- Values and Principles
- What we know about Family and Friends Carers
- Legal Framework
- Different Situations whereby Children may be Living with Family and Friend Carers
- Provision of Financial Support - General Principles
- Supporting Contact with Parents
- Family Group Conferences
- Support Groups and Training
- Complaints Procedure
Annex A: Caring for Somebody Else's Child – Options
Annex B: Evidence
Annex C: Oxfordshire organisations and information
Annex D: National organisations and information
Annex E: Guidance for Parents and Carers on Circumstances where the Local Authority will help with Legal Costs
This policy was subject to major revision in March 16.
This policy sets out how Oxfordshire County Council may support family and friends carers and the children they are caring for. Children who are unable to live with their birth parents may be living with other family members, friends or other people connected to them with whom they have an existing relationship. Some of these children may be in care. There is information here about useful services, the law and about policies for families and professionals working with them.
The manager with overall responsibility for this policy is Teresa Rogers, Adoption, Permanence & Fostering Service Manager, 01865 816257, firstname.lastname@example.org
The policy is available and publicised on the county council web-site and will be regularly updated. This is in accordance with Family and Friends Care: statutory guidance for local authorities, 2010. The policy is available in a leaflet, available on request from 0800 7835724. A summary information sheet is also available.
2. Values and Principles
It is the general duty of the council to safeguard and promote the welfare of every child living in our area who is in need and, where possible, to promote the upbringing of the child by their own family, unless this is not consistent with their welfare. This is achieved by working with parents, family members and other adults important to the child to make the child safe and to promote his or her development within the family. This follows the principles of the Children Act 1989 and subsequent legislation and guidance.
We want to make sure children have permanent homes by helping those who cannot live with their parents to stay with members of their extended family or friends, as a better alternative to growing up in the care of the council. Permanence should provide the emotional, physical and legal conditions that give a child a sense of security, continuity, commitment and identity. For some children in care, permanence is achieved through a successful return to their birth family, where it has been possible to address the factors that led to the child being in care. Where this is not possible, family and friends care will often provide an important alternative route to permanence for the child, particularly where supported by a residence order, special guardianship order or through adoption.
The principle underlying the policy is that support should be based on the needs of the child and their carers rather than their legal status and that family and friends carers (whether or not they are approved foster carers of children in care) are provided with support to ensure that children do not come into care or remain in care longer than is needed.
We will take into account children's wishes and feelings in all relevant processes.
3. What We Know About Family and Friends Carers
We recognise that children living with family and friends foster carers and unrelated foster carers have similar characteristics and faced similar difficulties before the placements, and face similar emotional and behavioural difficulties, but that family and friends carers often face more disadvantages than unrelated foster carers as they may not have expected to care for children. Research shows that children living with family and friends carers generally do better than those living with unrelated carers, (see Annex B).
Family and friends carers say that social workers tend to under-estimate their needs and they need help early and for longer, including financial and practical support, information and advice, and support to the child, carers and the child's parents.
A Service manager (Teresa Rogers, see above) has responsibility for this policy to ensure that it is publicised, to monitor its implementation and make sure relevant staff are trained appropriately.
In Oxfordshire, there are carers receiving special guardianship, child arrangement order, private fostering, adoption and children in care support and services. The number of these carers and the children they are caring for is collated regularly and used to inform and plan policies, priorities and the delivery of services to meet their needs.
Information is provided to council staff to ensure the policy is applied across the service. Local partners are made aware of their responsibilities towards children living in family and friends care and to being proactive in meeting those needs.
We will publicise this policy to people considering becoming a family and friends carer so they are aware of its content, and are clear about how to contact the council and other agencies for further information. Information about contacting a social worker is in Annex C.
Social workers who implement the policy will have appropriate training and understand the issues faced by family and friends carers and their obligations, powers and responsibilities, including the content of this policy, and be competent in this area of work.
5. Legal Framework
Oxfordshire County Council has a general duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of Children in Need* living within its area and to promote the upbringing of such children by their families. The way in which we fulfil this duty is by providing a range and level of services appropriate to those children's assessed needs (Section 17, Children Act 1989). This can include financial, practical or other support.
