LAC Manual Part 4 - Care Away from Home - Identifying the Need for Compulsion

Identifying the Need for Compulsion 

This part of the process is:

  • Relevant regardless of whether a child needs a care placement 1
  • Comes prior to seeking a care placement, if that is necessary
  • May be initiated on the basis either of
    • a request from the Children’s Reporter, or
    • a view among the “Team around the Child” that parents or children are not engaging appropriately with an existing plan and that this will have significantly adverse consequences for the child
    • a view among the “Team around the Child” or in an Initial Referral Discussion, under Child Protection Procedures, that the parents or child would oppose a plan that is proposed as being necessary to protect the child from significant harm

The decision to impose compulsory measures of supervision rests with the Children's Hearing.  This decision will be based, to a significant extent, on a report containing an integrated assessment of the child’s and family's situation, and an indication of the options and outcomes considered best for the child, supported with reasons and evidence.

Schedule 1 of the 2009 Regulations sets out the minimum requirements for the information that needs to be gathered to inform a child’s plan.

Step 1 - Undertake your assessment or re-assessment

The argument for compulsion is set out below and should be addressed in the Child’s Plan –

1. The child has needs or is subject to risks, at  a sufficiently significant level to require or necessitate intervention, and which, if inadequately addressed, are likely to result in a significant level of harm, in the shorter or longer term

  1. Evidence for these needs or risks must be connected, with evidence, to the legal grounds for compulsion.
  2. In most instances additional evidence for these needs and risks will be in the form of difficulties or deficiencies in the quality or effectiveness of parental care, or factors in the child’s wider world and/or factors in parents’ behaviour, wider world or history, together with specific impacts on the child’s health and development, including risk-taking or offending behaviour.

2. A  programme of intervention has been identified which, if implemented, could be reasonably expected to address those needs and risks and which has the minimal impact on the rights of the child and the rights and responsibilities of the parent, while being consistent with the paramount consideration of the what is in the child’s best interests

  1. The 2011 Act requires the Hearing to specify whether compulsion is necessary for the protection, guidance, treatment or control of the child - and includes, in general terms, both the purpose and method of the intervention. In the context of care placements, this includes the broader ‘aim of care’ eg whether working towards a re-unification with family or permanence, as well as interventions to address specific difficulties.
  2. To enable the Children’s Hearing to do this, the Child’s Plan needs to show what outcomes, relevant to the identified needs and risks, the plan aims to achieve and who needs to action them
  3. It may also be necessary to provide some additional indication of the alternative courses of action that have been discussed or considered, why this programme has been chosen or identified as the most appropriate option and any contingency plans considered appropriate if this plan does not achieve its planned outcomes.

3. The  programme of intervention necessary to address those needs and risks cannot be reliably implemented; and the likely harm cannot, therefore be prevented; without specified persons being compelled to do, or refrain from doing, something specific.

  1. Does the person in question disagree, fundamentally, with the professional assessment of the needs and risks affecting the child and, therefore, with the proposed plan to address them? This disagreement might, or might not be limited to their disagreement with the grounds for referral to the Hearing. It is important that your assessment explicitly records whether parents or children accept or repudiate evidence for the grounds of referral.
  2. Is that person unwilling, for some other reason, to agree to the plan or to work to the plan? They might agree with the assessment of needs, but may advocate a different approach to addressing them. They might simply not be sufficiently motivated to follow the plan, or to meet the child’s needs. Where this is in question, or demonstrably the case, there would be longer term implications for the plan for the child; raising the question of the requirement for permanence planning, even at the early planning stage; which should be addressed in the recommendation to the Hearing. There are sometimes situations in which a parent may, for example, agree to their child being temporarily accommodated, but be absolutely opposed to a broader plan towards permanence, of which initial accommodation is a first step.
  3. Is there evidence, from experience in seeking to implement an earlier plan, that one or more of the parties is unlikely to engage effectively with it, or likely to actively undermine it?
    Bear in mind that a parent who has agreed to their child being accommodated on a voluntary basis has a right to remove their child. Your agreement to such an arrangement could legitimately be construed as assent to the proposition that such removal would not present a significant risk.
  4. Is there some specific barrier to reliable compliance with the plan, even where there is a general commitment to it eg illness, disability or long-established patterns of behaviour, including substance misuse or violence? Assessment of the likelihood that compulsion will adequately address the difficulty will have a bearing on longer term implications for the plan for the child and, in the case of serious risk arising from the behaviour of a young person, may indicate the need for secure care.

