placement, such as the child's IRO, should be consulted.
The Educational Psychologist may visit the establishment if the child is subject to an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) or a member of staff from the Virtual School may do so.
In cases of significant emotional or physical health needs, personnel from health agencies should be invited to visit or consulted for advice on a suitable placement (see below regarding education arrangements).
Once a preferred placement has been agreed and the agency is making an offer of provision, the SW will notify the Contract Officer.
If the predicted cost of the placement is under £50,000 per annum, approval to proceed will be obtained from the Head of Service.
If the predicted cost is over £50,000 per annum, an Officer Authorisation will be needed to obtain approval, which will be drafted by the Commissioning Manager (Specialist Provisions) and approval to proceed will be as below:
- Between £50,000 - £250,000 per annum, approval will be sought from the DCS, in consultation with the Town Clerk and S151 Officer (Finance);
- Over £250,000 per annum, approval as above but also to consult with the Portfolio Holder for Children and Young People.
For any placement which is not procured from an approved provider within the White Rose Regional Commissioning Framework or other Council framework/contracted service, a Dispensation Request will be completed on Assyst by the Commissioning Manager to seek dispensation to procure the service. The approved Officer Authorisation, as above, will be attached to this request.
Once Approval ( and Dispensation where applicable) is obtained, the placement can proceed and the Contract Officer will draft the Individual Placement Agreement (IPA) and Contract, which will be sent to the Legal section for signing by both agencies via Docusign. A copy of the final contract including the completed IPA with three target outcomes and exit plan (details taken from the referral form) and how these will be met by the agency will then be sent to the child's SW and IRO.
If the placement includes education and/or therapy costs, the case will be presented to the Children and Young People Joint Commissioning Panel (JCP) for their approval and agreement regarding joint funding. Whenever there are therapeutic/psychological services included within the provision, the Contract Officer will request from the agency a copy of their proposed therapy plan/assessment and/or case formulation for the JCP.
The Contract Officer will notify unsuccessful providers of the reasons for non-selection and will inform the Finance Officer of the start date for the placement. If the agency is a new provider to Hull City Council, the Contract Officer will create them on the electronic recording system and the Finance Officer will create them on Controcc. The Contract Officer will update the child's placement details and the Team will create the relationship with IFA foster carers or supported lodgings providers and ensure notifications are sent out (see Section 1.7, Notifications).
1.4 Placement 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 local authority must (except in an emergency) be undertaken in time to enable a thorough assessment of appropriateness to be made.
See Suggested Information for Discussion between Authorities when Planning Distant Placements (see Looked After Children and Young People who are Placed in Another Local Authority Area Procedure, Appendix B: Suggested information for discussion between authorities when planning distant placements).
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 it is located). The Contract Officer will evaluate this information in consultation with the Social Worker / Team Manager.
Consideration should be given to access to services such as health care and special education. Where the child will require specialist health services such as CAMHS, the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) or local health board in Wales which commissions secondary healthcare in the area should be consulted, to establish whether the placement is able to meet the child's needs. The designated nurse for Looked After Children in the area will also be a source of advice and information.
The Virtual School Head for Looked After Children in the area local authority, (Looked After Children Education Co-ordinators (LACE) in Wales) should be consulted about access to school support (see below).
For children vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, children's services in the area will be a source of intelligence and information about local arrangements for safeguarding.
1.5 Placement of the Child
At this point the child can be placed at the identified placement and the SW should liaise with the home's manager or IFA fostering social worker to ensure that their placement arrangements/procedures are followed. The SW should accompany the child in their move to the placement, taking parents and/or former carers where this is appropriate and in the child's interests.
1.6 Planning and other Documentation
Before the child is placed the SW should liaise with the home's manager/IFA fostering social worker and ensure that the following plans have been completed and circulated or that arrangements are in place to do so.
- Care Plan or Pathway Plan;
- Placement Plan and Placement Agreement;
- Personal Education Plan (PEP);
- Any legal orders where restrictions apply;
- Any other documentation which will assist in the care of the child (e.g. assessments, genogram).
The SW should ensure the provider registers the child with a local GP, dentist and optician within a week of the placement. It will also be necessary to arrange a Health Care Assessment (see Health Assessments, Health Plans and Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaires Procedure).
Within 5 working days of making the placement the Team Coordinator should ensure written notifications are made about the child's placement and the name and address of the person with whom the child is placed, to:
- The Local Authority Children's Social Care which covers the area of the placement;
- The appropriate CCG;
- The local Education Service;
- All others consulted and involved in the decision-making process;
- The child's IRO.
In the case of out of area placements, written notification must be given to the area authority of the arrangements for the placement before the placement is made or, if it is made in an emergency, within five working days of the start of the placement unless it is not reasonably practicable to do so.
The ADCS website can be used to obtain contact details needed to make notifications to local authorities and Police forces regarding out of area placements.
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).
1.8 Social Worker Visits/Monitoring
The Team Manager will ensure that the minimum Social Work Visiting requirements are met for the child in line with the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review Guidance and Regulations.
1.9 Review of the Placement
In addition to the Looked After Child Reviews procedure, all external placements will be monitored by the Contract Officer to ensure contract compliance and that costs are reviewed routinely (see Appendix 2: Contract Reviews by Placement and Commissioning Service - External Services).
During the period of the placement, the Contract Officer team should obtain any Ofsted inspection reports for the agencies and relay these to placing SW's. The SW should also alert the Contract Officer to any issues they have with the agency.