It is important to note that the local authority does not have a general duty to assess all arrangements where children are living with their wider family or friends network rather than their parents but it does have a duty where it appears that services may be necessary to safeguard or promote the welfare of a Child in Need.
*A Child in Need is defined in Section 17(10) of the Children Act 1989 as a child who is disabled or who is unlikely to achieve or maintain a reasonable standard of health or development without the provision of services by the local authority.
To clarify the children who may come within the definition of Children in Need, the local authority has drawn up a 'Thresholds to Children's Social Care Services' document.
Children in Need may live with members of their family or friends in a variety of different legal arrangements, some formal and some informal. Different court orders are available to formalise these arrangements.
Looked after children will always come within the definition of Children in Need, whether they are accommodated under Section 20 of the Children Act 1989 (with parental consent) or in care subject to a Court Order whereby the local authority shares parental responsibility for the child. The local authority has a responsibility wherever possible to make arrangements for a looked after child to live with a member of the family (Section 22 of the Children Act 1989).
For a detailed summary of the meaning and implications of different legal situations, the rights of carers and parents, and the nature of decisions which family and friends carers will be able to make in relation to the child, please see Annex A: Caring for Somebody Else's Child - Options. Section 6, Different Situations Whereby Children may be Living with Family and Friend Carers, which sets out the local authority’s powers and duties in relation to the various options.
In relation to financial support, the local authority may provide carers of children in need with such support on a regular or one-off basis, under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989. This may include discretionary funding based upon a financial means test. However, the status of the placement will determine the nature and amount of the financial support and who can authorise its payment. The legal status of the child may have a bearing on the levels of financial support which may be available to carers. There are different legislative provisions which apply to financial support for children living with family or friends in looked after/adoption/special guardianship/Child Arrangements Order arrangements. The following sections of this policy set out the financial support that we may provide to family and friends who are caring for children in these different contexts.
6. Different Situations Whereby Children may be Living with Family and Friends Carers
6.1 Informal family and friends care arrangements
Where a child cannot be cared for within his or her immediate family, the family may make their own arrangements to care for the child within the family and friends network.
The local authority does not have a duty to assess any such informal family and friends care arrangements, unless it appears to the authority that services may be necessary to safeguard or promote the welfare of a Child in Need. In such cases, the local authority has a responsibility under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989 to assess the child's needs and provide services to meet any assessed needs of the child. Following assessment, a Child in Need Plan will be drawn up and a package of support will be identified. This can comprise a variety of different types of services and support, including financial support.
6.2 Private fostering arrangements
A privately fostered child is a child under 16 (or 18 if disabled) who is cared for by an adult who is not a parent or close relative, where the child is to be cared for in that home for 28 days or more. Close relative is defined 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.' It does not include a child who is Looked After by a local authority. In a private fostering arrangement, the parent still holds parental responsibility and agrees the arrangement with the private foster carer.
The local authority has a duty to assess and monitor the welfare of all privately fostered children and the way in which they carry out these duties is set out in the Children (Private Arrangements for Fostering) Regulations 2005. However, the local authority may also become involved with a child in a private fostering arrangement where the child comes within the definition of a Child in Need. In such cases, the local authority has a responsibility to provide services to meet the assessed needs of the child under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989. Following assessment, a Child in Need Plan will be drawn up and a package of support will be identified. As in 4.1 above, this can comprise a variety of different types of services and support, including financial support.
6.3 Family and friends foster carers – ‘Connected Persons’
Where a child is looked after by the local authority, we have a responsibility, wherever possible, to make arrangements for the child to live with a member of the family who is approved as a foster carer (Section 22 of the Children Act 1989). The child can be placed with the family members prior to such approval, subject to an assessment of the placement, for up to 16 weeks. This temporary approval can only be extended in exceptional circumstances. In this context the carer is referred to as a Connected Person. Where temporary approval is given to such a placement, the carers will receive financial support on a regular basis.
