SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
Procedure and guidance for capital programme assistance to foster carers and other carers.
Wakefield Council Children and Young People Service is committed to improving services and outcomes for looked after children and children placed by virtue of a Child Arrangements Order/Special Guardianship Order through improving the quality, number and suitability of short-term and long-term placements.
From time to time capital funding may be available, which will support this aim. This could be applied to alterations, adaptations or improvements to foster carers' homes or the provision or adaptation of suitable vehicles or other equipment to enable them to meet Standard 10 (Providing a suitable physical environment for the child) of the Fostering Services National Minimum Standards 2011.
Similar capital expenditure will also be considered in the case of children placed by way of adoption, kinship, Child Arrangements Order or Special Guardianship where this increases the likelihood of permanency for children who may be hard to place e.g. children with complex care needs or sibling groups.
Any capital expenditure will based on the assessment of the needs of the child/young person in order to ensure that children and young people are cared for in, appropriate environments that meet their specific needs.
Any capital administered will be to ensure permanency for the child/young person or to increase the provision of short break or fostering capacity.Any capital expenditure must be for a minimum of £5000 in line with Wakefield Council's capital expenditure policy.
Stage 1: Securing Capital Planned Bids
The Service Director, Safeguarding and Family Support (SDSFS) will make bids as required for capital from Wakefield Council to meet the estimated needs for such expenditure in respect of children's placements in the following year. This will be based on analysis supplied by Service Managers (Safeguarding and Family Support Services).
The Service Director will also seek to bring in capital from any other sources, which could be applied to this purpose, for example a Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG).
Any expenditure, whatever the source, will be in accordance with the Wakefield Council Scheme of Delegation, Standing Orders and Financial Regulations. It will also be considered in terms of Whole Life Costing.
Any expenditure can only be granted within Wakefield Council contract procedure rules. Therefore any procurement of a contractor will be subject to a minimum of three quotations being received.
Stage 2: Link to Needs
Where requests for funding from the capital programme are made in respect of individual children or vulnerable adults this must follow consideration in the assessment, planning and decision-making process for looked after children.
Any application for capital assistance for adaptations relating to complex care needs/disabilities in any setting must include the application of a Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG). This will be the first source of funding.
Wherever possible, children should be able to live in a stable family-based setting for the duration of their childhood with any siblings, and placement moves should be minimal. In addition placement moves should be minimal.
Therefore children and young people with complex and additional needs should not be placed unless the home/family based setting is already able to meet their specific needs in order to promote safe, effective care and placement stability. Where adaptations are required to enable the child's needs to be met, planning permission must have been granted and any building works costed before a placement can be agreed.
The placement household must be appropriate in all other ways.
When such expenditure is proposed in respect of individual children, it must be endorsed as a recommendation through the planning or review process and endorsed by the relevant Service Manager.
To ensure consistent application of this procedure all requests for Capital Expenditure for specific children should be presented to the Complex Care Needs Panel.
The assessment should indicate why and how the capital expenditure will meet the needs of the child/young person and should explore any alternative/additional sources of funding.
Any application for assistance in relation to vehicles to support complex care needs must include the consideration of prevalent Motability Schemes and mobility related benefits or other income, where applicable. This will be the first source of funding (see Stage 5: Loans for Vehicles or Adaptations to Vehicles).
Stage 3: The Decision Approval Process
The allocated social worker will complete a report for the Complex Care Panel. This will be a fostering or adoption social worker unless the placement is an external one, in which case it will be the child's social worker. The report will include the following:
- Purpose of the request including details of children and carers concerned;
- The purpose of the request should be identified as one of the following: to increase service capacity, to increase living space (due to large sibling groups) or to meet the complex care needs of a child;
- Identified adaptations, equipment options with any benefits, limitations;
- Likely or estimated costs, including architects' fees, planning permission fees, building regulations and any other fees as appropriate;
- Any other funding sources (e.g. Disabled Facilities Grant) and arrangements explored and/or secured;
- The preferred option and supporting reasons, where there is more than one option;
- Details of any revenue budget savings arising from any options;
- Likely timescales for the project and key milestones (e.g. funding availability, start on-site);
- Scope for the Council to recoup its investment;
- Any other pertinent considerations.
The Complex Care Needs Panel will consider the assessment and will determine if the request is appropriate, and will consider whether other additional or alternative sources of funding should be explored including partner agency contributions.
The Complex Care Needs Panel will make a recommendation to the Service Director.
The Service Director may approve sums of up to £3,000.
Should the Service Director accept that Capital Assistance is appropriate, and if the amount exceeds £3,000, the Service Director will table a report at DMT requesting formal approval of the application. Depending on the sum involved, political approval may also be required. The need for political approval will be identified by DMT.
