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Definition

The Hull Safeguarding Children Board Procedures for safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children apply in every situation and to all settings, including those where children are living away from home. Individual agencies that provide care for children living away from home should have in place clear procedures to respond to potential matters of concern in relation to children’s welfare in line with relevant legal requirements and these procedures.

Everywhere children live should provide the same basic safeguards against abuse, founded on an approach that promotes their general welfare, protects them from harm and treats them with dignity and respect.

The National Minimum Standards and Quality Standards contain specific requirements on safeguarding and child protection for each particular regulated setting where children live away from home.


Risks

Children living away from home are particularly vulnerable to being abused by adults and peers. Limited and sometimes controlled contact with family and carers may affect a child’s ability to disclose what is happening to them. Given that many children live away from home because of concerns about their home conditions, it is particularly important that their welfare is protected when they are being cared for by another agency or institution.

Essential Safeguards

All settings must ensure that:

  • Children feel valued and respected and their self-esteem is promoted;
  • There is an openness on the part of the institution to the external world and to external scrutiny, including contact with families and the wider community;
  • Staff and foster carers are trained in all aspects of safeguarding children, are alert to children’s vulnerabilities and risks of harm, and knowledgeable about how to implement safeguarding children procedures;
  • Children are listened to, and their views and concerns responded to;
  • Children have ready access to a trusted adult outside the institution, e.g. a family member, Social Worker, Independent Visitor or children’s Advocate. Children should be made aware of independent advocacy services, external mentors and Child Line;
  • Staff/carers recognise the importance of ascertaining the wishes and feelings of children and understand how individual children communicate by verbal or non-verbal means;
  • Complaints procedures are clear, effective, and user–friendly and are readily accessible to children including those with disabilities and those for whom English is not their preferred language;
  • Bullying is effectively countered; Recruitment and selection procedures are rigorous and create a high threshold of entry to deter abusers and there is effective supervision and support that extends to temporary staff and volunteers;
  • Contracted staff are effectively checked and supervised when on site or in contact with children;
  • Clear procedures and support systems are in place for dealing with expressions of concern by staff and carers about other staff or carers (a whistle-blowing policy);
  • There is respect for diversity, and sensitivity to race, culture, religion, gender, sexuality and disability;
  • Staff and carers are alert to the risks of harm to children in the external environment from people prepared to exploit the additional vulnerability of children living away from home.

Where services are not directly provided, essential safeguards should be explicitly addressed in contracts with external providers.


Protection and Action to be Taken

The most important aspect is the need to listen to children to ensure that they have the mechanism for talking about concerns with people that they trust who are prepared to act on the child’s concerns.

Where there is reasonable cause to believe that a child has suffered, or is likely to suffer Significant Harm, a referral must be made, in accordance with the Any Contacts with Children's Social Care (including Information Sharing and Referrals) Procedure. The Local Authority for the area in which the child is living has the responsibility to convene a Strategy Discussion/Meeting, which should include representatives from the responsible Local Authority that placed the child, if different.

At the Strategy Discussion/Meeting it should be decided which Local Authority will take responsibility for the next steps, which may include an Assessment and a Section 47 Enquiry.

Whether a child is in foster care, Privately Fostered, in a residential setting, hospital, custody or living in temporary accommodation with their family, the duty to protect is essentially the same.


Foster Care

When the concerns relate to a child placed in a foster home outside the area of the responsible local authority.

Where there is reasonable cause to believe that a child in foster care has suffered, or is likely to suffer Significant Harm in the foster placement, a Strategy Discussion / Meeting will be held. This should include representatives from the placing Authority the host fostering service or agency.

In these circumstances, enquiries should also consider the safety of any other children living in the household, including the foster carers’ own children, grand-children or any children cared for by the foster carers in their home as well as any children whom the foster carers may be caring for or working with outside their home in a voluntary or paid capacity e.g. teaching, faith or youth work, scouts or many other groups.