In addition the child will have a placement plan which sets out the specific arrangements surrounding the child and the carers including the expectations of the foster carers and the support they can expect to receive to enable to fulfil their responsibilities for the child.
The assessment and approval process for family and friends who apply to be foster carers for a specific Looked After child will be the same as for any other foster carer except that the timescales for the assessment are different where a child is already in the placement as indicated above. In all other respects the process is the same as for any other potential foster carers and is set out in the Assessment and Approval of Foster Carer Procedure. An information pack will be available to potential foster carers about the process and they will be given the name and contact details of the social worker from the Fostering Service allocated to carry out the assessment.
Once approved as foster carers, they will be allocated a supervising social worker from the fostering service to provide them with support and supervision; and they will receive fostering allowances for as long as they care for the child as a foster carer.
While the child remains a looked after child, as a foster carer, they will be expected to cooperate with all the processes that are in place to ensure that the child receives appropriate care and support, for example, contributing to reviews of the child's Care Plan, cooperating with the child's social worker and promoting the child's education and health needs.
6.4 Child Arrangements Order
A Child Arrangements Order is a Court Order that sets out the arrangements as to when and with whom a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact.
These orders replace the previous Contact Orders and Residence Orders.
A Child Arrangements Order may give parental responsibility to the person in whose favour it is made. Parental responsibility is shared with the parents.
Child Arrangements Orders may be made in private family proceedings in which the local authority is not a party nor involved in any way in the arrangements. However, a Child Arrangements Order in favour of a relative or foster carer (who was a 'Connected Person') with whom a child is placed may be an appropriate outcome as part of a permanence plan for a Child in Need or a 'Looked After' child.
The local authority may pay Child Arrangements Order Allowances to relatives or friends, unless they are a spouse or civil partner of a parent, with whom a child is living under a Child Arrangements Order. This is set out in paragraph 15 of Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989, however this is discretionary.
See the local authority's Child Arrangements Order Allowances Policy, for details of what financial assistance may be available to holders of Child Arrangements Orders, the applicable criteria and who within the local authority will make decisions under the policy.
6.5 Special Guardianship Order
Special Guardianship offers a further option for children needing permanent care outside their birth family. It can offer greater security without absolute severance from the birth family as in adoption.
Relatives may apply for a Special Guardianship Order after caring for the child for one year. As Special Guardians, they will have parental responsibility for the child which, while it is still shared with the parents, can be exercised with greater autonomy on day-to-day matters than where there is a Child Arrangements Order.
Special Guardianship Orders may be made in private family proceedings and the local authority may not be a party to any such arrangements. However, a Special Guardianship Order in favour of a relative or foster carer (who was a 'Connected Person') with whom a child is living may be an appropriate outcome as part of a permanence plan for a Child in Need or a 'Looked After' child.
Where the child was Looked After immediately prior to the making of the Special Guardianship Order, the local authority has a responsibility to assess the support needs of the child, parents and Special Guardians, including the need for financial support.
See also the Special Guardianship Order Allowances Policy, for details of what financial assistance may be available to holders of Special Guardianship Orders, the applicable criteria and who within the local authority will make decisions under the policy.
6.6 Adoption Order
Adoption is the process by which all parental rights and responsibilities for a child are permanently transferred to an adoptive parent by a court. As a result the child legally becomes part of the adoptive family.
An Adoption Order in favour of a relative or foster carer (who was a 'Connected Person') with whom a child is living may be an appropriate outcome as part of a permanence plan for a Child in Need or a 'Looked After' child.
Local authorities must make arrangements, as part of their adoption service, for the provision of a range of adoption support services. They then have to undertake assessments of the need for adoption support services at the request of the adopted child, adoptive parents and their families, as well as birth relatives. The support required is then set out in an Adoption Support Plan and this may include financial support.
See also the Adoption Support Scheme, for details of what financial assistance may be available to holders of Adoption Orders, the applicable criteria and who within the local authority will make decisions under the policy.
7. Provision of Financial Support – General Principles
Social workers will advise families as follows as part of on-going assessment and support.
