3.2.1 Placements in Looked After Services (Children's Homes, Foster Care and Commissioned Placements)

SCOPE AND RELATED CHAPTERS

This Chapter relates to the placement of Children in the borough’s children’s homes, foster homes and external placements within and outside normal working hours. It does not include procedures for children requiring Short Term Breaks or Secure Accommodation (see Short Term Breaks - Medical and Clinical Procedures for Short Term Family Break Placements Procedure and Placements in Secure Accommodation Procedure).

Children may also be placed with Connected Persons having acquired Looked After status following a Remand to Local Authority Accommodation - see Remands to Local Authority Accommodation or to Youth Detention Accommodation Procedure.

Also see:

Decision to Look After a Child Procedure, which contains procedures and guidance on planning, consultation and decision making in relation to Looked After Children.

Placements in the Looked After Service Guidance.

AMENDMENT

This chapter was updated throughout in in February 2016 and should be reread.  


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Single Point Referral for Placements
  3. Family Placements
  4. Residential Placements
  5. Out of Hours Placements
  6. Placement Funding Panel (PFP) – Commissioned Residential Placements
  7. All Placements
  8. Placement and Resources Team: Duty Officer Role


1. Introduction

We acknowledge that the identification of a suitable placement for looked after children to meet identified needs is a complex process. Unless a placement is available which can meet the entire child’s identified needs it is likely that a high degree of joint working and problem solving across service areas and teams is required to achieve the most appropriate outcome. 

All requests for placements - foster placements or residential, are to be made to the single referral point for placements. All requests should be directed to the inbox: Placementandresouces@walsall.gov.uk. This is for all placements including when a child needs to move to an alternative placement accommodation. This includes children who need to return into borough from an external residential placement.

This chapter describes the process for securing a needs-based placement for any child. It is not a static process and placement identification may continue after an initial placement is made, if it is agreed that the placement does not fully meet the needs of a child, or if, for example, an external placement is made because there is no  internal vacancy.

It may be possible to meet the needs of a child by shared care in a family placement and the use of residential resources during the day or weekends etc. It is an expectation that flexible and imaginative arrangements will be sought at the point of admission, and immediate post admission planning stages.

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 for Looked After Children Procedure.


2. Single Point Referral For Placements

Also see Section 8, Placement and Resources Team: Duty Officer Role.

Any requests for placements will be made to the Single Point of Referral for Placements via the Children’s Resources Team. The Duty Officer will seek confirmation that the following have taken place:

  1. Planning meeting  with reference to the Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) if appropriate;
  2. The decision to accommodate/look after has been agreed by:
    • The Public Law Outline/Gateway Panel;

      or
    • The appropriate Group  Manager;

      or
    • It has been agreed that a looked after child should be moved;

      or
    • There is an imminent disruption.

The Placement/Matching Form will be completed fully and will include full information about the child’s needs, including a risk assessment. 

Through the referral process, agreement is reached about the type of placement that will be required initially and how the whole team will ensure that all of the child’s needs are met. This may include additional risk management measures or additional resources, where a specific carer or residential placement is unable to fulfil certain tasks or functions.

The following sections (Section 3, Family Placements and Section 4, Residential Placements) provide detailed procedures for the referral, approval and placement of children in Family or Residential Placements - Internally and Externally.

Section 7, All Placements contains details of the procedures that must be followed for all placements, e.g. notifications, Looked After Children records, arrangements in relation to healthcare.


3. Family Placements

3.1 Internal Family Placements

For External Fostering Placements see Section 3.2, Commissioned Fostering Placements.

If the preferred option is family placement and a Local Authority internal resource is identified then details of the proposed carer will be given to the referring social worker who will liaise with the carer and make the placement.

The Placement and Resources team will inform the supervising social worker of any placements made with their foster carers. They will also seek the views of social workers responsible for other children placed in the household to seek their views on the placement of another child.