Step 2 – Discuss your assessment with parents and child

As you draw your assessment to a conclusion, you need to talk it through with the parents and child (dependant on their age and maturity) to establish whether –

  • they understand
  • they agree with the assessment
  • they agree with the outcomes to be achieved
  • they agree with the plan of action to achieve those outcomes

You also need to ensure they understand and are aware of their rights to contest the grounds for the referral (if they dispute these) and/or the necessity for compulsory intervention.

Give the child and their family the details of the Advocacy and Legal Advice Service offered by Children 1st2  , and explain their right to be represented by an independent person if they wish.

Step 3 - Recommending compulsory measures

Under the Children’s Hearing (Scotland) Act, 2011 The Moray Council has a DUTY to provide information (and recommendation) to the Principal Reporter if we believe a Compulsory Supervision Order may be necessary.

  • If,  following your assessment, you determine that Compulsory Measures of Care are not necessary, you should record your reasons for non-referral in the Child’s Plan as one of the options considered
  • If you believe there may be a need for compulsion, you will need to provide the Principle Reporter with the relevant information and recommendation in the form of the Child’s Plan, once you have sought and obtained agreement to the provision of  a placement, if that is a component of the plan.

Step 4 – Liaising with the reporter

Have an initial discussion with the Reporter to clarify the process and timescales. Be as clear as possible about whether the child or parents are likely to accept or repudiate the grounds for referral, to enable the Reporter to take into consideration the potential necessity for a Proof Hearing.
Agree a date for the Hearing, or any Pre-Hearing meeting necessary to consider the Hearing arrangements eg the appointment of a Safeguarder (feedback and feedback form.)

Step 5 – Attending the hearing

Your attendance at the Hearing is to enable the Hearing to clarify any questions arising from their reading of the Child’s Plan and from their discussion with the child or parents.

It is important that you are clear about the ability of the service to actually deliver the action plan as new legislation gives subsequent Review Hearings the right to direct the National Convener to make an application to enforce the authority’s duty where it considers that a local authority is in breach of a duty in relation to a Compulsory Supervision Order.

The Children’s Hearings (Scotland) Act, 2011 – Information Leaflet highlights key changes in legislation which have replaced parts of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995.  

Seeking & Planning Foster Placements, including Short Breaks Care & Residential Care

If it is not possible to ensure a child’s needs are met, in a sustainable way, by their birth parents or kinship carers, there are two main care options away from the birth family to be considered.

  • A Foster Family or
  • Residential Care

Different types of Fostering Placements include:

Permanent : A placement secured by a Permanence Order

Long Term : Longer than 24 months not secured by a Permanence Order. Agencies must differentiate between long term placements where:

  • A Permanence Order with ancillary provisions being sought
  • A Permanence Order without ancillary provisions being sought
  • Child’s care plan indicates that the placement will be maintained into adulthood (18+ years of age) without a Permanence Order being sought
  • Child’s care plan indicates that alternative placements are being sought (including with birth family)
  • The child’s care plan gives no indication of the placement’s objective or expected duration and therefore requires close scrutiny.

Interim : Less than 24 months, not secured by a Permanence Order.

  • Part of a concurrency plan
  • Working towards rehabilitation with birth parents or other carers
  • Working towards permanent care arrangements with a different foster carer
  • Working towards permanent care arrangements with current carer

Emergency : Unplanned in an emergency, where no other placement type has been identified by the local authority

Short Break3 : Planned series of short breaks (including emergency placements with a carer who is already providing planned short break placements to the child or young person)

Short breaks episodes can be grouped together as a number of short term placements as part of the Child’s Plan but no placement must last for more than 4 weeks and the total in any year must not exceed 120 days4.

