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OxfordshireChildren's Services Procedures Manual

Placements in Residential Care


This procedure applies to all planned placements of Looked After children in residential care (including a parent and child residential assessment or drug rehabilitation placement which includes a child).

See Decision to Look After Child Procedure for procedures relating to the initial decision to look after a child, and the drafting and approval of the Care Plan and other essential documentation.

Children may also be placed in residential care having acquired Looked After status following a Remand to Local Authority Accommodation - see Remands to Local Authority Accommodation or to Youth Detention Accommodation Procedure.

  1. Consultation and Planning
    1. Consultation
    2. Planning
  2. Placements Process - Planned Placements
    1. Definition of Planned Placement
    2. Placement Request
    3. Identification of Placement
    4. Placement Planning
    5. Notification of Placement
  3. Support, Monitoring and Ending of Placements
    1. Support and Monitoring of Placements
    2. Ending of Placements

1. Consultation and Planning

1.1 Consultation

At the point that it is determined that a placement may be required, and throughout the subsequent process of identification, planning and placement, the social worker must consult and take account of the views of the following people:

  • The child;
  • The child's parents;
  • Anyone who is not a parent but has been caring for or looking after the child;
  • Other members of the child's family who are significant to the child;
  • The child's school or education authority;
  • The Youth Offending Service, if the child is known to them.

The views of these people should be given by them, in writing, or should be recorded by the social worker.

1.2 Planning

See Decision to Look After Child Procedure for procedures relating to the initial decision to Look After a child, and the drafting and approval of the Care Plan.

All residential placements will require the agreement of the Placement Matters Meeting.

2. Placements Process - Planned Placements

2.1 Definition of Planned Placement

A Planned Placement is the placement of a child in residential care following an assessment and planning process whereby, at the time of the placement, the agreement of the Placement Matters Meeting has been obtained and a Care Plan and Placement Information Record are in place.

Where the above agreement has not been obtained and the plans are not in place, the placement is deemed to be an Emergency. 

2.2 Placement Request

Where a decision has been made that a child requires a residential placement, the child's social worker should complete and send by email a Referral Form to the Team Manager (Placements).

The Team Manager (Placements) will arrange for the social worker to attend the next meeting of the Placement Matters Meeting. 

The Referral Form contains information about the child, the type of placement sought, the date by which the placement is required, the likely length of time for which the placement is required and the expected level of contact between the child and parents. 

The child's social worker should bring to the Placement Matters Meeting at least one of the following to support the request:

The Placements Matters Meeting will discuss alternatives to the child being/remaining looked after or changing placement, and consider whether the services of the Placement Support Team, Route One Outreach Project or Prevention and Intervention Team should be requested.

Where a placement in residential care is agreed, the Placements Matters Meeting will identify an appropriate in-house resource wherever possible. 

Where there is no suitable available in-house resource, the Placement Matters Meeting will approve in principle the child's placement with an external provider. 

The Placements Matters Meeting will also determine if the case needs to be referred to the Tripartite Panel.

All internal resources must have been explored before seeking the agreement of the Designated Manager (External Placements) to such a placement.

2.3 Identification of Placement

Wherever possible, the child's social worker should visit potential homes and as required consult with other professionals, prior to a decision about the appropriateness of a placement being made.

Where an in-house resource is identified, the home's manager will be notified of the proposed placement and the placement planning process can start - see Section 2.4, Placement Planning.

Where the residential placement is outside the county, see also Out of Area Placements Procedure.

If an out of county residential placement has been authorised by the Placement Matters Meeting and the Designated Manager (External Placements), (and, if necessary, the Tripartite Panel), the Team Manager (Placements) will consult appropriate providers, identify possible placements and liaise with the social worker about their suitability. The Team Manager (Placements) should arrange for a copy of any brochure or written material that is available for the proposed placement to be forwarded to the social worker. 

