Family and Friends Care
Children Act 1989: Family and Friends Care: Statutory Guidance for Local Authorities about family and friends providing care for children who cannot live with their parents.
In June 2020, a new Section 6.7, Direction under Section 38(6) was added to explain that any financial support available to parents or carers in this circumstance is at the discretion of the Team Manager who must follow relevant guidance.
1. Scope of this Chapter
The policy and practice procedures set out in this document have been informed by the Department for Education (DfE) (2011) Family and Friends Care: Statutory Guidance for Local Authorities and Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Case Review. It applies to all children being brought up by extended family, friends or other Connected Persons, whatever the status of the arrangement and whether or not the children are Looked After.
It sets out the local authority's approach towards promoting and supporting the needs of such children and covers the assessments which will be carried out to determine the services required and how such services will be provided.
Children may be being brought up by members of their extended families, friends or other people who are connected with them for a variety of reasons and in a variety of different arrangements (see also Section 6, Different Situations Whereby Children May Be Living With Family and Friends Carers):
- In informal arrangements with a close relative (a step-parent, grandparent, brother, sister, aunt or uncle, whether full blood, half blood, by marriage or civil partnership);
- In informal arrangements with friends or family members (other than a close relative) which last for a period of less than 28 days;
- As a Private Fostering arrangement (see also Private Fostering Procedure);
- As a Child in Care placed with relatives approved as foster carers (see also Placements with Connected Persons Procedure);
- Under a Child Arrangements Order or Special Guardianship Order;
- In arrangements which may lead to an Adoption Order.
When a child is subject to an Interim Care Order, the court may decide to make a direction for the child to be assessed under Section 38(6) Children Act 1989. This enables the court to direct where the child should live, for a period of assessment.
Directions under Section 38(6) CA 1989 can result in a child being placed with a parent, relative or other connected person.
Local authority responsibilities will vary depending on the legal status of the child and the arrangement - see Family and Friends Care: Statutory Guidance for Local Authorities.
Whether or not a child who is cared for by a family and friends carer should be Looked After, or whether that child's needs should be met by providing support under section 17 of the Children Act 1989, will be a matter to be decided by the authority in partnership with the child and parents/carers, on a case by case basis.
3. Values and Principles
The key principle underlying the Children Act 1989 is that children should be enabled to live within their families unless this is not consistent with their welfare. Derbyshire County Council will therefore work to maintain children within their own families and facilitate services to support any such arrangements, wherever this is consistent with the child's safety and well being. Where a child cannot live with their immediate family and consideration is being given to that child becoming Looked After by Derbyshire, the local authority will make strenuous efforts to identify potential carers within the child's network of family and friends.
Support will be provided for any such arrangements based on the assessed needs of the child, rather than merely their legal status and will seek to ensure that family and friends carers are provided with support to ensure that children do not become, or remain longer than is needed, voluntarily Accommodated by the local authority under section 20(1) of the Children Act 1989.
4. Legal Framework
The local authority has a general duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of Children in Need living within its area and to promote the upbringing of such children by their families. We are required to provide a range and level of services appropriate to those children's assessed needs (section 17, Children Act 1989).
It is important to note that local authority does not have a general duty to assess all arrangements where children are living within their family network, but do have a duty where it is evident that services may be necessary to safeguard or promote the welfare of a Child in Need.
For help in clarifying children who may come within the definition of Children in Need, please see the Derby and Derbyshire Safeguarding Children Partnership Thresholds Document which explains the services available to support children with additional needs.
Children in Need may live with members of their family or with friends in a variety of different legal arrangements; some formal and some informal. Different court orders are available to formalise these arrangements.
For a summary of the meaning and implications of different legal situations, the rights of parents and carers and the nature of decisions which family and friends will be able to make in relation to the child, please see Family and Friends Care: Statutory Guidance for Local Authorities: Annex A, Caring for Somebody Else's Child and also Section 6, Different Situations Whereby Children May Be Living With Family and Friends Carers.
In relation to financial support, the local authority may provide carers of children in need with such support on a regular or one-off basis, under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989. This may include discretionary funding based upon a financial means test. However, the status of the placement will determine the nature and amount of the financial support and who can authorise its payment. The legal status of the child may have a bearing on the levels of financial support which may be available to carers, however. There are different legislative provisions which apply to financial support for children living with family or friends in looked after/Sect 28(6)/adoption/special guardianship/Child Arrangements Order arrangements. The following sections of this policy set out the financial support that we may provide to family and friends who are caring for children in these different contexts (see Appendix 1: Report to Head of Service (Localities) for Regular Section 17 Financial Assistance (Family and Friends)).