In coming to a decision regarding the application the following will be taken into account:
- The amount of capital assistance offered will be based on the specific needs of the child/young person and the circumstances of the permanency arrangement, e.g. financial hardship;
- To facilitate or enable the placement of a child with complex needs by providing access and appropriate bathroom facilities;
- The installation of specialist equipment within the home or adaptation of a vehicle for a child with complex needs. (This should not be seen as replacing the role of Occupational Health in providing appropriate adaptations for the child/young person);
- To provide adequate bedroom facilities;
- To increase the capacity of placements in line with the recommendations for a maximum number of placements and value for money;
- To provide a vehicle that will safely accommodate the foster children in placement;
- In Adoption Support Plans or other plans for permanence, i.e. Child Arrangements Order, Special Guardianship Order, applications for assistance will only be considered where there is an existing complex care need or immediate living space need which requires adaptation to a property. Where it is possible that a medical condition may manifest itself at a later date (e.g. genetic conditions) the Support Plan should note that an application for capital assistance may be considered should complex care needs arise in the future;
- In Adoption Support/RO/SGO cases where the issue is living space rather than adaptation to complex care needs a contribution may be offered. The contribution will not exceed £3000 unless specifically approved by DMT.
Stage 4: The Involvement of other Wakefield Council Services in Property Adaptation/Extension
In the case of expenditure requests that are likely to be complicated (e.g. adaptations to properties), it will be beneficial that progress continues to be made while awaiting a final decision. However, it must be clear to the carers that any expense incurred by them can only be returned if it is part of the funding bid and the bid is approved.
Carers should be advised not to begin any works until confirmation of the capital has been approved. If carers choose to go ahead without any approval, responsibility for paying any fees and costs will be with the carers.
It is important to note that the social worker cannot make any agreements or undertakings on behalf of Wakefield Council in relation to this procedure. Therefore the Social Worker should communicate this to the carers.
The carers will be the 'commissioner' where alterations are made to their home and, as such, will be responsible for obtaining any necessary planning or other permissions, contracting an architect if needed, obtaining suitable quotations for any works being considered and managing any works.
The social worker will also alert Wakefield Council Legal Services and Children and Young People Service Contracts Section of an application relating to a property alteration or extension, so that any necessary early steps can be taken. These steps, as outlined below, will cease if the application is not approved.
The responsible Service Manager will oversee the sending of a formal memo of instruction to Wakefield Council's Property Law Team, which should include an expenditure code, as some costs will be incurred early in the process.
The carers should be advised of the option to seek their own legal advice, for which they will have to pay. Wakefield Council Legal Services should be advised of the name, address and reference of any legal representative. The social worker will ensure that the carers understand that they will be responsible for the costs of their own legal advice. The Property and Development Law Team should be advised of the name, address and reference of any legal representative.
The Property and Development Law Team, as, advised by Contracts Section, will be responsible for drawing up any Agreement between Children and Young People Service and the carers and/or any other parties with an interest. This is the agreement between the Council and the carers (or housing agency if not the carers' privately owned property) about liabilities, the terms of the financial support and implications for repayment.
The Property and Development Law Team will send a copy of final documentation, signed and dated, the Children and Young People Contracts Team.
The Agreement should be completed at the same time as any Legal Charge on the property.
The Agreement should be signed by the responsible Service Manager and the carers (and on behalf of any housing or other agency involved, if appropriate).
No payment can be made until both the contract is signed and any Legal Charge is in place.
Property and Development Law Team will be responsible for making legal checks and drawing up documents relating to any Legal Charge to be placed on the property to protect the Council's assets.
The social worker must inform Property and Development Law Team of any other persons aged 18 or over resident in the property who are not part of the Agreement but who may be able to establish rights in the property. The Property and Development Law Team should also be advised of anyone nearing this age to allow for the time needed to complete the documentation. Legal Services will prepare Occupational Rights forms for these individuals which the social worker must ensure are signed and returned.
The Property and Development Law Team should be asked to investigate the legal title to the property at the earliest opportunity to establish whether the property is registered and so that any issues can be established and resolved.
If it is not registered, then the Legal Charge will trigger first registration and the carers would need to make arrangements to register the property prior to the completion of the Legal Charge.
Where registered, the check will establish ownership, charges on the property and any other rights that may affect the Council's proposed Charge.
The Property and Development Law Team will seek the consent of the mortgage unless the carers are represented, in which case their legal representative will be asked to do so.
Where there are other charges on the property the Property and Development Law Team can be instructed to pursue a Deed of Priorities (to determine the priority of the charges on the property). If this not done the Council's interest will rank below that of any charge registered before it.
As and when any conditions of the Legal Charge are met in the future the social worker will inform the Property and Development Law Team so it can be removed.
Buildings and Development Group has an important quality control function and may be consulted on the feasibility of the project at its inception.
Carers may live in properties that they do not own e.g. those of Wakefield District Housing or another Housing Association/landlord.