N.B. In addition to the above approvals, in order to avoid placements that disrupt a child's education, the Nominated Officer must approve any change of placement affecting a child in Key Stage 4 except in an emergency/ where the placement is terminated because of an immediate risk of serious harm to the child or to protect others from serious injury.

At this stage initial discussions will be held with the providers as to the appropriateness of the referral, time-scales for vacancies and the basic costs of the placement. The Team Manager (Placements) will ascertain the services included in the basic cost, what would be regarded as extra cost and the conditions relating to the notice period, and liaise with the child's social worker and relevant manager as necessary.

If a placement appears suitable and a vacancy is available, and when it is a provider that does not come within Pan London or is not known and used regularly, the Team Manager (Placements) will undertake the following:

  • Contact and discuss the provider with OFSTED;
  • Request a copy of the provider's registration certificate and the most recent inspection report;
  • Obtain at least 3 verbal references from other local authorities who have placed children with the provider in the last 12 months;
  • Liaise with social workers who have previously used the provider;
  • Cross refer to the Pan London Contract.

As long as no concerns have been raised in relation to a proposed external placement, and where time permits, the social worker will arrange to visit the placement and then discuss its suitability with the Team Manager (Placements).

The social worker may then arrange visits to the proposed placement, with the child (if old enough) and parents (if appropriate).

When the placement has been agreed as suitable, the Team Manager (Placements) will negotiate the terms and conditions of the placement with the provider. Where the provider is a member of the Pan London Consortium, this will be in line with the standardised Pan London Contract.

All contracts will provide for a review after 3 months.

The provider's admissions procedure will then be followed.

2.4 Placement Planning

As part of the placement planning, the social worker in conjunction with the home staff will carry out a Risk Assessment in relation to the child.

Before the child is placed, the Team Manager (Placements) will liaise with the child's social worker and the manager of the home to arrange a pre-placement planning meeting. 

The child, parents and any other significant family members and relevant professionals should also be invited. 

The purpose of the pre placement planning meeting is to address any issues raised in the Risk Assessment and finalise the Placement Plan (recorded on the Placement Information Record) and the details of the child's needs in the placement including the daily routine, and discuss the Care Plan. This will involve a discussion of the child's needs, including their personal history, religious persuasion, cultural and linguistic background and racial origin, their health and education needs and how these are to be met. It will also include the arrangements for registering the child with local health professionals (GP, dentist and optician).

For children placed in residential care, the Placement Plan should cover the following issues in addition to those for all placements set out in the Decision to Look After and Care Planning Procedure:

  1. The type of accommodation to be provided and the address;
  2. Where the authority has, or is notified of, Child Protection concerns relating to the child, or the child has gone missing from the placement or from any previous placement, the day to day arrangements put in place by the appropriate person (placement provider) to keep the child safe;
  3. The child's personal history, religious persuasion, cultural and linguistic background and racial origin;
  4. Where the child is Accommodated, the respective responsibilities of the Local Authority and parents/anyone with Parental Responsibility; any delegation of responsibility by parents/anyone with Parental Responsibility to the Local Authority for the child's day-to-day care; the expected duration of the arrangements and the steps to bring the arrangements to an end, including arrangements for the child to return to live with parents/anyone with Parental Responsibility; where the child is aged 16 or over and agrees to being provided with accommodation under Section 20 Children Act 1989, that fact;
  5. The circumstances in which it is necessary to obtain in advance the Local Authority's approval for the child to take part in school trips or overnight stays;
  6. The Local Authority's arrangements for the financial support of the child during the placement.

Wherever possible, the pre placement planning meeting should be used to plan any introductions to the placement, for example whether arrangements should be made for the child, parents and the social worker to visit the home and/or whether it may be appropriate to have an introductory overnight stay. If this is not possible, arrangements may be made for residential staff to visit the child and parents; or for information about the home to be sent to the child and/or the parents, for example about routines in the home, bedtimes, meals, visitors, pocket money, school, privacy and the overall expectations in relation to the child's behaviour within the home.