Step 1 – Requesting a planned foster care placement

  • Obtain authorisation from the appropriate officer or body
  • Follow the Request a Foster Placement Flow Chart and refer to the Fostering Duty Social Worker
  • Area Team SW discuss placement needs and identify possible suitable options with Fostering Duty SW
  • If there are conflicting care needs or concerns about risk, refer to Placement Services Manager
    • Any health and safety considerations
    • Risks to the child from others that the carers should be aware of
    • Potential risks to members of the carers household, community or the child from the child or others whom the child may have contact with
  • You will already, in the case of a planned placement, have a competent Child’s Plan, supported, where necessary, by appropriate Risk Assessments
  • Complete Consents and Day to Day Placement Agreement
  • When a potential placement is identified, record how the placement being offered specifically meets the needs and or addresses the risks for this child (Important if the placement is to be on a compulsory basis) within the Child’s Plan.

Step 2 – Placement planning meeting and discussions

  • The Area Team SW and Fostering & Adoption SW discuss and agree what information is to be shared and in what format, about the child’s parents, with potential or confirmed carers and vice versa.  Ensure necessary consents are sought, and any welfare issues noted.
  • The Area Team SW should ensure parents’ and child’s views are sought regarding the choice of placements and particulars included in the Day to Day Placement Agreement.
  • The Area Team SW and Fostering & Adoption SW arrange a Placement Planning Meeting, inviting:
    • Foster carer 
    • Fostering Social Worker 
    • Area Team Social Worker
    • Parents
    • Child (wherever possible)

The Placement meeting should ensure relevant Consents are signed and discussion should include:

  • LAC Placement Agreements, including day to day care arrangements is completed
  • Child’s Plan and Risk Assessment is updated to reflect
    • purpose of placement,
    • tasks to be undertaken,
    • timescales
    • appropriate outcome measures to be used
    • What existing health and education services should be maintained, in the best interests of the child eg school, GP, HV
    • What contact arrangements with the child’s family (inc siblings) are in the child’s best interests,5 6
    • What overnight stays are in the child’s best interests (linked to the overarching outcomes of the care placement)
    • What existing sibling, friendships, clubs, interest etc it is important to maintain during the placement
  • Consideration is given to any Support for Learning that may be required 7
  • A written assessment of the health needs of each child who is, or becomes looked after 8 9 is in place
  • Transition into Placement is planned
    • Consider who is best placed to support, transport  and receive the child (ideally the person best placed will be the person best known to the child)
    • This should be agreed and communicated to all
    • Agree when is the best time, or point in the placement family’s routine, for visits?
    • Essential items for the child to take eg photos
    • Essential information for the child and family to know to ease the process eg names of carers/house/ flat/ garden/dog/arrangements for snacks etc (think what would you/your child need to know/want to take with them, if going to stay with unknown people.)
  • Restate reasons for the child moving into foster care so the carers know how the need for a placement has been explained to the child and can help the child understand the plan that is in place.

Residential placements

The aims of care can be to provide a residential placement with the intention of:

  • The child returning home
  • Determining whether a return home is in the child’s best interests or
  • Seeking Permanence

Step 1 - Seeking and requesting a placement

In Moray this is done via the Placement Services Group (this document is currently under review), as described in Determining the need for a placement.

Step 2 – Placement planning

The Area Team Social Worker and Residential Unit Manager arrange Placement Planning Meeting, involving:

  • Child / young person (wherever possible – if not, record reasons why not)
  • Parents (or current carers)
  • Area Team SW / Senior SW
  • Residential (Key) Worker / Residential Unit Manager
  • Any Health and Education or other professionals involved in the Team / Childs Plan

Format of meeting

  • Agree a chair and a minute taker.
  • Clarify overarching outcomes of care within the child’s plan.
  • Agree the Day-to-Day Care Plan including :
    • How aims of care will be achieved
    • Who will be responsible for what in terms of decisions and fulfilment of day to day care
    • The ways and the extent to which parents can be involved (having regard to any statutory order regarding rights and responsibilities, the aims of the care plan,  the child’s wishes and best interests)
    • How will this be facilitated?
  • Clarify tasks to be undertaken, timescales and appropriate outcome measures to be used, recording these in the Child’s Plan/Behaviour Support Plan/ Day-to-Day Care Placement Agreement as appropriate including :
    •  Sanctions agreed
    •  How behaviour will be managed
    •  How the residential unit and the child’s Social Worker will work together to plan interventions
    •  How child’s development, skills and resilience will be supported
  • Complete Consents
  • Plan visits and transition into Placement
  • Arrange Medical Assessment 10

If a parent/carer wishes to record a meeting (using an electronic devise, either overtly or covertly) this is acceptable under the terms of the Data Protection Act 1998 s36, so long as the intended purpose of the recording relates to the individual’s personal, family or household affairs.

