Placements in Residential Care
SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This procedure applies to all placements of Looked After children in residential care.
See Care Planning for Looked After Children Procedure for procedures relating to the initial decision to look after a child, and the drafting and approval of the Care Plan and other essential documentation. Refer to Placement Requests - Access to Resources Team (ART) for procedures relating to requesting a placement.
Children may also be placed in 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.
NOTE: from September 2021, looked after children under 16 years of age cannot be accommodated in unregulated independent or semi-independent placements.
This chapter was amended in December 2022 to add a link to the NYAS ‘My Things Matter’ Report – support and respect care-experienced children and their belongings when they move. (See Section 2.3, Placement Planning).
In the majority of situations, foster care will be explored as an option for a young person who needs to be looked after by the local authority. Where it has not been possible to identify a foster care placement or there are significant reasons why this would not be the best option for a particular young person because of their specific needs, permission to explore a residential option must be approved by a Head of Service. This would usually be the Head of Service (Access to Resources).
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:
- The child;
- The child's parents, or those with Parental Responsibility;
- Anyone who is not a parent but has been caring for or looking after the child;
- Other members of the child's family who are significant to the child;
- The child's school or education authority;
- The Youth Offending Service, if the child is known to them;
- Any other relevant person, e.g. nursery, health care professional, Children's Guardian.
2. Placements Process
Where a decision has been made that a child requires a residential placement, the allocated social worker should request a placement by making a referral to the Access to Resources Team (ART) using the Placement Referral Form on Care First (see also Placement Requests: Making LAC Placements with ART Procedure).
In making this request, the allocated social worker will be asked to provide information about the child, the type of placement sought, the Care Plan, the date by which the placement is required, the likely duration of time for which the placement is required and the expected level of contact between the child and parents. The Duty Social Worker should complete a Risk Assessment with regard to the placement.
The Access to Resources Duty Placement Officer will then identify the most appropriate placement options available to meet the child's needs and consult with the allocated social worker accordingly.
The Placement Team will seek to find a placement with a provider who is rated either "Good" or "Outstanding" with Ofsted. On the few occasions where a placement with a lower rating is being considered or the rating of a placement changes after a child is placed, the Ofsted action plan must be obtained and presented to an Assistant Director for final agreement for the placement.
Once a resource has been identified, the allocated social worker should contact the relevant placement manager directly to discuss the placement further.
Wherever possible, the allocated social worker, with the ART duty worker where available, should visit potential homes and as required consult with other professionals, prior to a decision about the appropriateness of a placement being made. The placement provider should be able to provide evidence that supports the appropriateness and effectiveness of any therapeutic approach or model of care they intend to use.
The Head of Service (Access to Resources) must approve the specific terms and conditions of the placement, which must be included in the contract with the provider. Where the residential placement is outside the local authority area, see also Out of Area Placements Procedure.
Please Note: In addition to the above approvals, in order to avoid placements disrupting a child's education, the Head of Service (LAC, Permanency and Placements) must approve any change of placement affecting a child in Key Stage 4 except in an emergency/ where the placement is terminated because of an immediate risk of serious harm to the child or to protect others from serious injury - see Education of Children with a Social Worker, Looked After and Previously Looked After Children Procedure. Equally, any placement made outside the local authority area should be able to meet the child's physical and mental health / emotional needs, particularly where ongoing treatment is being undertaken or is assessed as required (see also LAC Health Care Assessments and Plans Procedure, Out of Area Placements).
Once the relevant manager/s approves the placement, the placement planning process can start - see Section 2.3, Placement Planning. An understanding of the provider's therapeutic approach should inform the child's Placement Plan.
The allocated social worker may then arrange visits to the proposed placement, with the child (if old enough) and parents (if appropriate).
NOTE: from September 2021, looked after children under 16 years of age cannot be accommodated in unregulated independent or semi-independent placements.