7.1 Child in need payments
Where a child is cared for informally or in a private fostering arrangement, the council can make 'Child In Need' payments under section 17 of the Children Act 1989, providing appropriate assessments indicate this will meet the child's needs and including an assessment of the financial circumstances of the family. The status of the placement will determine the nature and amount of the financial support and who authorises it. This is a discretionary payment that will only be considered following the assessment by a social worker. A manager can authorise payments up to an agreed financial limit for a specified time and will confirm this in writing. The payments will be reviewed on a twelve weekly basis.
There are three categories of payment:
Such as school uniform or bedroom furniture, if the carer's financial position requires this, although a full assessment is not carried out. There may be certain conditions e.g. repayment.
These are for such items as clothing, furniture, or bedding. The social worker must be satisfied that the carers' financial position justifies the payment through a financial assessment. Assistance may be given subject to conditions, including repayment in certain situations. However, in most situations, it will be inappropriate for the local authority to seek to recover money provided under these circumstances;
Weekly living contribution
It is possible for the local authority to make regular payments where family members or friends care for a child whether or not the child is not Looked After. Where regular payments are to be made, relative carers should be assisted to maximise their Income/Benefit as regular payments may adversely affect an individual's claim to income support.
In all cases where regular financial support is agreed, a written agreement will be drawn up detailing the level and duration of the financial support that is to be provided, and the mechanism for review.
These criteria are applied to all payments made under section 17:
- The payment is made to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child;
- A worker is actively involved with the family at least for the duration of the payments;
- There are no other legitimate sources of finance;
- Payments are paid to the carer, not the parents;
- The payment would not place any person in a fraudulent position.
7.2 Child Arrangement Orders
A Child Arrangement Order allowance can be granted in certain circumstances to provide permanency for children. Child Arrangement Order allowances are purely discretionary. They can only be backdated in exceptional circumstances and after agreement by a senior manager. They are not means tested.
Following three criteria will need to be met before consideration can be given to an allowance:
- A family member agrees to care for a child who is assessed to have significant needs (physical, emotional, health or educational);
- The area service manager agrees the plan;
- The circumstances of the child and family mean that the child in need payments will not be sufficient to achieve permanency for the child.
One of the following circumstances will need to apply before consideration can be given to an allowance:
- The residence order presents an alternative to the child becoming looked after;
- The child is subject to the pre-proceedings process;
- The child is subject to public law proceedings.
7.3 Adoption support allowance and special guardianship allowance
For an adopted child, or where a child is subject of a special guardianship order, an allowance may be appropriate, following an assessment of need and, for the carers of an adopted child, a financial means test. This can be paid until the child is 18 years of age.
7.5 Legal fees to apply for child arrangement order or special guardianship order
Financial assistance for legal fees for family and friends carers who are applying for a child arrangement order or special guardianship orders as an alternative to local authority proceedings may be provided
When the child is the subject of court proceedings taken under the Children Act 1989 by Oxfordshire County Council, it will to fund an initial legal consultation for a maximum of two hours at public funding rates. The council then expects there to be an application to the legal services commission for public funding (see Annex E) and it is only if this is refused that the local authority will consider providing financial support as it is the legal services commission that should fund the application, if possible. Family and friends carers will not get funding from the legal services commission if their financial circumstances take them out of the eligibility criteria.
7.6 Guardian allowance
The Guardian's Allowance is a tax free benefit paid to someone who is looking after a child whose parents have died. In some circumstances it can be paid when only one parent has died. It does not matter how much money you have or how much you earn.
7.7 State benefits and allowances
Carers are entitled to child benefit and in some circumstances to other state benefits and allowances such as child tax credit, and sometimes other forms of financial help.
8. Supporting Contact with Parents
We promote contact for all children in need and looked after children who are living away from home unless it is not practicable or consistent with the child's welfare to do so. We expect that most families should be able to make their own contact arrangements between children and parents. If not, we advise that carers contact support services directly. There are independent organisations that can help facilitate contact between children and their families, including supervision of contact arrangements. See Annex C.