5. Duties of Local Authorities
- Authorities must consult children and young people, family and friends carers and parents as appropriate in drawing up their policies, and set out how policies have been informed by their views;
- Management accountability - The Director of Children's Services should identify a senior manager who holds overall responsibility for the family and friends care policy (this does not need to be a dedicated post). See Designated Managers List
They will need to ensure that the policy meets the statutory requirements, and is responsive to the identified needs of children and carers; that local authority staff understand the policy and it is applied in a consistent and fair manner across the authority; that local partners are aware of their responsibilities towards children living in family and friends care and are proactive in meeting those needs; that the policy is publicised sufficiently to ensure that anyone who may be considering becoming a family and friends carer can be aware of its content and be clear about how to contact the local authority and other agencies for further information about relevant services; and that staff who are responsible for implementing the policy have appropriate training;
- Information about services and support, including support groups - there should be clear eligibility criteria in relation to the provision of support services under section 17 of the Children Act 1989, including financial support. It is essential that services are not allocated solely on the basis of the child's legal status. No child should have to become Looked After for the sole purpose of enabling financial, practical or other support to be provided to the child's carer;
- Financial support - Local authorities must identify how to apply for any financial help and how and when decisions are made about eligibility. A written agreement should be drawn up detailing the level and duration of the support that is to be provided, and the mechanism for review. Section 17(6) has been amended to remove the restriction on the local authority to provide financial assistance only 'in exceptional circumstances'. A local authority may now provide financial support on a regular basis under section 17 as well as on a 'one off' basis. Whilst the assessment of need will be the main determinant of the level of support available, the legal status of the child will have a bearing on the levels of financial support which may be available to carers (see Section 6, Different Situations Whereby Children May Be Living With Family and Friends Carers);
- Accommodation - Housing authorities and registered social landlords should be engaged to ensure that their policies recognise the importance of the role performed by family and friends carers, and that whenever possible family and friends carers living in social housing are given appropriate priority to move to more suitable accommodation if this will prevent the need for a child to become Looked After;
- Supporting contact - Local authorities are under a duty to promote contact for all Children in Need, although there are differences in the way in which that duty is expressed depending on whether or not the child is Looked After. Authorities are required to promote contact between a child who is not Looked After but who is living away from home and their family where it is necessary to do so in order to safeguard and promote their welfare. Where a child is Looked After, authorities are required to endeavour to promote contact between the child and their family unless it is not practicable or consistent with the child's welfare;
- Information should be made available to family and friends carers about local contact centres and family mediation services, and how to make use of their services;
- Family Group Conferences - Local authorities should ensure that they have arrangements in place to offer a Family Group Conference or other form of family meeting as a means to engage families at an early stage. If a child becomes Looked After, perhaps following an emergency, without a Family Group Conference having been held, then this step should be considered as soon as possible.
6. Different Situations whereby Children may be Living with Family and Friends Carers
6.1 Informal Family and Friends Care Arrangements
Where a child cannot be cared for within their immediate family, the family may make their own arrangements to care for the child within the family and friends network.
The local authority does not have a duty to assess family care arrangements where the child is placed with a close relative (step parent, grandparent, brother, sister, aunt or uncle, whether full blood, half blood, by marriage or civil partnership), unless it appears to the authority that services may be necessary to safeguard or promote the welfare of a Child in Need in their area, in which case Assessments should be conducted in accordance with Chapter 1 of Working Together to Safeguard Children.
Following assessment, a Child in Need Plan may be drawn up and, if so, a package of support may be identified. This can comprise a variety of different services and support, such as information, advice and guidance and/or financial support.
Additionally the local authority is not required to assess informal care arrangements with extended (i.e. not a close relative as defined above) family or friends if it lasts less than 28 days. If it is anticipated to last beyond 28 days, this would constitute Private Fostering (see Section 6.3, Private Fostering).
6.2 Financial Support
If it is recognised that financial assistance is required on a short or longer term basis to support the child's place within their extended family network and there is no legal order in place, payments will be made under section 17 of the 1989 Children's Act. The level of payment should be commensurate with the need it is intended to meet and have regard to income from other sources, including from the child's parents. The Head of Service (Localities) can approve payments up to 13 weeks in duration but if they are anticipated to extend beyond this a Single Assessment and Appendix 1: Report to Head of Service (Localities) for Regular Section 17 Financial Assistance (Family and Friends) must be completed and the Head of Service (Localities) must seek approval from the Assistant Director. Longer term payments must be reviewed at least annually by the Locality Office to determine that the child remains in placement, the child is happy with the arrangements and that their care is appropriate. The payments section will also send out an annual review form to carers which will require an assessment of their financial means.
See also Private Fostering Procedure.
A privately fostered child is a child under 16 (or 18 if disabled) who is cared for by an adult who is not a parent or close relative, where the child is to be cared for in that home for 28 days or more. Close relative is defined as a grandparent, brother, sister, uncle or aunt (whether of the full blood or half blood or by marriage or civil partnership) or step-parent. It does not include a child who is Looked After by a local authority.