Following the meeting, the child's social worker will complete and arrange for the circulation of the Placement Plan/Placement Information Record to the child, parents and home manager.

The social worker should ensure that any Children's Guide or other information about the placement that is available for the child is obtained and given to him/her.

The social worker must also ensure that the child is provided with information on using the authority's Complaints Procedure.

In all cases, the child should be accompanied to the placement by the social worker and helped to settle in.

2.5 Notification of Placement

The child's social worker must notify the placement to all those consulted and involved in the decision-making process, and confirmation of the date of placement must be sent to the Team Manager (Placements).

The social worker should ensure that the placement details and service package details are entered on Framework-i.

The social worker should complete a Movement Form and the team administrator will send copies to the Designated Nurse for Looked After Children and the education social worker or, where the placement is out of county, the local education authority and Children's Social Care Services for the area where the child is placed. 

The notifications should be before the start of the placement or within 5 working days.

The social worker must also notify the Independent Chairs/Quality Assurance Unit, which will trigger, if necessary, the appointment of an Independent Reviewing Officer, who will contact the social worker to make arrangements for a Looked After Review.

It will necessary for the social worker to ensure the child is registered with a GP, Dentist and Optician, either retaining practices known to them or in the area where they are placed. 

In relation to a first looked after placement it will also be necessary for the social worker to arrange a Health Assessment (see procedures contained in Looked After Children Statutory Health Assessments and Health Action Plans Procedure).

The social worker must also initiate the completion of a Personal Education Plan.

In the case of out of area placements, including Placements at a Distance, 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:

  1. Details of the assessment of the child's needs and the reasons why the placement is the most suitable for responding to these; and
  2. A Copy of the child's care plan (unless already provided in the case of a Placement at a Distance).

3. Support, Monitoring and Ending of Placements

3.1 Support and Monitoring of Placements

The child's social worker must visit the child in the placement within one week of the placement and then at a minimum every six weeks; see procedures in Social Worker Visits Procedure.

For out of county placements, the Team Manager (Placements) will maintain regular contact with the social worker and the child's Independent Reviewing Officer to monitor the appropriateness and effectiveness of the placement.

The Team Manager (Placements) will also liaise with health and education in relation to jointly funded placements with external providers, and will maintain contact with external providers in relation to the children placed with them, taking up with them any concerns or funding issues.

The Team Manager (Placements) will arrange for the Placement Matters Meeting and if appropriate, the Tripartite Panel to receive reports on the placement from the child's social worker and/or the home at least every quarter or more frequently as required when the placement was first agreed. 

Where the needs of the child in the placement will involve costs in addition to those approved, the placement must be referred to the Placement Matters Meeting (and the Tripartite Panel where appropriate) for authority for any such additional costs before they are incurred. The Team Manager (Placements) must be involved in any cost negotiations and informed of any extra costs, and will update the service package details on Framework-i.

Where there are any concerns that the child's placement may break down, the social worker must consult with the home manager and consider the need to hold a Placement Plan Review as a problem solving meeting where the need for additional resources to support the placement can be considered. Where necessary, a referral to the Placement Matters Meeting should be made for access to the services of the Placement Support Team. The procedure for the referral to the Placement Matters Meeting is the same as a request for a new placement - see Section 2.2, Placement Request.

A Looked After Review should be convened where:

  • The child is, or has been, persistently absent from the placement;
  • The placement provider, parents or area authority are concerned that the child is at risk of harm; or
  • The child so requests, unless the Independent Reviewing Officer considers that the review is not justified.

See also Looked After Reviews Procedure.

3.2 Ending of Placements

The child's social worker should inform all those notified of the placement when a placement ends, including the Team Manager (Placements) and must update the details on Framework-i.

Where applicable, a Disruption Meeting should be held - seeDisruption Meetings ( Foster/Residential Placements) Procedure.