In the event of concerns about an agency arising about their care of the child, from Ofsted Inspections or Reviews of the Placement, these should be resolved through normal professional practice with the agency. Serious concerns or those that cannot be resolved may be notified to other parties: the Commissioning Manager (in consultation with Group Manager/ACM as applicable) should determine whether to use the White Rose Information Sharing Protocol to notify other local authorities within the White Rose Consortium of the concern and/or notify Ofsted as appropriate and/or the Local Authority where the provision is located.
The level of provision and fees may be re-negotiated at any time during the placement. If there are any proposals for changes in the service provision, the Contract Officer should be informed immediately so they can negotiate any new rates, seek approval from the relevant ACM or above, in line with Financial procedures and the cost thresholds referred to in Section 1.3, Selecting the most Appropriate Placement above if the change in costs are long-term. The contract variation or new contract should be issued when applicable. They will also notify the Finance Officer of any agreed changes and implementation date.
1.10 Ending Placements
When it is decided to end a placement the terms for termination of the contract must be adhered to. In the case of placements made within the White Rose Framework, the usual notice period is 28 days but SW's must check with the Contract Officer for any variation. It is the responsibility of the Team Manager / Social Worker to ensure that plans for moving a child take account of the notice periods required by the contract and that any move does not incur additional costs if at all possible.
All notices of termination, whether from the Provider or Hull CC will be in writing, with the latter being issued by the Contract Officer and copied on to the child's electronic record. The Contract Officer will notify the Finance Officer who will end the payment arrangement on Controcc.
The Team Coordinator should amend the child's placement details, notifying any agencies as at Section 1.7, Notifications of the end of the placement and, in the case of IFA foster carers, end relationships.
2. Education Arrangements
If the new placement entails a change of education arrangements, this should be arranged in consultation with the Virtual School Head (VSH) at the same time as the care placement. The VSH has primary responsibility for ensuring that there is suitable education in place for all children Looked After by the local authority. Their views should be given appropriate weight as part of decisions on placement moves. There should also be consultation with the VSH in another local authority where out-of-authority placements are planned and made. This consultation will be managed by the Hull City Council VSH.
In the case of an emergency placement, a suitable new education placement should be secured within 20 school days.
In arranging a school placement the child's SW (working with the VSH and other local authority staff, where appropriate) should seek a school or other education setting that is best suited to the child's needs. That could be a selective, non-selective, maintained or independent, boarding, day or alternative provision.
The following principles should apply:
- Educational provision should mean a full-time place;
- Schools judged by Ofsted to be 'good' or 'outstanding' should be prioritised for the child. Unless there are exceptional evidence-based reasons, Looked After Children should not be placed in a school judged by Ofsted to be 'inadequate';
- The choice of the education setting should be based on what any good parent would want for their child, and that the setting can meet the educational needs of the child and help them make the maximum progress;
- The child's wishes and feelings should be taken into account and the suitability of the education setting tested by arranging an informal visit with the child. Where a looked-after child would benefit from attending a boarding school (state or independent sector) the VSH and SW should be proactive in considering this option. This decision is usually based on the care placement needs of the child and the boarding school's ability to meet these needs.
2.1 Placements in Children's Homes with Education
If the child already has a Statement of Special Educational Needs or an Education, Care and Health Plan (ECHP) or they are being assessed for an EHCP, then Hull's Special Educational Needs (SEN) section should be contacted to liaise with the LA in the area where the proposed placement will be made.
If the children's home is to provide education they must:
- Be able to meet the requirements of the Statement/EHCP and be named in this;
- Be approved by the Secretary of State for Education and Employment under Sections 342 or 347 (1) & (3) of the Education Act 1996; or
- The consent of the Secretary of State for the child to be educated there must be obtained in advance of their attendance.
It should be noted that any placement of a child with a Statement/ECHP in a school which does not comply with the above legal requirements cannot be supported by Learning Services which would have to take action to secure the child's attendance at a suitable school.
Where a child is currently subject to a statutory assessment of their special educational needs or their referral for such assessment is imminent, it should be considered, when making a decision on placement that these requirements will apply if and when an ECHP is subsequently made.
3. Children with Special Health Needs
Where an agency placement is being considered for a child with special health needs (including emotional well-being) it is important that the key health service and/or the CCG are party to the decision making process. The SW must ensure that an assessment of the child's health needs is undertaken, where relevant, jointly with or by a health professional. This information will be required to establish what services are to be provided by an external provider.
Once the health assessment has been completed this information will be provided to the JC Panel.
If it is agreed that a child with special health needs should be placed at an agency placement, the SW and the Contracts Officer should follow the placements process detailed above for establishing the most suitable placement. Additionally the following information should be obtained from any prospective providers:
- Specific health-related services/therapies to be provided;
- Professional staffing complement and their health related qualifications;
- Which agencies usually fund placements i.e. health, Children's Social Care or education;
- Breakdown of the fees into health and other components (using the Fee Breakdown form);
- Risk assessment and risk management plan (e.g. to manage risk of self-harm, absconding or CSE).
The above information will be required by the JCP.
4. Children & Young People's Joint Commissioning Panel
In all cases where the agency is being asked to or already provides education or therapeutic services, these placements should be discussed by the JCP to jointly consider the care planning and negotiate joint funding decisions.
The role of the JCP is to ensure that individual agency placement decisions are made taking into account the needs of the child or young person and the overall resources and policies of the Local Authority and the NHS. The Panel will ensure that commissioning and procurement procedures are being followed and that all options are considered for the child or young person.
The Panel will also review existing jointly funded placements on a regular basis to ensure that they continue to satisfy the needs of the child in the light of the overall resources and policies of the Local Authority and NHS. In doing this, Panel will take into account the recommendations of the child's most recent statutory review, the views of the operational staff involved within all agencies and any information from the Contract Officer.