In such cases discussions must take place with that accommodation agency about whether a move to more suitable property could be made, given the needs of the household. The social worker should support the carer in such discussions.
If this is not practicable further discussions must take place about scope of the project, legal agreement, financial implications and choice of contractor so that a suitable Agreement can be put in place, where possible.
It is possible that the accommodation agency may make a contribution to the capital cost where the value of a property will be enhanced.
There may also be the chance of recouping some of the Council's investment from the landlord or of negotiating nomination rights to the property if and when the tenant leaves.
The social worker will liaise with the accommodation agency's legal and contracts sections about these, supported by our advice from Wakefield Council's equivalent sections, in order to reach the most beneficial arrangement. This arrangement should be outlined in social worker's report to the Complex Care Panel.
The carers may also be contracted to another agency (e.g. an independent fostering agency) in which case the social worker must confirm in writing that the agency is aware of and supports the arrangement being entered into.
Where there is an independent fostering agency involved, discussions should take place in relation to whether the agency will contribute to the cost. This should be detailed in the social worker's report to the Complex Care Panel.
Stage 5: Loans for Vehicles or Adaptations to Vehicles
Loans for the purchase or adaptation of a vehicle will be for a maximum amount of £8,000.
The granting of a loan will be for those carers who have been approved to care for a number of children/young people that together with existing permanent family members, who reside in the same property, require a vehicle larger than their current vehicle.
It will also include the purchase or adaptation of a vehicle to allow a child/young person with complex needs to be safely transported.
An application for a loan will only be considered where carers have a commitment to providing a permanent placement for the child/young person or where a vehicle is deemed to be essential in meeting the child's needs, i.e. child/young person with complex health care needs who has to travel distance to attend health appointments, or where the carers are travelling considerable distance in order to promote and/or supervise contact arrangements.
The loan will be paid directly to the garage selling or adapting the vehicle.
A report from a qualified independent motor engineer must be obtained and placed on file. The report must certify that the vehicle is safe and road worthy and is likely to last the period of the loan.
The carer must be the registered keeper of the vehicle and fully comprehensive insurance must be provided for all those who will drive the vehicle. The interest of Wakefield Council must be noted on the insurance policy.
Where appropriate an MOT certificate must be obtained and a copy of this along with, copies of the insurance certificate and carers' driving licences must be kept on file by the social worker and verified on an annual basis.
Carers must notify Wakefield Council in writing if they intend to sell the vehicle during the loan period. The outstanding amount will then be repayable immediately upon sale of the vehicle. If no payment is forthcoming interest will accrue from the date of the sale.
Any loan will be subject to a Promissory note (See Stage 6: Terms of Capital Repayments and Repayments and Stage 7: Loan Terms).
Stage 6: Terms of Capital Repayments and Repayments
In order to protect public money the Agreement with the carer and/or agency must specify the circumstances and times at which repayment of some or all of the money would become due or, alternatively, be written off.
As repayment is an option, all such payments must be considered as loans. However, no interest will be charged on such loans while the carers keep to the terms of the Agreement and remain as carers.
For sums under £3000.00, which the Service Director agrees, the issuing of a Promissory note should be completed with the Carer to ensure that Wakefield Council can recoup the costs if the Carer ceases to care for the child/young person or ceases to be a Carer.The drafting of the Promissory note should be undertaken by the Property, Development and Law Team.
Stage 7: Loan Terms
The carers will make repayments on a sliding scale should they cease caring within seven years of the final payment made to them or on their behalf. The repayment scales will usually be:
|7 Years or Longer||Nil|
|5-6 Years||20% of Costs|
|4-5 Years||40% of Costs|
|3-4 Years||60% of Costs|
|2-3 Years||80% of Costs|
|0-2 Years||100% of Costs|
N.B. this applies to both Capital Payments and Promissory notes.
Should carers cease performing the role before the expiry of the loan, the outstanding proportion will become repayable.
Should repayment not then be made (e.g. because the property has not been disposed of) then an interest rate of 2% (or whatever rate is advised by Wakefield Council at the time of the Agreement) above the Bank of England base rate will be charged until the loan is discharged.
DMT has the right to vary these conditions depending on the circumstances. For example, an adopted child with complex needs may die, carers may reach retirement age or the youngest child in kinship foster care may reach the age of independence from Children and Young People Service support, before the loan is discharged.
Similarly, the status of the carers or the children or adults they care for may change if, for example, foster carers gain Parental Responsibility for children in placement through adoption or special guardianship.
Where possible such circumstances should be identified at the time of the application for funding and contingencies included in the Agreement.
Where such circumstances arise unforeseen, the Placements Service Manager will submit a report to DMT recommending a course of action.
This Procedure will be reviewed as required by the Service Manager for Placements to ensure that it is compatible with other policies and any changes in legislation.