If it is a Planned Placement a pre-placement planning meeting will take place. If an Unplanned/Emergency Placement, then the Placement and Resources Team will agree a date for a Placement Planning Meeting, as set out in Placement Planning Meetings Procedure. This meeting must take place no later than 3 working days after placement. At these meetings the Placement Plan all the relevant Looked After Children paperwork will be completed and copies given to relevant parties.

A copy of the placement referral will be given to the placing social worker for them to give to the carer on placement. For children placed in an emergency or by the Emergency Response Team (ERT), this document will be given to the carer as soon as possible - and by the post placement meeting at the latest. See Section 5, Out of Hours Placements.

The placing child care social worker will ensure that the carer signs the placement  plan and that they give the carer one of the signed copies.

Section 7, All Placements contains details of the procedures that must be followed for all placements, e.g. notifications, Looked After Children records, arrangements in relation to healthcare.

3.2 Commissioned Family Placements

For Internal Family Placements see Section 3.1, Internal Family Placements.

For Commissioned Family Placements which are made outside Walsall, please also see the Out of Area Placements Procedure.

If there is no appropriate internal vacancy, and options such as splitting siblings have been considered, then the process of identifying a commissioned l foster family will commence.

A Childrens Resources Team will make contact with the relevant group manager to advise that there are no internal family placements available and to seek authorisation to approach Independent Fostering Agencies.

A copy of the Form F on any prospective carers will be sent to the referring social worker for them to make a decision about their ability to meet the child’s needs.

If it is a Planned Placement a pre-placement meeting will take place. If an Unplanned/Emergency Placement, then the Social Worker will liaise with the agency Supervising Social Worker to arrange a Post Placement Meeting. The meeting must take place no later than 5 working days after placement. At these meetings all the relevant Looked After Child paperwork will be completed and copies given to relevant parties.

3.3 Placement Planning Meeting

The purpose of the first Placement Planning Meeting is to finalise the Placement Plan which will be recorded on the Placement Information Record. This will involve a discussion of the child's needs to ensure careful matching, including the child’s personal history, consideration of any risky behaviours,  religious persuasion, cultural and linguistic background and racial origin, as well as the child’s 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).

In addition the placement planning meeting will consider the type of introduction process required, for example whether arrangements should be made for the child, parents and the social worker to visit the foster home and/or whether it may be appropriate to have an introductory overnight stay. Children should be able to visit the foster home and talk in private with the carer. If this is not possible, arrangements may be made for the carers to visit the child and parents; or for information about the foster carers to be sent to the child and/or the parents, for example about routines in the foster home, bedtimes, meals, visitors, pocket money, school, privacy and the overall expectations in relation to the child’s behaviour within the home.

For children placed in foster 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:

  1. The type of accommodation to be provided and the address;
  2. Where the authority has, or is notified of, Child Protection concerns relating to the child, or the child has gone missing from the placement or from any previous placement, the day to day arrangements put in place by the appropriate person (placement provider) to keep the child safe;
  3. Any risk taking behaviours;
  4. The child’s personal history, religious persuasion, cultural and linguistic background and racial origin;
  5. 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;
  6. 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;
  7. The Local Authority’s arrangements for the financial support of the child during the placement;
  8. The obligation on the carers to comply with the terms of the foster care agreement.

Confirmation will be given that the placement is appropriate and the child is placed.

For Local Authority provided family placements the initial Placement plan is completed at the placement planning meeting, this meeting is chaired by the supervising social worker, the completion of the document is led by the child’s social worker. All parties sign the placement plan and it is then distributed to all parties. Looked After Child.

Where a commissioned family placement is made because there are no suitable Local Authority carers available at the time, then the referral will remain active and efforts made to identify an appropriate internal family placement.

Section 7, All Placements contains details of the procedures that must be followed for all placements, e.g. notifications, Looked After Children records, arrangements in relation to healthcare.

3.3 Matching and Approval of Foster Placements

The matching process should consider the child's needs especially regarding the following key areas:

The child’s education

  • The expectations around contact with relatives and friends;
  • The child’s identify/race/culture;
  • The child’s history;
  • The child’s behaviour;
  • The child’s health.