As foster care is undertaken in the privacy of the carers’ own home, it is important that children have a voice outside the family. Social Workers are required to see children in foster care on their own and evidence of this should be recorded on the child’s records.

For further information see National Minimum Standards for Fostering (Standard 22 - Handling allegations and suspicions of harm).


Private Fostering

See also Hull Safeguarding Children Board One Minute Guide to Private Fostering.

A private fostering arrangement is one that is made privately (that is to say without the involvement of a Local Authority) for the care of a child under the age of 16 (under 18, if disabled) by someone other than a parent or relative, that lasts for 28 days or more, in the carers’ own home. A relative under the Children Act 1989 is a grandparent, brother, sister, uncle or aunt (whether of full blood or half blood or by marriage or civil partnership) or step-parent.

Privately Fostered children are a diverse, and sometimes vulnerable, group. Examples of Private Fostering situations may include:

  • Where arrangements are made due to parental illness or distress or when parents’ work or study involves long or anti-social hours;
  • Children sent from abroad to stay with another family, usually to improve their educational opportunities;
  • Asylum seeking and refugee children;
  • Teenagers who stay with friends (or other non-relatives) because they have fallen out with their parents and who may not be in touch with agencies such as education services;
  • Children staying with families while attending a school away from their home area; and
  • Children from overseas whose parents do not reside in this country.

Responsibilities in Relation to Notifications of Private Fostering arrangements

Local Authority

Local Authorities are required to promote awareness in their area of the notification requirements, and to ensure advice is given to those concerned with children who are, or are proposed to be, Privately Fostered.

When advance notice is given, Local Authorities must satisfy themselves of the suitability of a proposed arrangement before it commences.

Local Authorities are also required to monitor their compliance with all their duties and functions in relation to Private Fostering, and must appoint an officer for this purpose.

Parents’ Responsibilities

Parents are required to notify the Local Authority of an intention to place a child in Private Foster care. This notification should be not less than 6 weeks before the arrangement is due to start. If it is to begin within 6 weeks, or has commenced, they must notify the Local Authority immediately.

Proposed or actual Private Foster carers’ responsibilities

The Children Acts 1989 and 2004 place a duty on a person who proposes to Privately Foster a child to notify the Local Authority in writing at least 6 weeks before the arrangement is to begin, or, where the arrangement is to begin within six weeks to notify the Local Authority immediately (Click here to see the Private Fostering Notification Form found in the Documents Library section of this manual).

A person who has given notification to the Local Authority of their proposal to Privately Foster must, within 48 hours of the start of the arrangement, notify the appropriate Local Authority that the child is residing with them.

Hull City Council have produced the following information leaflets for carers and young people in relation to Private Fostering:

Are you Looking after Someone Else’s Child?

Are you Staying with Somebody who is Not a Close Relative?

Professionals’ Responsibilities

All professionals working with children have an important role in relation to safeguarding privately fostered children; they should notify the Local Authority of a Private Fostering arrangement that comes to their attention where they are not satisfied that the Local Authority has been, or will be, notified of the arrangement (Click here to view the Private Fostering Notification Form found in the Documents Library of this manual).

Notification Process

All notifications of Private Fostering arrangements by parents or proposed/actual private foster carers must be made in writing to Children’s Social Care. The notification forms should be completed wherever possible and in any case by all professionals notifying Children’s Social Care of a Private Fostering arrangement.

Responding to Notifications

Children’s Social Care will, within seven working days visit:

  • The child;
  • The child’s parents (if possible); and
  • The proposed private foster carer/s and other members of the carer’s household.

An assessment will be made about the suitability of the proposed arrangements, including Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks on all adult members of the household. A decision will be made on the suitability of the proposed arrangement.

Where a Private Fostering Arrangement already exists or is an emergency arrangement, the Private Foster Carer and/or parent should inform Children’s Social Care immediately. A Social Worker should visit within 7 working days to see the child, the child’s parents (if possible), the carers and other members of the Private Foster Carer’s household. An assessment will be made about the suitability of the arrangements, including DBS checks on all adult members of the household. A decision will be made on the suitability of the Private Fostering arrangement.

