Placements in Residential Care
SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This procedure applies to all placements of Looked After children in residential care.
See Decision to Look After and Care Planning 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.
NOTE: from September 2021, looked after children under 16 years of age cannot be accommodated in unregulated independent or semi-independent placements. See Placements in Other Arrangements Procedure.
This chapter was updated in December 2021.
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.
The views of these people should be given by them, in writing, or should be recorded by the social worker.
2. Placements Process
Where a decision has been made that a child requires a residential placement, the child's social worker should request a placement by submitting a written report to the Central Placements Team for consideration by the Residential Operations Managers and discussion at the Placement Matching Panel (unless the child’s level of disability requires specialist provision).
In making this request, the 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 length of time for which the placement is required and the expected level of contact between the child and parents. The social worker should also outline any risks associated in making the placement.
On receiving the request, the Central Placements Team will send the referral to the relevant Residential Operations Manager who will discuss the referral with the Registered Manager of children’s homes with a vacancy. Registered Managers will complete a short matching form within 48 hours (or sooner if the placement is needed in an emergency) to determine whether the child would be a suitable match for their home, taking account of his/her strengths and needs, as well as any risks and how they might be mitigated. The request and the short matching form will then be considered at Placement Matching Panel and discussion will take place regarding whether there is an in-house residential placement available that appears to be appropriate to meet the child's needs.
The Head of Service (Localities) receive minutes from the PMP; and so are informed of possible changes and can thus make representations if necessary.
If such a placement is available or if there is a possibility of a placement by the required date, the social worker will be advised accordingly.
If no appropriate in-house placements are available and the child requires a placement without delay, the Central Placements Team will seek permission from the Head of Children in Care Provision to search for an external placement. Once provisional agreement is given by the Head of Children in Care Provision to search in principle; an external provider will be identified, initially using the East Midlands Regional Provider Framework, but if a placement is not secured via this route, a spot purchase can be considered through discussion with the Contracts Manager (external placements).
ALL Private residential placements must be agreed in advance by the Nominated Officer/Executive Director of Children's Services – this includes those private homes in County, those out of County and those "at a distance". Placements must not be made until the Nominated Officer/DCS has signed it off.
Once a resource has been identified and agreed, the social worker should contact the relevant registered manager directly to discuss the available placement further.
In most circumstances the Registered Manager/s will seek the views of social workers or Independent Reviewing Officers of children already in placement, and/or consult with other members of the Team around the Home. The Home manager will use the matching template to record their considerations.
If the IRO has concern about the impact of any placement on the Care Plan for their child, they can follow the IRO Conflict Resolution guidance (Looked After Reviews Procedure, Conflict Resolution).
Wherever possible, the child's social worker 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. Wherever possible, the home will consult with their linked Horizons clinician when considering new placements.
The young person's views should also be considered. In some circumstances this may include discussion with advocates, particularly when the young person's wishes and feelings cannot be met.
The social will worker will then present the proposed placement to her/his manager and to the Head of Service (Localities) for approval by completion of the Agency Residential and Agency Foster Placements Authorisation Form The Head of Children in Care Provision will confirm that there are no suitable in-house options available on the form prior to submission for approval by the Nominated Officer/DCS.
If the proposed placement is with an external provider, the Contracts Manager (External Placements) 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.NB In addition to the above approvals, 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 - see Education of Children in Care 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 Health Care Assessments and Plans Procedure).
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 social worker may then arrange visits to the proposed placement, with the child (if old enough) and parents (if appropriate). The home may be able to provide information about the home for the young person to consider in advance of visiting.
Before the child is placed, the child's social worker will liaise with the relevant registered manager to provide details of the child's immediate child care needs and to arrange a Placement Planning Meeting - see Placement Planning Meetings and Disruption Meeting Procedure. The meeting will usually be held in the child's new placement.
Participants will include:
- The parent;
- The child (if appropriate);
- The key residential staff;
- Any other relevant professionals, e.g. a representative from the child's school;
- Anyone else considered appropriate or who will have a role in the placement.
The purpose of the Placement Planning Meeting is to finalise the Placement Plan (recorded on the Care Plan) 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 the following:
- The circumstances leading to the child becoming looked after;
- The objectives for the placement being offered and how those reflect the Care Plan;
- The long term plan for the child and its timeframe;
- How day to day parenting tasks will be shared between the carer and the responsible authority;
- Financial arrangements; and
- Arrangements for contact.
The Placement Planning Meeting will consider 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 Decision to Look After and Care Planning Procedure:
- The type of accommodation to be provided and the address;
- The child's personal history, religious persuasion, cultural and linguistic background and racial origin;
- 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;
- Where the child is Accommodated, the respective responsibilities of the Local Authority and parents/anyone with Parental Responsibility; any delegation of responsibility by parents/anyone with Parental Responsibility to the Local Authority for the child's day-to-day care; the expected duration of the arrangements and the steps to bring the arrangements to an end, including arrangements for the child to return to live with parents/anyone with Parental Responsibility; where the child is aged 16 or over and agrees to being provided with accommodation under Section 20 Children Act 1989, that fact;
- Delegated Authority issues such as the circumstances in which it is necessary to obtain in advance the Local Authority's approval for the child to take part in school trips or overnight stays;
- 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.
Relevant risk assessment/s will be provided and the registered manager will need to make reference to their home's Location Risk Assessment to inform planning.
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 child's 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 Care Plan 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 child's 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.
The social worker 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 luggage should be used and a child's belongings should never be transported in bin-bags or other inappropriate containers.
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 Executive Director of Children's Services.
The child's social worker will update the child's electronic record with the details of the placement.
Where the placement is within an external provider, the Contracts Manager will notify the finance section so as to trigger payments as appropriate.
Notification of the placement will also be sent by a business services clerk to the Designated Nurse for Children in Care, the relevant person in the education service, the local Children's Services Department (if the placement is in the area of a different local authority) and the child's GP.
The child's social worker will notify all family members consulted and involved in the decision-making process of the placement.
The child's social worker must also notify the allocated Independent Reviewing Officer and make 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 child's 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 home or the child's 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 set up an Initial Health Care Assessment - see Health Assessments and Health Plan Procedure. The social worker must arrange for the completion of a Personal Education Plan (PEP) - see Education of Children in Care 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.
3. Support, Monitoring and Ending of Placements
The child's social worker must visit the child in the placement within one week of the placement and then at a minimum every six weeks; see Social Worker Visits to Children in Care Procedure.
Where there are concerns in relation to the progress of the placement, consideration should be given to seeking additional resources to assist the placement.
Where there are any changes to the child's placement and/or legal status during the placement, the child's social worker must update the child's electronic records.
The child's social worker must update the child's electronic record if the child moves, and complete a CA4. If it is an external placement, the social worker should notify the Contracts Manager when a placement ends or when notice is given and arrange to inform the relevant finance officer 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 and Disruption Meeting Procedure.