The matching process should also consider the carer's availability and:

  • Their experience;
  • Their strengths;
  • The family composition;
  • The distance from the foster home to the child’s school;
  • Other children in the placement;
  • The foster carer's children.

Wherever possible, the child's social worker should visit potential carers and as required consult with other professionals, prior to a decision about the appropriateness of a placement being made.

Ideally each child should have their own bedroom. However, this is not always possible, especially when placing siblings. The views of children and young people should always be sought and taken into account as far as is practicable. In relation to the sharing of bedrooms, a Bedroom Risk Assessment must be completed ideally prior to the commencement of placement or as soon after placement as possible, this should take into account the child’s wishes and feelings.


4. Residential Placements

4.1 Internal Residential Placements

For Commissioned Family Placements see Section 4.3, Commissioned Residential Placements.

Where there are no appropriate family placements available to appropriately meet the child’s needs, then the option of a residential placement will be explored.

If there is an appropriate vacancy in an internal residential home then discussions will take place with the Registered Manager of the children’s home.. A copy of the referral will be sent to the home  and the Registered Manager will then liaise with relevant parties to undertake an individual and group risk assessment to ensure that the needs of the child and the children living at the home can be adequately met.

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.

If it is agreed that the placement will proceed, then the Childrens Placement and Resources Team will confirm this with the referring social worker and the placement will proceed.

If it is a Planned Placement a pre-placement meeting will take place. If an Unplanned/Emergency Placement, then the Support Team Duty Officer will agree a date for a Placement Planning Meeting, as set out in Placement Planning Meetings Procedure. This meeting must take place no later than 5 working days after placement. At these meetings all the relevant Looked After Children paperwork will be completed and copies given to relevant parties.

Where a child is placed in a Children’s Home as there are no other suitable options available at the time, then the placement referral will remain active and efforts made to identify a more appropriate alternative.

4.2 Placement Planning Meeting

The purpose of the Placement Planning Meeting is to finalise the Placement  Plan, recorded on the Placement Information Record and the details of the child's needs in the placement including the daily routine, and discuss the Care Plan. This will involve a discussion of 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).

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:

  1. The type of accommodation to be provided and the address;
  2. Where the authority has, or is notified of, Child Protection concerns relating to the child, or the child has gone missing from the placement or from any previous placement, the day to day arrangements put in place by the appropriate person (placement provider) to keep the child safe;
  3. Any risk taking behaviours;
  4. The child’s personal history, religious persuasion, cultural and linguistic background and racial origin;
  5. 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;
  6. 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;
  7. The Local Authority’s arrangements for the financial support of the child during the placement.

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.

Section 7, All Placements contains details of the procedures that must be followed for all placements, e.g. notifications, LAC records, arrangements in relation to healthcare.

4.3 Commissioned Residential Placements

For Commissioned  Residential Placements which are made outside Walsall, please also see the Out of Area Placements Procedure.

If there is no suitable internal residential placement or the child’s assessed needs can most appropriately be met by way of a Planned Placement in an external provision, the social worker should liaise with the Placement and Resources Team, who will liaise with the relevant Group Manager or Nominated Officer. It is the team manager’s responsibility to obtain agreement in principle from budget holder, before the referral is passed to the Placement and Resources Team.

The general principle is that the Childrens Placement and Resources Team will exhaust all internal options before commissioned placements are considered.

Documentation Required for Placement Identification

An up to date referral will be sent to the Placement and Resources Team and they will liaise with the referring social worker/duty to identify an appropriate commissioned residential placement.

In acknowledgement of the complexities of dealing with external providers, it is imperative that the Placements and Resources Team is provided with full information through the completion of a comprehensive referral, before any approaches to providers for potential placement matches are made.

Where the Courts have ordered a parent/child residential assessment on an infant, it is accepted that review paperwork may not be available, A risk assessment should be completed in respect of the adult accompanying the child.

Unless there are exceptional circumstances Social Workers/Social Work Managers should not get involved in negotiations with placement providers regarding costs and contracts, this will help avoid us unwittingly entering into contractual arrangements with providers.