Requirements, Prohibitions and Disqualifications

The Children Acts 1989 and 2004 created a number of offences in connection with Private Fostering, including failure to notify an arrangement or to comply with any requirements or prohibition imposed by the Local Authority.

Children’s Social Care can impose requirements on Private Foster Carers including limiting the number of children who can be privately fostered (this should not be more than 3) and on the standard of accommodation.

Children’s Social Care has the power to prohibit a person from privately fostering where that person is not suitable, where the accommodation is not suitable, where the child’s welfare would be harmed, where someone has been convicted for offences against children or where the care of the child is unsatisfactory. Any prohibition must be made in writing and the carer does have the right of appeal to the Family Court within 14 days.

Carers can be disqualified from privately fostering a child if they have been convicted of any offence involving a child, they have had a child removed from their care by a court or local authority, have had their registration as a childminder refused or cancelled, have been prohibited from privately fostering a child or been disqualified from acting as a foster carer.

Provision of Advice and Support

Where the decision is taken by Children’s Social Care that the Private Fostering arrangement is suitable, a Social Worker will visit the child every 6 weeks during the first year and then every 12 weeks thereafter. The Social Worker should see the child alone on each visit (with an interpreter if necessary) and record each visit.

The Social Worker’s role is to promote and safeguard the welfare of the child and to check that the Private Fostering arrangement is still suitable.

The Social Worker will also provide advice and support to the Private Foster Carer/s and the parent/s. If there are any changes in circumstances the Private Foster Carer should inform the Social Worker. The Social Worker needs to make sure that the child continues to be looked after properly and can also provide additional visits if reasonably requested by the Private Foster Carer, Privately Fostered Child or their parents.

How is Responsibility Shared?

The Private Foster Carer becomes responsible for providing the overall day-to-day care of the child, which will promote and safeguard the child’s welfare. The overarching responsibility for safeguarding and promoting the child’s welfare still remains with the parent or other person with parental responsibility.

Notification of Change of Circumstances

The Private Foster Carer or parent (person with parental responsibility) should notify Children’s Social Care immediately about any change in circumstances, e.g. if there is a change of address; someone living in the household is convicted of an offence; any further disqualification; someone joins or leaves the household.

Notification of the end of a private fostering arrangement

Any person who has been fostering a child privately but has ceased to do so, must notify the appropriate local authority within 48 hours, and must include in the notification the name and address of the person into whose care the child was received and that person’s relationship with the child.


Children in Residential Settings

All residential settings where children are placed, including children’s homes and residential schools, whether provided by a private, charitable or faith based organisation, or a Local Authority, must adhere to the to the Children’s Homes Regulations 2001 (as amended by the Children's Homes (Amendment) Regulations 2015, associated guidance) and all other relevant Regulations including the Quality Standards.

Clear records must be kept and reviews and inspections must take place in accordance with Quality Standards.

Children in such settings are particularly vulnerable and must be listened to.

All such establishments must have in place complaints procedures for children visiting and contact arrangements with social workers and Independent Visitors (for Looked After children), as well as parents, and advocacy services.

Where there is reasonable cause to believe that a child in a residential setting has suffered or is likely to suffer Significant Harm, a referral must be made to Children’s Social Care in accordance with the Any Contacts with Children's Social Care (including Information Sharing and Referrals) Procedure. Care Managers and Head Teachers should ensure that staff members are aware of the procedures to follow in respect of abuse by children.

Residential staff who have concerns about the welfare or safety of any child for whom they care should raise the concerns with the registered manager or Head Teacher (or one of their deputies) immediately.

Any allegations made against staff members or volunteers should be responded to in line with the Allegations of Harm Made Against People who Work with Children Procedure. Where historical allegations are made against current staff members these should be treated with the same urgency as a contemporary allegation.


