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.
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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. 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):
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: Appendix A, Caring for Somebody Else's Child - Options.
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.
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.
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 City and Derbyshire 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: Appendix 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/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)).
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).
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 area 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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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. They then have to 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.
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:
The following criteria will be applied to all such payments:
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.
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