SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This procedure applies to day trips and holidays within and outside the UK for all Children Looked After.
1. Holidays in the UK
Where there is a proposal for a Child Looked After to go on holiday in the UK, the child's social worker must obtain full information about the holiday.
This will include:
- Proposed dates and duration of the holiday;
- Address(es)/contact details of the holiday location/what type of holiday;
- Insurance details;
- Who will be present on the holiday e.g. names of other children and other adults;
- If the holiday involves staying with friends or relatives, their names and addresses;
- Emergency contacts;
- Any risk assessments that may be required, which should include any health or behaviour issues of the child as well as the holiday environment itself.
The child's social worker should seek the views of the child and parent / persons who have Parental Responsibility as soon as practicable.
If the parents consent, their consent must be obtained in writing.
Where the social worker, parent and staff/carer agree to the proposed holiday, the holiday can be approved and should be included in the child's Placement Plan.
For children who are in a long term placement and there is agreement with the Children's Services that the carers have Delegated Authority, (see Delegation of Authority to Foster Carers and Residential Workers Procedure), depending upon the nature of the delegation agreed, it may be the case that the carers are able to make such decisions themselves. However, good practice should ensure that decisions by the carers are shared in a timely way with their Supervising Social Worker and / or child's allocated practitioner. The parent/s should be advised as appropriate – especially if the holiday affects contact arrangements.
Children must not be taken on holiday during term time unless there are exceptional circumstances that would be approved by the social worker's Manager for the child and the Head of School. This will be kept under review following a recent high court judgement.
Requests must be made in writing. (Note that under the Education (Pupil Registration) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2013, the previous ability of headteachers to grant leave of absence for the purpose of a holiday during term time in 'special circumstances' of up to 10 school days leave per year has been removed. The 2013 Regulations make clear that headteachers may not grant any leave of absence during term time unless there are 'exceptional circumstances').
Where the social worker considers that the holiday should go ahead despite the parents' opposition and legal advice supports this, the approval of the social worker's manager to the holiday should be sought. The request for such approval should include the legal advice given.
Written confirmation of the manager's decision, together with the reasons, should be provided to the parent.
Where the holiday will involve additional costs, the social worker should obtain approval for the costs from the relevant manager before the holiday can be agreed.
If approved, the holiday should be included in the child's Placement Plan.
Where the holiday will interrupt contact arrangements between the child and parents, consideration should also be given to arranging additional contacts before and after the holiday.
2. Holidays Outside the UK
2.1. Holidays for Accommodated Children
Arrangements for notifying and consulting the social worker about holiday plans should be agreed in the Placement Plan.
The consent of the parent(s) or person with Parental Responsibility must be obtained and consent form signed.
The child's social worker must obtain full information about the holiday/trip. This will include:
- Address(es)/contact details of the holiday location/ type of holiday;
- Responsible adult(s) accompanying the child including adult/child ratio if group holiday;
- If the child is going with a family or person who is not known to Children's Services, whether the appropriate checks have been made;
- Dates of holiday;
- Emergency contacts;
- Views of the child;
- If any cost to the authority, including insurance;
- Any additional information.
NOTE: If there are any issues such as the holiday destination experiencing political unrest, concern that the child may not return as planned or other circumstances which may place the child at risk, these should be highlighted to the social worker's Manager. A check should be undertaken through Foreign Office, Foreign Travel Advice and a balanced decision regarding the outcome made.
If it is a group day trip or holiday, the social worker must be satisfied that adequate health and safety precautions including appropriate risk assessments are taken and in place.
Children must not be taken on holiday during term time. In exceptional circumstances this should be approved by Designated Manager who should consult with the Virtual Head of School. Requests must be made in writing.
2.2 Holidays for Children on Care Orders
Holidays of Less Than 1 Month
The procedure is the same as for those for Accommodated Children (see Section 2.1, Holidays for Accommodated Children) except that the consent of the parents or person having Parental Responsibility is not required but should be sought and obtained wherever practicable or possible. Any objections by the parent(s) should be recorded on the child's electronic records.