Section 7, All Placements contains details of the procedures that must be followed for all placements, e.g. notifications, Looked After Child records, arrangements in relation to healthcare.


5. Out of Hours Placements

All placements outside office hours must be authorised by the Emergency response team (ERT) Duty Manager. The Duty Manager will also have to agree requests to exceed numbers in an approved placement.

A family placement should always be the first consideration.

A list of vacancies will be drawn up by the Placement and Resources Team on a daily basis by 5.15pm. If a family placement is required, EDT should ring the foster carer direct. If a child has been placed in a commissioned Residential Placement then the Childrens Resources Team and Group Manager with Strategic Lead for Placement Services  must be informed and then notification sent for next Placement Funding Panel (see Section 6, Placements Funding Panel (PFP) - Commissioned Residential Placements).

If EDT make a commissioned residential placement, it must be noted that some residential homes have a minimum period of stay. The length of the placement and cost should be negotiated if possible. It is not always in the child’s best interests to be placed a great distance from home. The Children’s Social Worker must contact the Childrens Resources Team to confirm approvals have been sought for an extension and attendance at PFP The EDT Manager can authorise placements for up to 28 days.

See Section 7.2, Before the Placement, which contains details of the Looked After Child records that must be completed.


6. Placements Funding Panel (PFP) - Commissioned Residential Placements

The following only applies to commissioned residential placements.

The Placement Funding Panel (PFP) will meet at least every calendar month.

  • To consider all recommendations for funding of independent agency placements;
  • To be informed of the current spending on placements and forecasts;
  • To determine the budget limit for spending on independent agency placements;
  • To approve funding of placements with independent agencies, taking into account whether it is forecast that there is sufficient remaining budget;
  • Agree amendments to the West Midlands Consortium database.

The membership of the PFP will consist of:

  • Assistant Director – Chair Children’s;
  • Group Manager - Looked After Children and Care Leavers (vice chair);
  • Contacts Officer (children);
  • Senior Finance Officer;
  • Children’s Resource team Representative
  • Commissioning Manager (Health Authority);
  • Education Services Representative.

The financial arrangements for all external residential placements will be reviewed by the Placements Funding Panel at intervals deemed appropriate by the panel and any concerns reported, or significant changes of the care plan, referred to the Residential Service Manager who will arrange for a referral to the Placements Solutions Panel, if required.

All invoices should be sent immediately to the Senior Finance Officer, who will arrange for these to be approved by either the Residential Services Manager.

Any additional costs or changes to the IPA should be discussed with the Children’s Resources team.


7. All Placements

The following procedures apply to all placements.

7.1 Before a Decision is Reached to Place the Child

If a single assessment has not been updated  in the previous three months, the social worker must update this assessment  the Team Manager in consultation with the Group Manager will agree to a child being accommodated It must follow the Decision to Look After Child Procedure.

7.2 Before the Placement

All proposed placements will be visited by the child’s social worker, who will assess the placement options based on the check list (Appendix 2). For Supported Accommodation, it is a requirement that the Social worker must visit the placement.

A copy of the most recent Regulatory Authority Inspection Report should be obtained from the proposed placement, and any concerns raised within it should be followed up.

Where there are concerns about the placement in general, or in relation to the child to be placed, this should be made known to the this should be known to the Childrens Resources Team, the Commissioning Team and the Group Manager with Strategic Lead for Provider Services, who will take appropriate action.

The independent agency and the Assistant Director will sign an Independent Placement Agreement (IPA) before a placement is made. No one else should sign an IPA.

Planned Placements

Before the child is placed the social worker should liaise with the carers and staff of the home and ensure that the following plans have been completed and circulated or that arrangements are in place to complete/circulate them:

The social worker must ensure that the child is provided with information on using this authority’s Complaints Procedure and information relating to accessing the Independent Advocacy scheme.