Updating the child’s plan

  • Child’s Plan and Risk Assessment is updated to reflect
    • purpose of placement,
    • tasks to be undertaken,
    • timescales
    • appropriate outcome measures to be used
    • What existing health and education services should be maintained, in the best interests of the child eg school, GP, HV
    • What contact arrangements with the child’s family (inc siblings) are in the child’s best interests, 11 12
    • What overnight stays are in the child’s best interests (linked to the overarching outcomes of the care placement)
    • What existing sibling, friendships, clubs, interest etc it is important to maintain during the placement

Implementing Care Plans for Children in Care Placements (fostering and residential)

Step 1 – Placing the child

Follow the plan that you have made for taking the child to the placement, including –

  • Any pre-placement visits and introductions
  • At what time of day, or point in the daily routine, the child will be taken
  • Who will greet the child and how
  • Any information that those providing care will need in order to meet the child’s needs and ensure their safety, comfort and confidence in their carers and care arrangements
  • Anything that the child needs to have with them, in order to feel safe, comfortable and connected

Step 2 – Update Carefirst

The social worker responsible for a child or young person subject to Supervision must ensure Carefirst is updated including:

  • the child’s legal and placement status

and that their :

  • address
  • nationality
  • race,
  • religion,
    (preferred) language,
  • disability status,
  • household members and
  • school is accurately recorded.

If an order has been made requiring that an address should not be disclosed to a specified person or persons, this “Warning” must be recorded in Carefirst by the relevant Area Team Senior Social Worker, who is also responsible for the deletion of the message when this no longer applies.
It is especially important for Care Placements that case recording is reliable, proportionate and accurate, in accordance with the service’s Case Recording Policy, throughout the child’s period of being looked after. The record serves a number of functions, including:

  • Supporting planning for the child, including emergency responses in crises
  • Being the main repository for evidence that may be required in the future to make the case for specific measures of care or control or for permanence
  • Being a record that the child can read, now, or in the future as an adult, of what occurred, how plans and decisions were made and the efforts taken by the different parties to meet the child’s needs

Step 3 - Notify Core Group/Team around the Child, Reviewing Team and arrange initial meetings

The social worker, ordinarily the Lead Professional for Looked After Children, must

  • notify other parties to the Child’s Plan of the placement and, where relevant,
  • the outcome of the Children’s Hearing and
  • arrange the first meeting of the Core Group
  • notify the Looked After Children Secretary in the Reviewing Team, to enable scheduling of the first statutory Review (ordinarily within six weeks, or within 72 hours for unplanned, emergency placements).

For children subject to compulsory measures, and consistent with Child Protection procedures, the Core Group meeting should be held within two weeks of the Hearing that made the supervision order. 

The initial core group should: -

  • confirm who will comprise “the team around the child”, including the child and parents
  • ensure they each have a copy of the Child’s plan agreed or amended by the Hearing, including any Risk Assessment
  • ensure that core group members are clear about: -
    • The legal status of the child
    • what change needs to be achieved for supervision to be discharged
    • what is the agreed timescale for achieving change
    • the requirement for the “Team around the Child” to work together effectively
    • how progress will be measured
    • the accountability every member has for working with the agreed Plan
    • occurrences that might lead to an early Review Hearing 
  • agree the frequency of core meetings thereafter
  • agree the date for the first review: the review must be within 6 weeks of the decision that made the supervision order

Step 4 - Work to the plan

The professional staff involved in The Child’s Plan are each responsible for discharging their part of the Plan and for working together effectively with the family as the “Team around the Child”.  They should:

  • Ensure that their work with children and parents is in accordance with the Child’s Plan and focused on achieving the outcome objectives agreed in the Child’s Plan
  • Share information with the other members of the Team around the Child about how their work is progressing and about any barriers to progress
  • Meet periodically, with the family, to discuss progress, barriers to progress and any other relevant developments
  • Inform the Lead Professional in the Child’s Plan if, for any reason, they are unable, or are prevented from doing what they have committed to do as set out in the plan
  • If there are significant difficulties in working to the Child’s Plan, the Team around the Child should meet and, if unable to resolve the difficulty, should consider organising an early formal Review.