Before the child is placed, the child's social worker will liaise with the relevant manager of the residential placement to provide details of the child's immediate child care needs and to arrange a Placement Planning Meeting - see Placement Planning Meetings Procedure. The meeting will usually be held in the child's new placement within 5 days or before the placement commences.
Participants will include:
- The parent;
- The child (if appropriate);
- The key residential care staff including a representative from the (Access to Resources Team) as they commissioned the service; the allocated social worker or their supervising manager, in their absence;
- Any other relevant professionals, e.g. a representative from the child's school; CAMHS; etc
- Anyone else considered appropriate or who will have a pivotal role during the placement.
The purpose of the Placement Planning Meeting is to finalise the Placement Plan (recorded on the Placement Information Record) and the details of the child's needs in the placement including the daily routine, and discuss the Care Plan. The Placement Plan provides clarity for the child and carer about; how day to day parenting tasks will be shared between the carer and the responsible authority - including clarity about financial arrangements, e.g. (contact); the circumstances leading to the child becoming looked after; what the long term plan is for the child and its timeframe and what the objectives are for the placement being offered and how those reflect the Care Plan.
This will involve a discussion of the child's needs, including their personal history, religious persuasion, cultural and linguistic background and racial origin, their health and education needs and how these are to be met. It will also include the arrangements for registering the child with local health professionals (GP, dentist and optician). The Responsible Authority is required to draw up a Placement Plan before the child is placed, or if not practicable, within 5 working days from the start of the placement.
For children placed in residential care, the Placement Plan should cover the following issues in addition to those for all placements set out in the Care Planning Procedure:
- The type of accommodation to be provided and the full address and contact telephone number(s);
- Where the authority has, or is notified of, Child Protection concerns relating to the child, or the child has gone missing from the placement or from any previous placement, the day to day arrangements put in place by the appropriate person (placement provider) to keep the child safe;
- Any behaviours which have been of concern to previous carers and which may have contributed to previous breakdown of a placement and how the Placement Provider will seek to manage and respond to these;
- The child's personal history, health history and any medical treatment plan; if relevant, educational plan, religious persuasion, cultural and linguistic background and racial origin;
- When a child is Accommodated the delegation of responsibility to the Local Authority is a voluntary arrangement and the parent/other with Parental Responsibility will be consulted as far as possible on the arrangements for the child. This arrangement may end at any time in consultation with the allocated social worker and parents and other plans will be made, as needed if need be;
- Delegated Authority issues the reasons and the circumstances in which it is necessary to obtain Local Authority's approval for the child to take part in school trips or overnight stays, etc;
- The Local Authority's arrangements for the financial support of the child during the placement;
- Information concerning the child's health and education, contact arrangements, visits by the responsible authority and any arrangements for visits by an independent visitor. The content of the child's Health Plan and PEP;
- The child's religion and culture and the manner in which these are reflected in their daily life and any help the child may need to keep these links;
- Arrangements for contact between children, birth parents and siblings and specified other friends and relatives.
The meeting also provides an opportunity to ensure that the registered manager has a copy of any relevant court order and that full information is shared about any behaviour management issues.
Wherever possible, the Placement Planning Meeting should be used to plan any introductions to the placement, for example whether arrangements should be made for the child, parents and the social worker to visit the home and/or whether it may be appropriate to have an introductory overnight stay. If this is not possible, arrangements may be made for residential staff to visit the child and parents; or for information about the home to be sent to the child and/or the parents, for example about routines in the home, bedtimes, meals, visitors, pocket money, school, privacy and the overall expectations in relation to the child's behaviour within the home.
If it is not possible to hold a Placement Planning Meeting before the placement, because of the urgency of the placement, it must take place in order that the Placement Plan is prepared within 5 working days of the start of the placement.
The allocated social worker will complete and arrange for the circulation of the Care Plan and Placement Plan/Placement Information Record to the child, parents and residential staff.
At the time of the placement, the residential staff must also be given any additional information about details of the child's day to day needs which may not be covered by the Placement Information Record but are important to ensure that the home is in the best possible position to help the child settle in the new placement, for example any particular fears at night-time or other emotional needs.