Unplanned/Emergency Placements

In all cases, even where a child is placed in an emergency, a Risk Assessment, Placement Plan/Placement Information Record and Chronology will be provided to the Placement provider with copies given to the carers, child and parent(s). 

Within 7 days of the placement starting, the social worker should liaise with the manager or staff/carers of the home and ensure that a Care Plan is completed and circulated. 

Thereafter, a Personal Education Plan and Health Plan must be formulated within appropriate timescales.

The social worker must ensure that the child is provided with information on using this authority’s Complaints Procedure.

7.3 Contact

Unless agreed by the social worker and set out in the Placement Information Record, no contact may be permitted between the child and parents or siblings. 

7.4 Notifications

Notification of the placement must be sent, in writing, to all those consulted and involved in the decision-making process. 

 If not consulted during the decision making process, the social worker must also notify:

  • The independent Reviewing Officer (IRO);
  • The appropriate Health Trust;
  • The Local Education Authority;
  • The Children's Services Department in the area where the child is placed.

These notifications must be made in writing advising of the placement decision and the name and address of the person with whom the child is to be placed. The notifications should be before the start of the placement or within 5 working days.

The social worker must also notify the Virtual School for Looked After Children and finance section.

Mosaic should be updated, when a placement is made, by the child's social worker.

In the case of out of area placements, including Placements at a Distance, written notification must be given to the area authority of the arrangements for the placement before the placement is made or, if the placement is made in an emergency, within five working days of the start of the placement unless it is not reasonably practicable to do so.

The notification must include:

  1. Details of the assessment of the child's needs and the reasons why the placement is the most suitable for responding to these; and
  2. A Copy of the child's care plan (unless already provided in the case of a Placement at a Distance).

7.5 Health Care

It will be necessary for the social worker to ensure the child is registered with a GP, Dentist and Optician within a week of the placement, either retaining practices known to them or in the area where they are placed. See General Practitioners, Opticians and Dentists Procedure.

 It will also be necessary to arrange a Health Care Assessment; see Health Care Assessments and Health Plans Procedure for these procedures

7.6 Support and Monitoring of Placements

The child’s social worker must visit the child in the placement within one week of the placement and then at specified intervals as set out in Social Worker Visits to Looked After Children Procedure.

A Looked After Review should be convened where:

  • The child is, or has been, persistently absent from the placement;
  • The placement provider, parents or area authority are concerned that the child is at risk of harm; or
  • The child so requests, unless the Independent Reviewing Officer considers that the review is not justified. See also Looked After Reviews.

Also see:

Supervision of Foster Carers Procedure and Placement Planning Meetings Procedure.

7.7 Termination of Placements

When consideration is being given to the termination of a placement, the carer/provider should be consulted beforehand, but must always be given appropriate written notice as agreed within the Individual Placement Agreement.

When the placement is terminated, the child’s social worker must inform all those notified of the commencement of the placement. See Section 7.4, Notifications.

The child’s file should be forwarded to the child’s social worker; for foster carers, this should be forwarded via the Supervising Social Worker.


8. Placement and Resources Team: Duty Officer Role

To be available as a Team Manager to offer advice, consultation and decisions in relation to any duty matter in respect of referral to fostering and residential placements.

Specific Areas

  • To ensure that the Single Point of Referral system operates according to process, efficiently and effectively;
  • To process any exemptions from the usual fostering limit and any immediate amendment to foster carers’ terms of approval (WSS915);
  • To consult with social workers where there are foster children in placement when placing other children in foster care;
  • To arrange placement planning meetings in respect of children placed in internal foster care;  
  • Ensure referrals remain active until the final placement is identified; 
  • Ensure that Out Of Borough (OOB) process is followed; 
  • Ensure that authorisation is given at the relevant points in the process.

Single Point Referral Duty (Back Up)

  • The back up duty worker provides support and advice to the duty worker in identifying both foster placements and external placements;
  • Assist in arranging Placement Planning meetings, and attending Placement Planning meetings; 
  • Liaise with colleagues in Residential Services and social work teams;
  • Ensure that the vacancy spreadsheet is updated and shared with ERT.

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