LAC Manual Part 4 Care Away From Home - Identifying the Need for a Care Placement

Identifying the need for a care placement

This part of the process is:

  • common to all forms of placement
  • comes prior to requesting a placement
  • largely separate to considerations of whether the placement should/ can be on a voluntary or compulsory basis.

When the possibility of a care placement arises, via:

  • a request from a parent, or young person
  • a suggestion from another professional
  • or your own personal enquiry

you need to undertake the following detailed enquiries, with parents, children and relevant professionals:

Step 1 – Determining the need for a placement

Key considerations:

Is a care placement necessary?

  • Why is it not possible or appropriate for one or both parents or current carers to provide care for the child at this time? 2
    Record the reasons on the Child Concern form under “reasons for concern” if this is at the initial stage of assessment or in the Child’s Plan “next steps / views” if later in the process
  • Who holds parental responsibility and/or has been actually responsible for the care of the child for any substantial period of time? (in the terms of the legislation, a “relevant person”)
  • Would that person be able and willing to provide the care that the child needs?
  • Is there any other additional support that would enable them to continue to provide care, or to improve the quality of care that they can provide, if improvement is necessary for the child? Where appropriate request resources through the Moray Additional Resource Management Group
  • Is there another relative, or someone else known to the child, who could, appropriately provide care under a Kinship Care arrangement?
  • Is there any additional support that would be required to enable them to do so?
  • Record the alternatives you have considered, and the outcomes of this, in the "analysis" section of Child’s Plan

Step 2 – Determining the purpose, conditions and duration of placement

Key considerations :

When is it envisaged that the child will or may return home?


  • What is the shortest time possible or appropriate?
  • What is the longest time that would be appropriate to allow for the desired change to take place, bearing in mind the child’s developmental needs and the overarching requirement for permanence?

           Clarity at this early stage will assist you later when considering permanence,  if the conditions necessary for a return  home are not being met within a timescale that meets the child’s needs.  

What needs to change for one or both parents to resume their care of the child?

  • Record this in the “Outcomes” section of Child’s Plan

If the placement required is for respite purposes, what frequency and duration of respite is believed necessary?

The different types of Short Term placement could be:

  • Proactive Short Breaks1 Care - providing specific, planned, time-limited placements, which can be one off, or on a regular basis as a proactive measure, giving relief from any pressures experienced by the main carers, 
  • Planned Substitute Care - providing planned care on a temporary basis, for a limited period or
  • Emergency Substitute Care - providing emergency care for a limited period to allow further assessment of needs and care planning.

There are also circumstances, including Child Protection contexts, under which it is legitimate to be considering permanence apart from parents from the earliest stages of planning.

Step 3 – Determining the placement needs

In addition to the overall assessment of the child’s case, the local authority is also required to assess whether a particular placement is appropriate for the child’s needs, taking into account what the placement is able to offer and/or the establishment’s statement of functions and objectives in the case of a residential placement.  

Key considerations :

What does the child need from his or her care placement?

  • Do siblings need placing together? Please see guidance on Children in the same family (LAC Regulations, 2009)
  • Is there anything particular, beyond simply "good substitute care", required from the carers, in order to address specific needs or risks?
  • Are there any particular sensitive issues for the parent or child, which should be considered when identifying potential placements, or of which carers will need to be aware?
    • Any reason to expect the child would have difficulty with a family placement or prefer, or respond better to a residential environment (rarely the case for children younger than 12 years)
    • Any reason to expect the child to respond adversely if placed with another child, if so, whether related to age or gender
    • Matters of culture, religion or ethnicity
  • Are there any risks which have been highlighted in the risk assessment, which need to be taken into consideration by those identifying potential placements, or of which carers will need to be aware?
  • Record all this information in the "analysis" and "views" sections of Child’s Plan

Step 4 – Determining the additional support needs and agreeing the Child's Plan

Key considerations

Consider each of the main issues or areas of concern which you have identified.  This must1 include any known, specific:

  • Health needs
  • Educational needs including pre-school provision
  • Developmental needs

What change needs to be achieved to ensure the child’s long term needs are met and to achieve sustainable, long term arrangements for the care of the child (as required under 2009 regulations)  ordinarily, but not always, to enable the child to return home?

What additional arrangements or support, to the child, parents or carers, will be required to meet the child's needs and address risks and achieve this?

  • Who will do this?
  • When?

How will progress be measured?

  • Record all  this information in the Child’s Plan

This completed Child’s Plan confirms the agreed overarching outcomes for the child.  These, and how the outcomes will be achieved, will be proposed, agreed, and reviewed by the Team around the Child within the LAC and / or Hearing System, with the main aim of the child returning home.

Bear in mind that more detailed planning, specific to a care placement, will take place after the placement has been requested and identified and should be recorded in a specific Looked After Children Day-to-Day Care Plan and Consents. All those involved need to be able to sign up to what is required of them and do it, so the easier it is for everyone to understand their part in the whole, the better.

It is essential that the views and wishes of both children and parents are known and recorded regarding the plan in relation to both the overarching outcomes and how these are to be achieved. This information is required under the terms of the Children’s Hearings (Scotland) Act and may acquire greater significance if legally secured permanence becomes necessary at a future point.

Step 5 – Determining the need for compulsion

Before proceeding to seek authorisation for the provision of a care placement for a child, it is important to clarify whether there is

  • Any legal form of compulsion currently applying to child or parents?
  • Any necessity for compulsion, in order to reliably and successfully implement the proposed plan to meet the child’s needs

Step 6 - Obtaining authorisation to proceed with seeking a placement

Ordinarily, the process of identifying the need for a care placement will include discussion with a supervisor or manager, as well as other professional staff in the Team around the Child, as the work progresses. Before the practitioner can proceed to seek a placement, authorisation to do so must be sought from:

Type of Placement Authorisation Required
Proactive Respite Placements Senior Social Worker / Team Manager
Planned Foster Care Placements Team Manager (in consultation with Fostering Team Manager)
Emergency Care Placements Placement Services Manager
Choices placements, contracted fostering placements, Action for Children (Moray) residential  and out of area residential placements Placement Services Group
Secure Care Chief Social Work Officer


The authorising person/ group is responsible for verifying the necessity for a care placement and the purpose and characteristics of placement required, as set out above, on the basis of the evidence presented by the practitioner, and supported by the Child’s Plan.

View next section Part 4.2 Identifying the need for compulsion

Back to Part 4 - Contents List

1 - A short break is a placement which forms part of a planned series of short breaks (including emergency placements with a carer who is already providing short break placements to the child or young person)


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