Children in Hospital

The National Service Framework for Children, Young People and Maternity Services (NSF), (2004) Department of Health comprises 11 standards. Each standard contains markers of good practice to assist the NHS, Local Authorities and their partner agencies to achieve and demonstrate high quality service provision for all children, young people and their parents or carers. The NSF is divided into 3 parts; Standards 6-10 in Part 2 apply to children and young people in special circumstances, including children and young people who are in hospital.

Standard 6 – Children and Young People who are Ill

All children and young people who are ill, or thought to be ill or injured will have timely access to appropriate and to effective services which address their health, social, educational and emotional needs throughout the period of their illness.

Standard 7 – Children and Young People in Hospital

Children and young people receive high quality, evidence-based hospital care, developed through clinical governance and delivered in appropriate settings.

When children are in hospital, this should not in itself jeopardise the health of the child further. The NSF requires hospitals to ensure that their facilities are secure, and regularly reviewed. There should be policies relating to breaches of security and involving the Police. The Local Authority where the hospital is located is responsible for the welfare of children in its hospitals.

Children should not be cared for on an adult ward. The NSF Standard for Hospital Services requires care to be provided in an appropriate location and in an environment that is safe and well-suited to the age and stage of development of the child.

Hospitals should be child friendly, safe and healthy places for children. Wherever possible, children should be consulted about where they would prefer to stay in hospital and their views should be taken into account and respected.

Hospitals must meet their responsibilities to safeguard and promote the welfare of children in accordance with the Children Act 1989 as set out in Working Together to Safeguard Children’ 2015.


Children Admitted to Mental Health Units

The “age appropriate environment duty” is set out in Section 131A of the Mental Health Act 1983 and underpins the Government’s commitment to no one under the age of 18 being admitted on to an adult psychiatric ward inappropriately. The environment duty requires hospital managers to ensure that: “the patient’s environment in the hospital is suitable having regard to his age (subject to his needs)”. It applies to patients whether they are admitted to the hospital under the Mental Health Act 1983 or informally. It also includes minors placed on Community Treatment Orders (CTOs) who are recalled to hospital or who agree to informal admission while subject to a CTO. When considering how to meet this requirement, the managers of the hospital must consult someone who has experience in CAMHS cases.

The Code of Practice to the Mental Health Act 1983 for England (2008) highlights the factors to be considered when deciding whether the ward environment is suitable for the child. They should have:

  • Appropriate physical facilities;
  • Staff with the right training, skills and knowledge to understand and address their specific needs as children;
  • A hospital routine that will allow their personal, social and educational development to continue as normally as possible; and
  • Equal access to educational opportunities as their peers, in so far as they are able to make use of them, considering their mental state.

Admissions to Adult Psychiatric Units

Regard should be given to the person’s age and the particular circumstances of the case. However:

  • Children under the age of 16 years should never be admitted to an adult psychiatric ward. Any such admissions are treated as Serious Untoward Incidents and must be reported as such;
  • Children aged 16 and 17 may be admitted to an adult psychiatric unit in limited circumstances: Children should be admitted to a CAMHS facility, unless their circumstances fall within one of two categories of exceptional circumstances:
    1. Emergency admissions: the admission to an adult unit is the most appropriate means of meeting the child’s needs at that time. While such admissions may be justified when responding to a crisis situation, this will only be acceptable in the short term;
    2. Atypical Admissions: given the child’s particular circumstances the best place for the child is an adult unit. E.g. the child is nearly 18, has left school and is being treated by the Early Intervention Psychosis team which has beds on the ward to which the child will be admitted.

Whether the admission is due to an emergency or because it is an atypical case, appropriate safeguards must be in place to ensure the child’s welfare and safety. The suitability of the ward environment must be kept under regular review.


Children In Custody

The Local Authority has the same responsibilities towards children in custody as it does to other children in the Local Authority area.

Under the Legal Aid Sentencing & Punishing of Offenders Act 2012, children are remanded to the care of the Local Authority and are managed within the statutory Looked After Children framework.