Working with Parents

Where a child is accommodated on a voluntary basis, parental rights and responsibilities are largely unaffected. Services, including the care placement, are provided on the basis of our written agreement with them, recorded in the Child’s Plan and the Day to Day Care Arrangements. The only limitations on the parents’ legal right to terminate the arrangement is that appropriate notice must be given if the child has been placed for six months or more on a continuous basis. It is very important, and a significant factor in building the trust on which real progress is based, that parental responsibilities are respected and that significant decisions affecting the child are referred to parents.

Where a child is looked after because he or she is subject to a supervision requirement (or an order, authorisation or warrant made under Chapters 2, or 3 of Part II of the 1995 Children (Scotland) Act or a permanence order), the parents or carers will have no choice about whether or not their child is Looked After, or about matters specified in the order or requirement.  They do continue to hold such parental responsibilities and rights as have not been modified by the order and practitioners have a responsibility to work in partnership with them, striving to reach agreement with parents or carers about the ways in which the plan is put into effect, always subject to the condition that the welfare of the child remains the paramount consideration.

If difficulties arise from the manner in which parental responsibilities are discharged; especially if the child suffers actual harm or is put at risk of significant harm;  it is essential that these difficulties are explicitly addressed with parents and that the difficulties and what arises from them and from attempts to address them are appropriately recorded.

In direct work with parents it is important to ensure that they are clear about -

  • The reasons for the child being looked after, and the aims of the placement
  • What changes are necessary, and within what time-scales, for the child to return home – particularly any change that parents themselves need to achieve, in learning skills or understanding, improving their relationship with their child, changing aspects of lifestyle
  • What supports will be offered and by who to achieve change.

It may be beneficial to work jointly on this with someone from the Team around the Child, depending on the issues.

Break larger outcomes down into small, manageable steps e.g. what do you expect to be achieved, by whom between now and next meeting?  Where relevant, specific outcome measures, that can be used by parents or by practitioners working with parents, can be beneficial in evidencing and reinforcing progress and motivation.

For respite, recognising the ongoing parenting role and ensuring the service is meeting the needs of the child and parents or carer is essential.

Working with paid carers and kinship carers

The workers role here is to:-

  • support carers to meet the child’s needs
  • listen to their observations and  perspective on the child’s welfare and development
  • hear their observations on the quality and reliability of contact and its effect on the child
  • monitor  the progress of any plan towards re-unification or to meet the child’s needs otherwise
  • discuss the part they see themselves playing in the child’s future care and  their own support needs (this responsibility is discharged in collaboration between social worker and Fostering or Kinship Worker).

Working with children

Children need to know and trust the people responsible for their care. Children placed away from home by the local authority have more people responsible for their care than is normally the case. Some, if not all of them will, at the start of the episode, be relative or complete strangers. It is important that practitioners make time to be with children, getting to know them and building trust and communication. Practitioners need to learn how the child communicates, verbally, through behaviour and through any other media, in order to understand how the child is experiencing the placement, contact with parents and others and any other work taking place to meet their needs.

A child who does not appear to be welcoming of social work contact may not necessarily be happier seeing less of their social worker. Research suggests that children seeing their social worker regularly feel safer, more valued and more confident in the work that is being done to meet their needs. Practitioners need to be personally aware of the child’s views and wishes and take them into consideration, and not rely entirely on the understanding of carers and parents.

Self-report outcome measures and other tools can help children able to use them to articulate things that they might not otherwise express. Outcome measures will also provide defensible evidence as to whether or not the plan is making a difference in the child’s experience. Unless there are good reasons for not doing so, at least one appropriate outcome measure should be used for young people placed outwith Moray, with carers or key workers facilitating their periodic use.
This manual does not prescribe specific methods for direct work with children, particularly therapeutic work. It is important that practitioners are aware of the evidential basis for any specific method that they use, so they can be confident both in using it effectively and in explaining or defending it as necessary in either statutory reviews or judicial processes.