In exceptional circumstances, we may make an arrangement to provide advice, support and, if necessary, facilitate contact for a time limited period. We may be involved in supporting contact when it has been assessed and agreed as part of a specific plan to meet the needs of the child as part of a care plan for a child in care, or as part of a post adoption support plan, or special guardianship support plan.
9. Family Group Conferences
Family Group Conferences are meetings held between professionals and family members, which aim to achieve the best outcomes for children. They promote the involvement of the wider family to achieve a resolution of difficulties for Children in Need, and may help to identify short-term and/or permanent solutions for children within the family network.
We will offer a Family Group Conference or other form of family meeting at an early stage. If a child becomes Looked After, perhaps following an emergency, without a Family Group Conference having been held, then (where appropriate) we will arrange one as soon as possible.
10. Support Groups and Training
There are specific support groups for foster carers, private foster carers and family, friends and carers connected to a child run or supported by Oxfordshire County Council. Family and friends carers and carers connected to a child can attend any of the foster carers support groups they wish and have access to the foster carers’ training programme. These are all available through your social worker.
There are support groups and training for adopters and events for adopted children and families. A voluntary organisation is commissioned to provide services for birth parents, including counselling and other support services. These are available through your social worker.
11. Complaints, Comments and Compliments
We welcome suggestions, compliments, enquiries and complaints about our services from children, young people, families and friends carers and other relevant people. Information about the procedure is available on the Council's website or by contacting the Comments and Complaints Service on 01865 323589 or email to email@example.com.
If you would like this information in another language, Braille, audio tape, large print, easy English, BSL video or CD rom or plain text please contact 01865 323589.
Annex A: Caring For Somebody Else's Child - Options
Annex B: Evidence
Studies show that family and friend’s foster carers are significantly more disadvantaged than unrelated foster carers e.g. more are lone carers, have a disability or chronic illness, live in overcrowded conditions or experience financial hardship.
Children with family and friends carers feel more securely attached and have greater continuity of care than with stranger carers, which helps with their long-term well-being. Placements last longer and children have fewer moves with family and friends, although some of this is because a higher proportion of stranger placements were intended as short term placements only and some ended when children returned home or in a planned move. Breakdown rates are almost identical.
Family and friends care contributes to a child's sense of security and personal identity through minimising other disruptions e.g. a child may remain in the same neighbourhood and school, and contact with parents is more likely, although complex.
Standards of care and child safety may be variable and lower than the average for unrelated foster carers, carers may be more inclined to use physical punishment and they are more likely to be struggling to cope.
Children's well-being tends to be about equal as measured by health, education, emotional and behavioural development and they experience better outcomes with regard to behavioural problems, adaptive behaviours, and well-being.
Family and friends carers say they are often uncertain about what help is available and how to access it and find the response variable, with their needs being under-estimated or help given too late or finishing too soon.
Children and young people advise that families and friends should be assessed first, using the same judgement as for stranger foster carers.
Annex C: Oxfordshire information
Special Guardians and people caring for children subject to Residence Orders/Child Arrangement Orders can access some services provided by the Adoption & Permanence Support Team (A&PST) and other teams working with children in permanent placements.
- Families can have their details on our mailing list for Family & Friends Carers (largely special guardians) so that they get emailed copies of new newsletters and information about training etc. RO/CAO families need to be reminded that some things are available to adopters and special guardians, and we may not be able to offer them to families with Residence Orders/CAO;
- Welcome to access the KEEP parent training programme (contact Clare Campling, see newsletter);
- Families can self-refer to The Attach Team (information in the newsletter) and a service may be offered;
- Welcome to come along to Family & Friends Carers support groups (information in the newsletter and carers may call the team's helpdesk for more details on 01865 897981);
- Welcome to come along to the annual Family & Friends Carers picnic;
- Welcome to access online training for carers (information in the newsletter and you can call the team's helpdesk for more details on 01865 897981);
- A&PST will offer places on their training to RO/CAO families, if there is space after training has been offered to SGO and Adoptive families. Information on training is shared in the newsletters and you may call the team's helpdesk to ask if you can have a place on 01865 897981. Families need to be very clear when they call that they have a RO/CAO, and the team will need to ask the question so we are clear what order the family has.