The allocated social worker must provide the child with written information about the looked after service, including information on using the authority's Complaints Procedure and information about how to access an Advocate.
They should ensure that any Children's Guide and other information about the placement that is available for the child is also obtained and given to him/her. In all cases, the child should be accompanied to the placement by the social worker and helped to settle in.
Suitable travel luggage should be provided and used for a child's belongings and they should never be transported in any circumstances inappropriate items, such as refuse bags. (See NYAS, My Things Matter Report).
Where an emergency placement is unavoidable local authorities should always make available information that is vital to allow the Home to care safely for the child - e.g. medical information, Child Protection matters and information about any known serious behavioural issues which may place a child at risk of harm to him or herself or others.
The placement plan must be agreed and signed by the nominated officer. Where this is a Placement at a Distance this should be agreed by the Children's Services Director.
The allocated social worker will update the child's electronic record with the details of the placement, in their absence this should be completed by the Duty Social Worker.
Where the placement is within an external provider, the duty ART worker will notify the finance manager in ART so as to trigger the relevant placement payments as appropriate.
Where a placement is made outside of the local authority, the allocated social worker must inform the appropriate team within the Children's Safeguarding, Standards and Training team who will in turn inform all the relevant authorities in the area in which the child or young person has been placed.
Notification of the placement will also be sent by the child's social worker to the Designated Nurse for LAC, the relevant person in the education service, the local Children's Services (if the placement is in the area of a different local authority) and the child's GP. This should be completed no later than 72 Hours of a Child being placed.
The allocated social worker will notify all family members consulted and involved in the decision-making process of the placement and update them with the relevant contact information and lead persons at the placement.
The allocated social worker must also notify the allocated Independent Reviewing Officer or, if it is the first placement, the LAC Administrator 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 children's home where the child is to be placed.
The notifications should be before the start of the placement or within 5 working days.
The allocated 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 school and any health professional or YOT worker actively involved with the child.
It will be necessary for the residential placement and the allocated 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 - see LAC Health Care Assessment Plans Procedure. The social worker must arrange for the completion of a Personal Education Plan (PEP) - see Education of Children with a Social Worker, Looked After and Previously Looked After Children 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. In order to avoid placements that disrupt a child's education, the Nominated Officer must approve any change of placement affecting a child in Key Stage 4 except in an emergency/ where the placement is terminated because of an immediate risk of serious harm to the child or to protect others from serious injury.
In the case of out of area placements, including Placements at a Distance, 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.
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).
3. Support, Monitoring and Ending of Placements
The allocated social worker must visit the child in the placement within one week of the placement commencing and then at no less than every six weeks; see Social Worker Visits Procedure.
Where there are concerns in relation to the progress of the placement, consideration should be given to seeking additional support to assist the placement to minimise placement disruption and breakdown. In the event that the placement is at risk of breakdown the Access to Resource Team should be notified at the earliest opportunity.
Where there are any changes to the child's placement and/or legal status during the placement, the allocated social worker must update the child's electronic records as soon as possible and no later than 24 Hours after the event with a clear summary outlying these changes.
A Looked After Review should be convened where:
- The child is, or has been, persistently absent from the placement;
- The placement provider, parents or area authority are concerned that the child is at risk of harm; or
- The child so requests, unless the Independent Reviewing Officer considers that the review is not justified.
See also Looked After Reviews.
The allocated social worker must notify the Access to Resources Team before a placement ends as Access to Resources Team will need to negotiate a notice period and inform the relevant finance placement manager within the team so that any payments to the provider will cease. The social worker will also inform those notified when the placement was made of the ending of the placement.
Note: Where the placement is a commissioned resource from an independent or private provider, the social worker must ensure that the Placement and Finance Officers are informed immediately so that formal contractual notice can be given.
Where the placement ends in an unplanned way, consideration should be given to holding a Disruption Meeting - see Placement Planning Meetings Procedure.