Some specific considerations for the early stages of a placement

  • Allow the child to settle into the placement
  • Don’t try to accomplish anything too demanding on your first visit.  Just check out how they are finding things generally, and if they have any worries or questions
  • Ensure the child knows how to contact the Who Cares? worker in case they feel they ever need an independent advocate.
  • Once the child is settled in, look at their plan with them.  Look at the work different people will be doing with them.  Explain to them your (case-worker / lead professional) responsibility for checking how well everyone is working to the plan.  It may be beneficial to do this work jointly with a carer, or key member of the care staff in residential placements.
  • Agree with the child how you will work, what you will do next and how you will measure and record progress.  Try to do this in a way which suits the child and engages their commitment to their plan.  This could involve an activity, which the child enjoys, putting them at ease and helping to build a trusting relationship.
  • It is likely that once they find their feet, children old enough to do so will test the boundaries within the placement in some way to see how far they can go, and also to ensure carers or care staff are committed to keeping them safe and meeting their needs appropriately.
  • Anticipate this where possible and agree how this will be managed.
  • Do not withhold contacts as a sanction.  Enable the contact to still take place, but perhaps in a modified way, if necessary for anyone’s safety
  • Ensure you speak with carers or care staff at the beginning and end of each visit, so information is shared accurately with everyone in the Team around the Child, and the plan is clearly reinforced for the child.
  • It is important that all of the team work together towards the agreed goals in this.  Regular Core Group Meetings can be a good way of monitoring everyone’s contribution and progress with the plan, and ensuring vital pieces of information are picked up.  However practitioners must also ensure a proportionate amount of time is spent working on the plan, with the child and their family.  Meetings (and paperwork) clearly have their place for professional planning and reviewing but are generally not a comfortable or productive environment (and medium) for children and their families.
  • If there are significant difficulties in working to meet the aims of the Child’s Plan, the Team around the Child should consider how best to address this with the child and family.   If they are unable to resolve the difficulty they should consider organising an early formal Review.

Step 10 - Recording and retaining key information

  • All contacts with or about a Looked After Child should be recorded briefly in Carefirst within 5 days of the event taking place
  • Significant new information should be incorporated in the next update of the integrated assessment in the Child’s Plan.
  • Significant events and milestones should be added to the chronology
  • Any missed appointments and the reason should be recorded on Carefirst

Step 11 - Review progress in core group meetings

  • Subsequent meetings of the Core Group must review progress in implementing the plan and achieving plan objectives
  • If any barriers to implementation are identified, the Core Group must seek to address these
  • If they are unable to resolve them adequately, the group must review its assessment of risk and decide whether any other action should be taken, including arranging an earlier statutory review or notification of the difficulty to the Children’s Reporter.

Core Group Meeting Procedures

Step 12 - Statutory review

The Lead Professional must ensure that a statutory review is arranged within specified timescales and, in any case, sufficiently in advance of a Review Hearing to allow for the provision of an appropriate report for consideration at the Hearing.

Step 13 - Report on progress in meeting outcomes in The Child’s Plan.

The Child's Plan Review should be presented to the review, with an updated Child’s Plan, including any Risk Assessment.  This should be a single integrated report, expressing the shared view and combined, up-to-date understanding of the Team around the Child.  The lead professional is responsible for coordinating and combining contributions to it. It may be possible to do this within a Core Group Meeting. Children and parents should have the opportunity to read and comment on the report before it is finalised.

Updating a Child’s Plan, where that is necessary, entails a genuine re-assessment of the child’s needs and circumstances, recording the “current assessment” in the relevant sections of the document. Where previously recorded matters are still current, they should remain unchanged. Matters that no longer apply should be removed or, where appropriate, referred to in the historical section. It is not best practice to update a Child’s Plan by simply adding update sections to an existing plan.

Chronologies produced for a specific reporting context should also be edited to reflect what is currently relevant.
The views of children and parents should be distinctly reported, particularly where they differ from those of other members of that group. Children, parents and carers always have the right to provide a separate, written report of their views, wishes and intentions and should be encouraged to exercise it if they wish to do so. The child should have the opportunity to complete a “Viewpoint” form, which should be available to the Reviewing Officer

Professionals who see a need to provide a separate report, for whatever reason, may do so, provided that the subjects of that report have had the opportunity, before a formal review, to see and discuss it.

Copies of the reports should be held by all those who comprise the Team around the Child, given their responsibly and accountability for effective joint working.  The social worker must ensure the Chairperson has a copy at least 5 working days prior to review.  