A&PST can't offer an assessment, support plan or allocate a worker to RO/CAO families.
If the need for help from social services is high enough to meet the criteria, the family should be offered an Assessment of Need under section 17. This would require a MASH referral if it's a new case to social services.
Like any other family, RO/CAO might access services from targeted or universal services for children and families.
You can call the helpdesk and request that a worker from A&PST attends a one-off TAC meeting, to provide advice on permanence issues. As we have limited capacity to meet the high demand, it is a manager who decides whether we can provide a worker to attend.
Seesaw (Grief Support for Children & Young People in Oxfordshire)
01865 744768 Monday to Friday 8.30am to 4.30pm out of hours answerphone.
Annex D: National Organisations and Information
Action for Prisoners’ Families
Works to reduce the negative impact of imprisonment on prisoners' families. Produces publications and resources, and provides advice, information, training and networking.
Address: Unit 21, Carlson Court, 116 Putney Bridge Road, London SW15 2NQ
Tel: 020 8812 3600 / Advice line: 0808 808 2003
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Offers a range of support for families and carers affected by substance misuse.
Works with families affected by drugs and alcohol, and supports carers of children whose parents have drug and alcohol problems.
Advisory Centre for Education (ACE)
Independent advice and information for parents/carers on state education and schooling including admissions, exclusion, attendance, special educational needs and bullying.
Address: 1c Aberdeen Studios, 22 Highbury Grove, London N5 2DQ
Tel: 0808 800 5793 (General advice line) / 0808 800 0327 (Exclusion advice line) / 020 7704 9822 (Exclusion information line, 24hr answer phone)
A membership organisation for agencies and individuals that have an interest in adoption, fostering and the well-being of children.
Address: Coram Campus, 41 Brunswick Square, London, WC1N 1AZ.
Tel: 020 7520 0300.
Children’s Legal Centre
Free independent legal advice and factsheets for children, parents, carers, professionals.
Address: University of Essex, Wivenhoe Park, Colchester, Essex CO4 3SQ
Tel: 01206 877 910 / 0808 802 0008 (Child Law Advice Line) / 0845 345 4345 (Community Legal Advice - Education)
Citizens Advice Bureau
Helps people resolve their legal, money and other problems by providing free, independent and confidential advice through local bureaux and website.
Department for Education
Details of telephone help lines and online services for information, advice and support on issues that parents and families may face in bringing up children and young people.
Direct Government - information about public services in one place
Information about money, tax and benefits.
Family Fund Trust
Helps families with severely disabled or seriously ill children to have choices and enjoy ordinary life. Gives grants to make life easier and more enjoyable.
Family Rights Group (FRG)
Advice to parents and family whose children require children’s social care services because of welfare needs or concerns. Publishes resources, helps to develop support groups for family and friends carers and runs a discussion board.
The Fostering Network
Supports foster carers and anyone interested in fostering to improve the lives of children in care. Publishes resources and runs Fosterline, a confidential advice line for foster carers including concerns about a child's future, allegations, complaints, legislation, finances.
Champions the role of grandparents and the wider family in children's lives, especially when they take on the caring role in difficult family circumstances.
Address: Grandparents Plus, 18 Victoria Park Square, Bethnal Green, London E2 9PF
Tel: 020 8981 8001
HM Revenue and Customs
Information about child benefit and guardian's allowance.
Address: Child Benefit Office, PO Box 1, Newcastle Upon Tyne, NE88 1AA
Tel: 0845 302 1444 (Helpline) / 0845 302 1474 (Textphone)
Promotes health and wellbeing of young people to reduce the damage that drugs can do.
Family Mediation Helpline
Information and advice about family mediation services and eligibility for public funding.
Tel: 08456 026627
National Family Mediation (NFM)
Provides mediation services to support couples who are separated, and their children and others affected by this.
