Young People Aged 16 and 17 Years Ceasing to be Looked After
A young person who has been Accommodated under Section 20 (1989 Children Act) for more than 20 days requires the approval of the Director of Children's Services. An assessment of the suitability of the proposed arrangements and the support services that are required needs to be undertaken, together with an understanding of the young person's wishes and feelings. Also, ceasing to look after the young person will safeguard and promote their best interests. The Independent Reviewing Officer must also be informed.
In December 2019, this chapter was updated in line with the Children and Social Work Act 2017 and revised statutory guidance. Previously Looked After Children are entitled to support from their school through the Designated Teacher. (See Section 2, Planned Discharge from Care for 16/17 Year Olds and Section 3, Unplanned Discharge from Care for 16/17 Year Olds).
In line with The Care Planning and Fostering (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2015, where the child/young person is 16/17 years and has been Accommodated under Section 20, discharge from care should not take place until the decision has been approved by the Director of Children's Services.
2. Planned Discharge from Care for 16/17 Year Olds
Before deciding to cease to look after a young person (who has been in care for more than 20 working days) under S20 the Local Authority must:
- Carry out an assessment of the suitability of the proposed arrangements for the young person's accommodation and care when the young person ceases to be looked after;
- Carry out an assessment of the services and support that the young person and where applicable the parent or carer, might need when the responsible Authority ceases to look after the young person;
- Ensure that the young person's wishes and feelings have been ascertained and given due consideration;
- Inform the IRO;
- Advise the Designated Teacher and identify with them the support that can be offered.
The Local Authority must include in the young person's Pathway Plan details of the advice, assistance and support that they intend to provide once the young person ceases to be looked after by them.
The assessment and Pathway Plan should be presented to the relevant HoS who will present the information to the Director, via the Assistant Director, who will approve the reunification plan.
A Looked After Child Review will be held 28 days prior to the planned date of leaving the care of the Local Authority. This meeting will agree the return home CIN/Pathway Plan (dependent on whether the young person was an Eligible child).
3. Unplanned Discharge from Care for 16/17 Year Olds
Where the request is for the young person to return home immediately, (under Section 20(8)) careful consideration should be given as to whether the request puts the child at risk of immediate Significant Harm. If this is the case, then the procedure for seeking an Emergency Protection Order (or, where appropriate, Police Protection) should be considered;
- A Working Agreement with the parent or carer should be sought;
- The Director's view should be sought;
- Where a review has been undertaken, the IRO's opinion should be sought;
- Other partner agencies, such as Schools, Education, Department and Health should be advised of the change of circumstances, noting that under the Children and Social Work Act 2017 and revised statutory guidance, previous looked after children are entitled to support from their school Designated Teacher and their carers are entitled to information on this;
- A discharge Looked After Child Review Meeting should be arranged within 10 working days. This meeting will agree the return home CIN/Pathway Plan (dependent on whether the young person was an eligible child).
For young people where the placement end is unplanned; the young person will remain a looked after child under Section 20 until the case has been presented to the Director, via the HoS and Assistant Director who will approve the reunification plan). If the young person chooses to leave a regulated placement and/or requests that they are discharged from Section 20 care, the Social Worker will update the Pathway Plan Assessment and seek to arrange a Looked After Review within 28 days.
4. Eligible Child
In all cases where a 16 or 17 year old young person leaving care has been Looked After for a period, or periods, totalling 13 weeks which started after their 14th birthday then they should be considered as a relevant child.
As such they are entitled to the same level of support as every other Looked After Child, during this important part of their development and transition.
In relation to an eligible child, from their 16th birthday, the Local Authority must:
- Carry out an assessment of needs with a view to determining what advice, assistance and support it would be appropriate to provide while looking after him and after it ceases to look after him;
- Prepare a Pathway Plan and review it regularly;
- Provide an allocated social worker.