In a private fostering arrangement, the parent still holds Parental Responsibility and agrees the arrangement with the private foster carer. It is expected that the private foster carer will make a claim for the child benefit for that child and the parent will support the placement financially and practically.
The local authority has a duty to assess and monitor the welfare of all privately fostered children. The statutory requirements are clearly set out in the Children (Private Arrangements for Fostering) Regulations 2005. Once notified of a private fostering arrangement, the local authority will commence the process. Duties include; a written assessment and a visiting and review pattern in line with those of Children in Care.
The local authority may also become involved with a child in a private fostering arrangement where the child comes within the definition of a Child in Need. In such cases, the local authority has a responsibility to provide services to meet the assessed needs of the child under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989. Following assessment, a Child in Need Plan will be drawn up and a package of support will be identified. This can comprise a variety of different types of services and support, including financial support.
6.4 Family and Friends Foster Carers - Connected Persons
A connected person is defined under Regulation 24 of Care Planning, Placement and Case Review Regulations (England) 2010 as 'a relative, friend or other person connected with a child e.g. child minder, teacher. It grants temporary approval of a Connected Person to care for a child for up to 16 weeks while the carer is being assessed as an approved foster carer.
The National Minimum Standards for Foster Care will apply and the Connected Person must be fully assessed as a foster carer for the child by 16 weeks of the placement being agreed.
A placement with a Connected Person can be defined as being an arrangement where:
- A child cannot live with their parents and is living away from the parental home with a relative or friend; and
- The placement has in some way been assisted or initiated and/or is supported by Children's Services; and
- The child would otherwise be with foster carers, in residential care, independent living or adopted.
The assessment and approval process for family and friends who apply to be foster carers for a specific Child in Care will be the same as for any other foster carer, except that the timescales for the assessment are different where a child is already in the placement as indicated above. In all other respects the process is the same as for any other potential foster carers and is set out in the Assessments and Approvals of Foster Carers Procedure. An information pack will be available to potential foster carers about the process and they will be given the name and contact details of the social worker from the Fostering Service allocated to carry out the assessment. See also: Derbyshire Fostering Service Statement of Purpose.
Once approved as foster carers, they will be allocated a supervising social worker from the fostering service to provide them with support and supervision; and they will receive fostering allowances for as long as they care for the child as a foster carer.
While the child remains a Child in Care, as a foster carer, they will be expected to meet the same standards and expectations as any other registered foster carer and co-operate with all the processes that are in place to ensure that the child receives appropriate care and support. Examples include: contributing to reviews of the child's Care Plan; cooperating with the child's social worker and promoting the child's education and health needs.
A full fostering allowance is payable from the point that the placement is agreed by the Head of Service (Localities) and recorded on the electronic system. Please see the Derbyshire.gov.uk website for information on fostering allowances.
6.5 Child Arrangements Order
A Child Arrangements Order is a Court Order which sets out the arrangements as to when and with whom a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact.
These orders replace the previous Contact Orders and Residence Orders.
A Child Arrangements Orders may give parental responsibility to the person in whose favour it is made. Parental responsibility is shared with the parents.
Child Arrangements Orders may be made in private family proceedings in which the local authority is not a party nor involved in any way in the arrangements. However, a Child Arrangements Order in favour of a relative or foster carer (who was a Connected Person) with whom a child is placed may be an appropriate outcome as part of a Permanence Plan for a Child in Need or a Child in Care.
The local authority may pay Child Arrangements Order Allowances to relatives or friends, unless they are a spouse or civil partner of a parent, with whom a child is living under a Child Arrangements Order. This is set out in paragraph 15 of Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989. However this is discretionary and Derbyshire County Council will only assess in relation to the payment of a Child Arrangements Order Allowance in respect of children:
- Who immediately prior to the Child Arrangements Order being made, were Looked After by the local authority for a period of at least 3 months and the Child Arrangements Order application is part of their Care Plan;
- Who are subject to a Child Arrangements Order as part of a disposal of Care Proceedings or as a direct alternative to care proceedings, whether or not the child/children were looked after by the local authority for a period of at least 3 months; and
- The local authority supports the placement of the child with the person(s) taking the Child Arrangements Order; or
- Following an assessment of the circumstances of the child and carer, the Assistant Director agrees that the case is exceptional.
See Child Arrangements Orders and Derbyshire Support Scheme, for details of what financial assistance may be available to holders of Child Arrangements Orders, the applicable criteria and who within the local authority will make decisions under the policy.
To support the stable placement of children within their families, the 1989 Act has been amended to allow relatives to apply for a Child Arrangements Order or Special Guardianship Order without the permission of the court after caring for the child for 1 year, instead of 3 years as was previously the case.
