Note that different provisions apply to children who acquire Looked After status as a result of a remand to local authority accommodation or Youth Detention Accommodation. In relation to those children, please see Remands to Local Authority Accommodation or to Youth Detention Accommodation Procedure, Care Planning for Young People on Remand.
- Placements to which this Procedure Applies
- The Requirement to Consult with the Local Authority in which the Placement is Situated
- Placement Considerations
- Approval of Placement by Service Director
- Notification of Placements
- Emergency Placements
- Placements in Wales
- Appendix 1: Welsh Model Out of Area Notification Protocol
1. Placements to which this Procedure Applies
This procedure applies to any placement of a Looked After child outside the area of the local authority, EXCEPT WHERE the placement is with a Connected Person, or a local authority foster carer approved by the placing authority.
Prior to seeking approval for an out of area placement the young person's Social Worker should:
- Obtain the young person's wishes and feelings;
- Consult with the Local Authority in which the proposed placement is located. The purpose of this consultation is to gather information about the local area that will help the Social Worker to assess the appropriateness of the placement. The Local Authority in which the placement is located does NOT have the power to veto the placement;
- Consult with the Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) for the young person;
- If the proposed placement is within a children's home, obtain the Statement of Purpose of the Children's Home, any published inspection reports and the home's Location Assessment.
After gathering this information the Social Worker should complete the Out of District Placement Request Form (see Local Resources and One Minute Guides) and submit this to their Service Manager via their Team Manager.
2. The Requirement to Consult with the Local Authority in which the Placement is Situated
Prior to making a placement we are required to consult with the Local Authority in which the placement is situated. The purpose of this is to ensure that any specific local risks are identified before we make the placement.
Every Local Authority has a different system for providing this consultation. The child's Social Worker should make contact with the Local Authority's contact centre (or equivalent) and identify who to speak to.
The outcomes of this consultation must be recorded in the child's file and also included in the report that is submitted to the Service Director (see Section 4, Approval of Placement by Service Director).
The other Local Authority do not have the ability to veto the placement however they are entitled to challenge us or escalate this to senior management if they wish to do so.
3. Placement Considerations
Placements at a Distance will require effective planning, engagement and information sharing with the services likely to be responsible for meeting the child's needs in the future. Consultation with the area authority must (except in an emergency) be undertaken in good time to enable a thorough assessment of appropriateness to be made.
Where the placement under consideration is in a children's home, account should be taken of the information in the home's Statement of Purpose and its location assessment (which should include details of the home's safeguarding arrangements, including any measures taken by the home to manage safeguarding concerns arising from the neighbourhood where the home is located).
In assessing the suitability of an out of authority placement, consideration should be given to the arrangements which will need to be put in place to enable the child to access services such as primary and secondary health care. Where the child will require specialist health services such as CAMHS, the Clinical Commissioning Group (local health board in Wales) that commissions secondary healthcare in the area authority should be consulted, to establish whether the placement is appropriate and able to meet the child's needs. The designated nurse for looked-after children in the area authority will also be a valuable source of advice and information.
Similarly, the Virtual School Head for looked-after children in the area authority, (Looked After Children Education Co-ordinators (LACE) in Wales) should be able to advise about access to school support.
For children vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, children's services in the area authority will be an important source of intelligence and information about local arrangements for safeguarding children.
4. Approval of Placement by Service Director
Any decision to place a child out of area must be approved by the Service Director. The child's Social Worker should complete the Out of District Placement Request Form which is embedded in Care Director. This form should be sent to the Team Manager who will then send it to the Service Manager for Placements. After adding their comments and clarifying any specific points, the Service Manager for Placements will send the completed report to the Service Director.
The Service Director for Safeguarding and Family Support must be satisfied that the child's wishes and feelings have been ascertained and given due consideration:
- That the placement is the most appropriate placement available for the child and consistent with the Care Plan;
- That relatives have been consulted where appropriate;
- That the area authority has been notified; or, for a Placement at a Distance, the area authority have been consulted and have been provided with a copy of the child's Care Plan;
- That the Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) has been consulted (usually the IRO will discuss with the child after the child has visited the proposed placement).
The completed form must then be placed onto Care Director with a copy being sent to the Commissioning and Business Development Placement Team.
5. Notification of Placements
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:
Basic information about the child
- Name and date of birth;
- Legal status (subject of a care order (s.31 Children Act); voluntarily accommodated (s.20) remanded (s. 21);
- Number of previous placements – outline reasons for child leaving earlier placements.
Plans for the child's care
- Details of the assessment of the child's needs, with information about the child's wishes and feelings, with reasons the planned placement is suitable;
- Duration of placement (emergency/short-term/long-term/permanent). If it is not possible to assess the intended duration of placement – reasons for this and when this information will be available;
- Arrangements for contact;
- Details of who will be responsible for implementing plans for the child's day to day care (the 'placement plan') including details of arrangements for delegating responsibilities to the child's carer(s);
- Details of any plans to offer the child care leaving support (as an 'eligible child') during the anticipated duration of the placement;
- Contingency arrangements if the plan to support the child in the current placement does not succeed.
Services to support the child
- Details of plans to meet the child's educational needs – information about the school the child is expected to attend; details of plans for supporting the child if a school has not been identified;
- Information about plans to meet the child's health needs, e.g. whether the child requires secondary health care (including metal health and other specialist health care), including details about the CCG acting as "responsible commissioner."
- Details of any youth justice supervision order that would need to be overseen by youth justice services in the area authority.
A copy of the child's care plan (unless already provided in the case of a Placement at a Distance) should also be provided.
6. Emergency Placements
In the case of a placement made in an emergency, the approval of the Nominated Officer/Director of Children's Services is still required and s/he must be satisfied that the child's wishes and feelings have been ascertained and given due consideration and that the placement is the most appropriate placement available consistent with the Care Plan. Within 5 working days the IRO must be informed; relatives be consulted (where appropriate) and the area authority notified.
7. Placements in Wales
For placements in Wales, the Welsh Government has developed a protocol for notifying the local authority and the local health board when a child has been placed there from outside the area, and again when the placement ends. This protocol is attached at Appendix 1: Welsh Model Out of Area Notification Protocol.
Appendix 1: Welsh Model Out of Area Notification Protocol
(This protocol was developed by the Welsh Government in conjunction with the children's residential care sector in Wales).
Where a child who is looked-after is placed at distance the responsible authority has a statutory duty to notify the local authority and the health care provider, in the area in which the child is to be placed, of the arrangements for placement prior to placement and no later than 10 days thereafter.
Similarly, where a child is provided with accommodation by any Local Health Board, Special Health Authority, Clinical Commissioning Group, NHS Trust or by a local authority in exercise of education functions for three months or more or with the intention of the placement lasting for this time the Accommodating Authority has a duty to notify the appropriate officer of the responsible authority.
Where a child is provided with accommodation in any care home or independent hospital for three months or more or with the intention of the placement lasting for this time the residential setting has a statutory duty to notify the lead Director of Social Services in the area in which the establishment is situated.
Notification should be sent to the Director of Social Services in the local authority in which the home is situated.
* This information has been reproduced from the Department for Education publication: Out of authority placement of looked-after children Supplement to The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations - Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (2015).