The social worker should ensure that arrangements are in place through the Placement Plan to be notified well in advance of any plans for holidays abroad in order to obtain required consent wherever practicable or possible.
Holidays of 1 Month or More
This requires either the written consent of every person who has parental responsibility for the child, or the leave of the court.
Where a Court Order is required, the social worker should contact Legal Services as soon as possible for the necessary application to be made and advise the parents of the intended application.
It is usual for the court to require evidence of the views of those with Parental Responsibility or the efforts made to obtain them.
If the holiday is authorised by the Court, the holiday should be included in the Placement Plan and a copy of the court order giving leave for the holiday should also be given to the foster carer.
2.3 Holidays for Unaccompanied Asylum Seekers
The procedure is the same as for Accommodated Children (see Section 2.1, Holidays for Accommodated Children) except that:
- Approval is unlikely if the child/young person wishes to go on their own and/or to a destination which could call into question the integrity of their original claim for asylum;
- The child's social worker would have to endorse the holiday by signing the consent form.
Note: The social worker should check as to whether there are any restrictions with regards to the child/young person's ability to travel outside the country. A young person may not be able to travel abroad with their foster carer if the trip was planned at the last minute, as travel documents would have to be applied for.
Medical Treatment during visits to EEA Countries
- Children travelling within EEA countries and Switzerland will be covered for medical treatment through a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). An application form can be downloaded from the NHS website. For children under 16 years old, the form needs to be completed by the parent(s) or foster carer(s) and be submitted as a family application. Young people over 16 can apply for a European Health Insurance Card in their own name;
- The NHS also provides health advice for travellers.
Private Medical Insurance Cover or Insurance Cover for Holidays
- In situations where medical cover is required at short notice, it is suggested that private insurance cover is taken out;
- The insurance referred to above in Medical Treatment during visits to EEC Countries only covers a child for medical treatment and not for loss of luggage, cover for cancellation of the holiday etc. Therefore a private insurance policy is needed for a child travelling abroad.
2.5. Obtaining a Passport
- The United Kingdom Passport Agency provides Guidance for Social Workers seeking to obtain a passport for a Child Looked After;
- If Children's Services have previously applied for a passport on the child's behalf and are applying for a renewal or extension, a letter outlining the circumstances mentioned above stating that these have not changed is sufficient. In these circumstances there is no need to complete the application form. This should be signed by the Designated Manager (Passports);
- Where there is a proposal for a child to go on holiday abroad and the child does not currently hold a valid passport, the request to the Designated Manager (Passports) in relation to the holiday should include a written request for the authority to obtain a passport for the child;
- If it is an urgent application where an application is made in person, the social worker must provide evidence of their identity and a signed letter of authorisation from the Designated Manager (Passports);
- Where the child requires a passport for any other reason, the approval of the Designated Manager (Passports) should be sought. The written request for such approval should include the reason for the request, the wishes of the child; the views of the parent; the views of the Staff/Carer where applicable. Where the Designated Manager (Passports) gives authority for a passport to be obtained for a child, this must be confirmed in writing. The social worker must inform the parent of the decision;
- The social worker will obtain and complete the necessary application for the child or assist the child to complete the necessary application form.
3. School / Organisational Trips of up to 4 days Away
The social worker should ensure risk assessments have been conducted.
The child's participation in school/organisational trips should be considered at the time of the placement, and the consultation required before they can be agreed should be included in the Placement Plan.
Where a child is placed with the parents, the Placement Plan will usually provide that a school trip of up to 4 days can be agreed by the social worker in consultation with the school and the parent.
Where a child is placed in foster care or residential care, the Placement Plan will usually authorise the staff/ carer to agree to the child going on school or other organisational trips of up to 4 days away without prior consultation with the social worker or the parent - see Social Visits (Including Overnight Stays) Procedure. If the staff/carer have not been so authorised, the child's social worker and parents must be consulted before agreement can be given.
Where parental consent is not given, the social worker should consult their Manager and obtain legal advice as necessary. Where the Manager agrees to the child going on the trip despite parental opposition, the reasons must be recorded and explained to the parent.