6.6 Special Guardianship Order
Special Guardianship offers a further option for children needing permanent care outside their birth family. It can offer greater security without absolute severance from the birth family as in adoption.
Relatives may apply for a Special Guardianship Order after caring for the child for 1 year. As Special Guardians, they will have Parental Responsibility for the child which, while it is still shared with the parents, can be exercised with greater autonomy on day-to-day matters than where there is a Child Arrangements Order.
Special Guardianship Orders may be made in private family proceedings and the local authority may not be a party to any such arrangements. However, a Special Guardianship Order in favour of a relative or foster carer (who was a Connected Person) with whom a child is living may be an appropriate outcome as part of a permanence plan for a Child in Need or a Child in Care.
The eligibility for assessment is as set out in the Child Arrangements Order section.
See Applications for Special Guardianship Orders and the Special Guardianship Support Scheme Procedure, Financial Support for details of what financial assistance may be available to holders of Special Guardianship Orders, the applicable criteria and who within the local authority will make decisions under the policy.
In some cases a direction under Section 38(6) can result in a child being placed with a parent or other person with parental responsibility. In such circumstances any financial support is at the discretion of the Team Manager who must follow relevant guidance. Dependent on circumstances it may be reasonable to provide a parent or person with parental responsibility with a grant e.g. to purchase beds, bedding, clothing etc. In addition it may be appropriate to provide the carer with financial support until such a time as they are in receipt of child benefit however:
- Any regular maintenance payments should not exceed the Child Benefit amount;
- It is expected that the parent or other person with parental responsibility makes the appropriate benefit claims within 1 week of the Section 38.6 direction being made. This will be reviewed by the child’s social worker within 4 weeks of the direction.
6.8 Adoption Order
Adoption is the process by which all parental rights and responsibilities for a child are permanently transferred to an adoptive parent by a court. As a result the child legally becomes part of the adoptive family.
An Adoption Order in favour of a relative or foster carer (who was a Connected Person) with whom a child is living may be an appropriate outcome as part of a permanence plan for a Child in Need or a Child in Care.
Local authorities must make arrangements, as part of their adoption service, for the provision of a range of adoption support services. In Derbyshire this is now provided by Adoption East Midlands. They will undertake assessments of the need for adoption support services at the request of the adopted child, adoptive parents and their families, as well as birth relatives. The support required is then set out in an Adoption Support Plan and this may include financial support.
See the Adoption Financial Support Scheme, for details of what financial assistance may be available to holders of Adoption Orders, the applicable criteria and who within the local authority will make decisions under the policy.
See also: Adoption Support Procedure.
7. Provision of Financial Support - General Principles
Derbyshire County Council is committed to supporting family/friend carers in a variety of ways, however it is important to ensure that families are assisted in accessing mainstream services and are aware of their entitlements to tax credits and social security benefits.
'Help in determining eligibility to benefits can be provided by Derbyshire's Welfare Rights Service.
There are three categories of payment, which may be considered. One or more of these may be applicable, depending on the particular circumstances of the case:
- Subsistence crisis (one-off) payments
These should be used to overcome a crisis, following the best assessment that can be achieved in the circumstances;
These are for such items as clothing, furniture, or bedding. The social worker must be satisfied that the carers' financial position justifies the payment through a financial assessment. Assistance may be given subject to conditions, including repayment in certain situations. However, in most situations, it will be inappropriate for the Department to seek to recover money provided under these circumstances;
- Weekly living contribution
It is possible for the local authority to make regular payments where family members or friends care for a child whether or not the child is not Looked After. Any assessment of financial support will consider what benefits the family are already able to access. Where regular payments are to be made, relative carers should be assisted to maximise their Income/Benefit as regular payments may adversely affect an individual's claim to income support.
In all cases where regular financial support is agreed, a written agreement will be drawn up detailing the level and duration of the financial support that is to be provided, and the mechanism for review.
For further details of the financial support available, see Child Arrangements Orders and Derbyshire Support Scheme, Applications for Special Guardianship Orders and the Special Guardianship Support Scheme and Adoption Financial Support Scheme.
The following criteria will be applied to all such payments:
- The purpose of the payments must be to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child;
- As part of the assessment, a view should be taken as to whether the carers need financial support based on their reasonable requirements in taking on the care of the child;
- There are no other legitimate sources of finance;
- Payments will be paid to the carer, not the parents;
- The payment would not place any person in a fraudulent position;
- Payments will be subject to regular review.
8. Complaints Procedure
Where a family or friends carer is not satisfied with the level of support provided to enable them to care for the child, then they have access to the local authority's complaints process. Our aim would be to resolve any such dissatisfaction without the need for a formal investigation but where an informal resolution is not possible, then a formal investigation will be arranged.
The timescales and process is set out in the Complaints and Representations Procedure.