SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This procedure applies to any placement of a Merton child, on a Care Order or an Interim Care Order, with a parent or person with Parental Responsibility or person who held a Residence Order / Child Arrangements Order immediately before the Care Order was made, for more than 24 hours, including a placement for residential assessment. The guidance is to ensure parents are fully informed in the decision making processes from the outset can are not marginalised.
Note: these procedures do not apply where the child is subject to an Interim Care Order and the placement is made under section 38(6) Children Act 1989 for the purposes of assessment. (The placement is not subject to the Care Planning, Placement and Review Regulations 2010).
Section 1.2, Assessment and Checks before Placement was updated in January 2019 to include examination of the circumstances of the child becoming subject of a Care Order and identifying what has changed within the home environment. Also, to acknowledge that placing should ensure therapy has been undertaken, or will be undertaken as part of the package of support, where required (see Section 1.2, Assessment and Checks before Placement).
A note was also added to the Scope Box, to note that these procedures do not apply where the child is subject to an Interim Care Order and the placement is made under section 38(6) Children Act 1989 for the purposes of assessment. (The placement is not subject to the Care Planning, Placement and Review Regulations 2010).
In exceptional circumstances a child or children may be placed without the immediate need for the following procedures; please see Section 2, Immediate Placements. A child must not be placed with parents if that would be incompatible with an order as to contact under Section 34 Children Act 1989.
Before a child is placed, the following people must be consulted and their views accounted for:
The consultation should be formal. The persons being consulted should be written to, requesting their views on the proposed placement. It is important that those who are consulted should reply in writing; their written replies should be placed on the child's case record and be signed by the author.
The child should be consulted using methods most suited to their age, development, needs and preferences; the aim is to ensure that they are given maximum opportunity to contribute their views and wishes. The social worker should record the child's views and wishes unless the child prefers to communicate them in writing themselves.Minutes of a Child Protection Review Conference, which recommended the child's placement, can be included as a written record of the consultation with those in attendance. It is however, important to ensure that these views have been validated by those attending to ensue that there is no misrepresentation of their contributions.
The suitability of the proposed placement should be assessed through:
The assessment should take account of:
The parents' family history, including:
In normal circumstances, the child's placement with his or her parent must form part of the Care Plan, upon the recommendation of a Looked After Review. If the child has previously suffered Significant Harm when living with the parent and continues to be the subject of a Child Protection Plan, the Looked After Review should actively consider the recommendations of a Child Protection Review Conference before itself recommending the child returns home.
The recommendations of the Looked After Review or Child Protection Review Conference will then be sent to the Head of Service, together with the Care Plan and proposed Placement Plan and a written report covering the following:
As well as the usual contents, the proposed Placement Plan must include the following:
N.B. The Local Authority must provide such services and support to the parents as appear to be necessary to safeguard and promote the child's welfare, and record details in the Care Plan and Placement Plan.
The placement can only be made after the approval of the Assistant Director in consultation with the Head of Service/Team Manager as they will have given their views and the Placement Plan will be prepared, except as set out in Section 2, Immediate Placements.
The Head of Service must be satisfied that:
Where the relevant plan provides for a series of short term placements of a child with a parent, the requirements as to consultation, enquiries and checks can be carried out once only rather than every time a placement is made, provided that:
If a series of short-term placements is part of a longer-term rehabilitation plan, further consultation and approval must be obtained before the rehabilitation plan is extended and/or the child is returned to the parent's full-time care.
The allocated social worker must visit the child in the placement within one week of the placement and thereafter every four weeks - see Social Work Visits to Looked After Children Procedure.If the child is placed with parents pending assessment (see Section 2, Immediate Placements), social work visits must take place at least once a week until the first Looked After Review, thereafter at intervals of not more than four weeks.
Wherever possible the decision to end a placement should be made at a Looked After Review and the ending should take place in a planned way. In Re DE (A Child) , the High Court stated that not less than fourteen days' notice of a removal of the child should be given to the parents, save in an emergency.The Court further stated that any removal of a child in circumstances where the child's welfare does not require immediate removal, or without proper consideration and consultation, is likely to be an unlawful interference with the rights of the parent and child under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
In emergencies, the social worker must discuss the case with his/her manager, who will make the decision. Legal advice should always be sought. The Care Order gives the local authority power to enable the child to be removed by the social worker but this power should only be used after obtaining legal advice; the use of other orders (e.g. a Recovery Order) might be appropriate in some circumstances.
All those notified of the placement starting should be notified (see Section 3, Notifications), in writing, when it ends; preferably notifications should be made prior to the ending, or as soon as practicable thereafter.
A letter should also be sent to the parents and child explaining why the decision was made.
The Assistant Director can approve an immediate placement without the necessary consultation and checks having been made provided that:
The reasons for a decision to place a child on this basis must be fully recorded, signed by the Assistant Director and placed on the child's case record on the social care information system.
If the child is placed in these circumstances, social work visits must take place at least once a week until the first Looked After Review, and thereafter at intervals of not more than 6 weeks. The Looked After Review must be held within the first month of the placement being made.
The required consultation, assessment and enquiries for planned placements, as set out in Section 1, Planned Placements must then be completed and presented to the Nominated Officer as set out above.
The allocated social worker will update the child's record on the social care information system with the details of the placement in their absence this should be completed by a Duty Social Worker.
Notification of the placement will be sent by the child's social worker to the Designated Nurse for LAC, the relevant person in the education service and Virtual School, the local Children's Services (if the placement is in the area of a different local authority) and the child's GP.
The allocated social worker will notify all family members consulted and involved in the decision-making process of the placement, as well as all those involved in the day to day arrangements for the child, including school and any health professional or YOS/YJS Officer, if they are actively involved with the child or young person.
The allocated social worker must also notify the allocated Independent Reviewing Officer.
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.
Only valid for 48hrs