SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This chapter covers those situations in which children need caring for but where relatives or friends might be available to fulfill this responsibility. It should be read in conjunction with the Family and Friends Care Policy and the Private Fostering Policy.
This chapter does not apply to those children who are looked after and placed with relatives or friends. In relation to such placements, see Placements with Connected Person Procedure.
This procedure assumes that there has already been an assessment and planning process, which has involved decision making with parents and an agreed plan that does NOT involve the child becoming looked after.
- Care of Children by Relatives
- Financial Support to Relatives
- Assessment of how to Best Meet the Child's Need
- Visiting Arrangements
- Visiting Frequency
- Legal Status
1. Care of Children by Relatives
In some situations, the Children, Education and Families Directorate can support relatives caring for children, when the arrangement is a direct alternative to the child becoming or remaining Looked After. The Children Act 1989 stipulates that the duty of local authorities is to promote the upbringing of children within families. This could include their extended family. The law assumes that, usually, family members would offer a more positive and appropriate form of care to the child than non-related foster carers.
On occasion parents themselves recognise difficulties and ask for relatives to care for their children - sometimes short term, sometimes long term. Relatives who are or anticipate being in this situation long term should be made aware of the possibility of applying for a Child Arrangements Order or Special Guardianship Order.
On other occasions, relatives are identified as available and willing carers for a child after problems at home have been identified and the Children, Education and Families Directorate has been involved in trying to seek a suitable way forward.
Where the carer is not a close relative, the Private Fostering Regulations will apply - see Private Fostering Policy. Close relative is defined in the Children Act 1989 as "a grandparent, brother, sister, uncle or aunt (whether of the full blood or half blood or by marriage or civil partnership) or step-parent."
2. Financial Support to Relatives
Relatives caring for children who are NOT looked after may approach the Children, Education and Families Directorate for financial assistance to enable them to meet the financial commitment involved.
The Directorate will be able to consider a request to meet the maintenance costs of relatives caring for children who are family members in the following circumstances:
- The family member is a close relative within the definition of the Children Act 1989;
- The child cannot be cared for by his parent or whoever has Parental Responsibility including situations where relationships have broken down;
- The parent/person with Parental Responsibility agrees that the relative should care for the child, and has indicated this in writing to the Directorate;
- The Directorate knows of no reason (as evidenced by checks of its own records and by statutory checks, including enhanced DBS disclosure) that would make the relative an unsuitable carer.
Applicants need to fill in the form "Relatives Claim For Financial Support And Undertaking" and complete a Declaration of Suitability. This is a declaration that in the case of each adult concerned, (s)he has not:
- Ever been convicted of any offence against a child;
- Ever had a child removed from his/her care by the order of any Court;
- Had registration for childminding either refused or cancelled;
- Been involved in Court proceedings in which any local authority was a party (e.g. Care Proceedings);
- Been prohibited from acting as a private foster carer by a local authority under Section 69 of the Children Act 1989;
- Been disqualified from acting as a foster carer including a private foster carer - see Persons Disqualified from Fostering Procedure.
If one of these circumstances does apply further enquiries will need to be made and full details will need to be considered.
If all the above criteria are established and the Declaration of Suitability reveals no causes for concern, the Directorate would then determine whether it will meet the maintenance costs of relatives on the basis of an assessment that the child's needs will be best met by living with relatives and that this would cause significant hardship to the family without some financial support - hence maintenance payments are required to enable this to happen.
3. Assessment of how to Best Meet the Child's Need
The Children, Education and Families Directorate must consider how to meet its responsibilities under the Children Acts 1989 and 2004 to:
- Promote the safety and wellbeing of the child;
- Provide a range and level of services appropriate to the child's needs;
- Promote the child's upbringing within his own family;
- Provide services to avoid the need to accommodate the child.
On the basis of its assessment under a-d above, it may conclude (exceptionally) that it should meet the maintenance costs of the child (under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989).
These will be paid up to the level known as the Family Support Allowance. It is linked to the Benefit Agency Income Support level and will be subject to review at three months and subsequently at six monthly intervals - see Section 6, Reviews.
Decision making as to the suitability of carers and also as to whether or not financial support should be provided will be the responsibility of the child's Service Manager on receipt of a recommendation of a planning meeting and the Team Manager. Documentation will need to clarify that the criteria set out in Section 3, Assessment of how to Best Meet the Child's Need are met and that the assessment under a) - d) above has been undertaken before any decision has been taken.
The Team Manager will find the first three months of payments under this arrangement from his/her CCSB. After three months, the original documentation which informed the decision plus the 1st review report (see below) should be sent to the Service Manager, Family Support.
Providing there has been no major change and the placement is continuing, the funding will then transfer to the Family Placement budget and the Service Manager, Family Support will inform the Service Manager, Family Placement and Finance accordingly.
4. Visiting Arrangements
In order to review the situation regularly, the Children, Education and Families Directorate will also visit regularly.
Visits are needed to:
- Provide information for the review of financial support and general circumstances;
- Check whether any circumstances have changed, for the child, the relatives or the parents;
- Check that the child's needs are being met;
- Provide an opportunity for the child to meet with someone outside the family;
- Consider whether other steps are needed to promote the child's interests.
It is recognised that the level of detail possible in these visits will vary according to a range of circumstances and the guidance is not prescriptive beyond the above. Visits must be recorded in writing.
5. Visiting Frequency
|Year One||Within 2 weeks and thereafter every 3 months.|
|Subsequent year||Every three months|
These are not intended to be full detailed reviews with several participants, although a more formalised structure and process may be indicated as necessary by changing circumstances, problems, or on an annual basis.
Otherwise the worker and line manager must review at 3 months and subsequently at six monthly intervals, whether the level of financial support being paid is still required to support the arrangement, and whether the arrangement still meets the child's best interests - to check out, for example, whether the family situation would allow for the child to return home.
The results of these reviews must be recorded in writing and passed to the Service Manager, Family Support.
7. Legal Status
In such situations as are outlined here, a child would be cared for by relatives but would not be Looked After.
However, this may not be the case when either:
- The parents do not agree or are inconsistent as to their agreement to the child being with the relative; or
- The parents may be untraceable or incapable of giving agreement.
NB There are circumstances in which children may require accommodation by the local authority, even though relatives are willing to care for them. This is a serious step and requires specific decision-making about the needs of children, as well as approval of relatives as foster carers - see Placement with Connected Persons Procedure.
This decision should be taken carefully since it will be difficult to change the child's status as a looked after child at a later stage if they remain in the same placement, even though the need to be looked after may not be a long term one.
Note: In the past, some relatives have been approved as foster carers for financial reasons only - i.e. to secure regular payments from a source other than the CCSB.
Team Managers are charged with making decisions which reflect the needs of the child not the separation of budgetary control. If long term financial support outside the looked after system is required to prevent the child being looked after, this will be linked to the Department's real costs allowance.
You should advise your Service Manager who can address the relevant financial issues with the Divisional Finance Officer.