Partners of Prisoners and Families Support Group
Operates helpline and services to support to anyone with a link to someone in prison, prisoners and other agencies.
Address: Valentine House, 1079 Rochdale Road, Blackley, Manchester M9 8AJ
Tel: 0161 702 1000 / 0808 808 2003 (Offenders’ families helpline)
Prison Advice and Care Trust (PACT)
Practical and emotional support to prisoners and their families. The Kinship Care Support Service provides support and advice to carers of children with parents in HMP Holloway.
Address: Park Place, 12 Lawn Lane, Vauxhall, London SW8 1UD
Tel: 0207 7359535
Parents Against Drug Abuse (PADA)
Delivers support and services to the families of substance users and a national helpline.
Address: The Foundry, Marcus Street, Birkenhead CH41 1EU
Tel: 0151 649 1580 / 08457 023867 (National Families Helpline)
Help and support for family life, information, an online chat facility and a 24 hour helpline.
The government's national drugs helpline which offers free confidential drugs information and advice 24 hours a day. Information and advice is also available via the website.
Tel 0800 77 66 00 (24 hour advice line) / 82111 (Text)
Advocacy organisation for children living away from home or in need.
Childhood bereavement charity. Practical support and guidance to bereaved children, young people, families, professionals and anyone concerned about a grieving child.
Address: 4th Floor, St James's House, St James Square, Cheltenham, Glos GL50 3PR
Tel: 01242 515157 (General Enquiries) / 08452 030405 (Helpline)
Works to improve the emotional wellbeing and mental health of children and young people and empowering their parents and carers.
Address: 48-50 St John Street, London EC1M 4DG
Tel: 020 7336 8445 / 0808 802 5544 (Parents helpline)
Annex E: Guidance for Parents and Carers on Circumstances where the Local Authority will help with Legal Costs
All citizens can access advice on the possible legal help available and the circumstances in which they would qualify for help with costs from the Legal Services Commission (LSC), although this will be subject to a means and merits test laid down by the Funding Code. For more details see A Practical Guide to Community Legal Service Funding by the LSC, available from the LSC Leafletline on: 0845 3000 343, email: LSCLeaflets@ecgroup.uk.com or fax: 020 8867 3225.
In all cases the applicant's solicitor will automatically be asked to apply to the Legal Services Commission to see if the applicant qualifies for financial help before the LA will consider any contribution.
If the client does not qualify, the Local Authority can only consider helping with legal costs in circumstances where:
- Carers, not parents, are applying for a Child Arrangements Order (CAO), Adoption Order (AO), Special Guardianship Order (SGO);
- The child has previously been in our care and we are continuing to support the placement financially and it appears that it is in the best interests of the child; and
- In very exceptional circumstances the Local Authority may consider contributing to legal costs if this is an alternative to immediate entry to the care system.
In the case of Care Proceedings, where potential carers become party to the proceedings and the Local Authority is supporting the placement, the Local Authority may offer payment for a single legal consultation with a solicitor on the Children’s Panel list (pre-agreed with our legal experts) to complete the application. A decision about any further contribution will be made on a case by case basis taking the above 3 principles into account.
The Local Authority will not generally expect to support an application financially if the child has not previously been Looked After, save:
- As stated above, in exceptional circumstances where the proposed legal application is supported and provides an alternative to immediate entry to the care system;
- Is part of the assessed package of support for an approved SGO application or variation thereto Local Authorities cannot meet the legal costs of a Special Guardianship, Residence or Adoption Order where they oppose the application.
Decisions will be made on a case by case basis by the Service Manager Adoption, Permanence & Fostering (Adoption, SGO & Permanence) and Area Social Care manager (Child Arrangements Order allowances). If funding or a contribution towards legal costs is agreed the exact terms and conditions will be set out in writing by the legal department and forwarded to the applicant. Where applicants
Costs will not be paid in cases where prior permission has not been given.
The Local Authority cannot fund legal costs in the case of custody disputes even if they are required by the courts to complete Section 7 Reports on the welfare of the child.