Young Offenders Institutions which accommodate Juveniles (16-18) must have policies and procedures in place which set out their duties to safeguard and promote the welfare of the children in their care.

Specific institutions in an area must ensure that there are links in place with the Local Safeguarding Children Board and local authorities.

The local authorities' responsibilities are set out in Local Authority Circular (LAC) 2004(26). See also guidance on the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012.

When a child is in the court setting, whether it is the Youth Court, Magistrates Court or Crown Court, the court officer has a responsibility, taking into account risk and vulnerability factors to offer a robust bail support package to try and prevent either a Remand to Youth Detention Accommodation (RYDA) or a custodial sentence. This can, where necessary, be 7 days per week via an Intensive Supervision and Surveillance bail package.

Custodial Sentences

Sentenced children must have a reception interview within two hours of entering the custodial establishment, in addition to a comprehensive health screening and their risk and vulnerability needs assessed, which are informed by the AssetPlus assessment tool. Emotional and mental health and substance misuse needs must be assessed as soon as possible and where addiction or withdrawal issues arise, the child must be referred to a specialist doctor or nurse. Self harm and suicide concerns are dealt with in accordance with s.1.7 of NICE clinical guideline 16 (self harm).

The allocated YOT worker has 10 working days within which to jointly chair an initial planning meeting with the allocated case worker and the parent/carer must be invited where applicable, in addition to the Local Authority Social Worker where appropriate and any ETE workers, health professionals, housing officers and any other relevant agency. This meeting focuses on the work that they will complete whilst in custody and emphasis is placed upon:

  • SMART targets which are demonstrably linked to identified needs and can reasonably be completed during the custodial and community part of the order;
  • Builds upon strengths in the child’s life, including those who will be supporting his or her resettlement into the community;
  • Specifies review dates and staff responsible for enabling the delivery of the plan;
  • Contains actions to address resettlement/transfer issues in accordance with identified resettlement needs and opportunities;
  • Includes consideration of, and progress towards, suitability for the DTO early release scheme, home detention curfew, Release on Temporary Licence (ROTL), parole and release on licence.

Where particular vulnerability concerns arise, such as self harm or suicide attempts, children will be subjected to regular checks and monitoring of their welfare by the establishment staff. Each establishment has agreed child protection co-ordinators, safeguarding managers or social workers who work to a local, establishment specific, child protection policy agreed by the relevant LSCB.

Children receive welfare visits monthly whilst subject to a custodial sentence and three monthly reviews take place, in addition to a pre-release meeting, 10 days prior to the release date.

Looked after Children in custody

Where a child subject to a Care Order under s.31 of the Children Act 1989 is sentenced to custody, the responsible Local Authority retains the corporate parent role and requirement to visit and continue to assess the child’s needs. Looked After Children Reviews should continue in the custodial establishment and the relevant Social Worker will be heavily involved in the planning and release preparation. Where a child under 16 who has previously been accommodated under s.20 of the Children Act 1989 is sentenced to custody, they do not remain looked after, however, s.15 of the Young Person’s Act 2008 requires the responsible Local Authority to ensure that they appoint a representative to visit all children who have ceased to be accommodated. The child’s needs will be assessed in order to make recommendations about the support they will need whilst detained, and, in particular, the support necessary upon release.

Children of Families Living in Temporary Accommodation

It is important that effective systems are in place to ensure that children from homeless families receive services from health and education, social care and welfare support services as well as any other specific services, because with frequent moves they may become disengaged from services. Where a child who needs specific treatment misses appointments due to moves, the problem may become an issue of Significant Harm.

Temporary accommodation, e.g. bed and breakfast accommodation or women’s refuges, may be a location which is not secure and safe and where other adults are also resident who may pose a risk to the child.

All concerns about the welfare of a child or of Significant Harm to a child should be referred to Children’s social care in accordance with Any Contacts with Children's Social Care (including Information Sharing and Referrals) Procedure.


Amendments to this Chapter

In July 2017, a link was added to the Hull Safeguarding Children Board One Minute Guide to Private Fostering

End.