Step 14 – Bringing a looked after episode to a conclusion

Ending a voluntary replacement

Parental intervention

The key distinction between voluntary and compulsory care episodes is that throughout a voluntary episode, parents retain their rights and responsibilities, including the specific right to determine where and with whom the child shall live. So the parent can choose to terminate the voluntary care placement.  

The only constraint on the exercise of this right out-with the terms set out in the Child’s Plan is the requirement to give appropriate notice of their wish to end the episode, if the child has been placed away from home for six months or more.

Practitioner intervention

If, during a voluntary care episode, the lead professional involved with the child and family has formed a view, supported by evidence that the child would be likely to suffer significant harm were they to return home, they should discuss this with the Team around the Child, with a view to making representation to the Children’s Reporter, if necessary.

If there are substantial grounds for believing that a child removed from a voluntary care placement would be at immediate risk of significant harm, emergency powers to protect the child may be necessary and should be considered.

Ending a compulsory placement

For children subject to Compulsory Supervision, where there is agreement between parents, child and practitioners that the family is ready for the child to return home, this does not have to wait for a Review Hearing, but the Reporter must be informed to enable him to decide if a Review Hearing is required. Best practice would be for the Reporter to be consulted and this would help preclude the possibility of the Hearing taking the view that the authority was “in breach of a duty” and applying to the National Convenor to enforce the local authority’s compliance.

Re-uniting families

The amount and level of transitional support a child and their family will need will be determined by many factors.  
Key considerations :

  • The child’s expressed views and wishes
  • How long the child has spent away from the family home
  • The strengths and difficulties in the child’s relationships with family members, including the effect of contact during this time
  • Any continuing issues over which parents or child will need continuing support
  • How a return home impacts on friendships, education and social networks that have developed through the care episode
  • How endings with carers will be managed
  • Any other important relationships which should continue being supported

Recognising when the prospect of re-uniting families is receding

At the outset, practitioners should be clear with parents, children, family members, carers and other bodies and organisations who have a role, that becoming Looked After is not an end in itself but is part of a process, with the overriding aim of securing permanence for each child.  When the outcomes of the Childs Plan are not being met, this must be clearly communicated, so alternative routes to permanence can be openly and fully explored

Disruption of foster placements

Where placements with foster carers break down and become unsustainable, before the child is ready to return home, disruption processes are initiated to ensure that anything that needs to be learned from the experience is not wasted and to ensure that any harm arising for carers is addressed. The Disruption process is not primarily the locus for future planning for the child, although what is learned in the process may be used by the Lead Professional to inform future planning.

View next section Part 4.3 - Identifying the need for emergency powers to protect

Back to Part 4 - Contents List


Problems / amendments required to LAC Manual?

Please contact Linda Pearce

Footnotes :

1.  Where Emergency Measures to protect children or assess their need for protection are being considered, see Emergency Placements and relevant sections of National Child Protection Guidance.
For circumstances under which you need to consider the need for Secure Accommodation, see Seeking Secure Care Authorisation.)
2.  Children 1st Northfield Terrace, Elgin IV30 1NE  -  01343 564170
3.  Overnight Short Breaks : The Moray Council provides a short break (including overnight care) as a service to families caring for a child with disabilities, under S22(1)9b) of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995, for the purpose of promoting the upbringing of such children by their families. The authority does not ordinarily consider the child to be ‘looked after’ by the local authority, on the basis that the parents are not prevented from caring for the child at any point, the accommodation is provided under S22 and S25(6) would apply ie. in the majority of cases, the parents are able to provide accommodation and would object to it being provided in terms of S25.
There may also be instances in which this authority provides accommodation to children with disabilities under S25(2) of the same Act, in which case the child would be deemed ‘looked after’ and relevant regulations, including those for statutory reviews, would apply.
4.  Regulation 30, LAC Regulations 2009
5.  Guidance for when contact arrangements established by a Children’s Hearing/Court have to be changed is available through this link
6.  Form for completion when there is a change in contact arrangement
7.  Education (Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2009
8.  This is initiated in Moray through a telephone referral for the assessment to the Looked After Children (LAC) Nurse.
9.  Regulation 3(3)(b)
10. Health Assessment
Guidance for when contact arrangements established by a Children’s Hearing/Court have to be changed is available through this link
12. Form for completion when there is a change in contact arrangement


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