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3.1.3 Permanence Planning Policy

SCOPE BOX

This chapter deals with a number of key issues in respect of placement planning, reflecting on the importance of placement stability and identifying key planning stages. The chapter also deals with important issues in respect of placement planning such as out of borough and distant placements and ceasing to look after a child.

RELEVANT GUIDANCE

DfE, The Children Act guidance and regulations – Volume 2: Care Pllanning, Placement and Case Review (2015)

Coram BAAF, Fostering for Adoption – Practice Guidance (2013)

RELEVANT CHAPTERS

Family and Friends Care Policy

Long Term Fostering Procedure

Adoption Planning Procedure

Applications for Special Guardianship Orders Procedure

Permanence depends on securing the right placement for the right child at the right time and supporting the child to achieve a sense of belonging. Children’s experiences within the system vary considerably, depending on factors including age, ethnicity and reasons for placement (Care Inquiry, 2013). Permanence for children in care means achieving, within a timescale which meets the child's needs, a permanent outcome which provides security, stability and a loving family to support them through childhood. It is therefore the best preparation for adulthood.

Legislation sets down the requirements that are imposed upon the local authority and in this section further interpretation is given to the legislation in respect of achieving permanence for a child. This guidance reflects the ‘DfE, The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations - Volume 2: Care planning, placement and case review (2015)'.

AMENDMENT

This chapter was comprehensively updated and amended in May 2016 to reflect the impact of the ‘Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (2015)’ statutory guidance.


Contents

  1. Permanence Planning
  2. Permanence Planning - Key stages
  3. Permanence Pathways
  4. Implementing the Final Care Plan (following Conclusion of Care Proceedings)
  5. Implementing the Final Care Plan (following Conclusion of Care Proceedings)
  6. Promoting Placement Stability
  7. Placements Out of the Authority’s Area
  8. LAC Consultation Reviews
  9. Statutory Visits for Foster Care
  10. Ceasing to Look after a Child
  11. The Role of the IRO within the Care Planning Process

    Appendix 1: SGO Application Process - LAC Children

    Appendix 2: Request to Approve a Distant or an out of Borough Placement for a Looked After Child

    Appendix 3: Emergency Request to Approve a Distant or an Out of Borough Placement for a Looked After Child

    Appendix 4: Ceasing to be a Looked After Approval Request- Under 16s

    Appendix 5: Ceasing to be a Looked After Approval Request - Aged 16 or 17


1. Permanence Planning

All children benefit from a sense of permanence and this has most often been provided in the context of stable birth family circumstances. There is a wide range of caring arrangements in which children can thrive. To reflect this diversity there are a number of pathways that will suit a child’s situation best. Whichever pathway is best, it is always important that planning commences as early as possible, especially following the breakdown of previous arrangements.

Permanence can be achieved through different routes – Adoption, Long -Term Fostering, Child Arrangement Orders, Special Guardianship Orders, residing with birth families, with friends or relatives, and (for a minority of children) permanent residential care. Permanence planning for children and young people should be a dynamic process that reflects and responds to the child’s development. There is no fixed timetable for doing this and there must be flexibility in adjusting the timing in the best interests of the child but the following steps set out the minimum requirements for achieving permanence.

In order to effectively plan for permanence, the below key stages should be planned at the start of the child becoming looked after: the social worker and practice manager are responsible for ensuring this is timetabled and recorded, where practicable within the first available supervision.


2. Permanence Planning – Key stages

  1. Pre- Placement Planning meeting / placement planning meeting (within 72 hours of the placement commencing). The purpose of this meeting is set out in the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review Regulations (2015), sections 3.177-3.182, referring to Regulation 9, and Schedule 2. In essence this meeting is to ensure that all relevant information is provided to the carer and that the placement can meet the child’s needs, promote their strengths and manage the vulnerabilities of the child. Minutes of this meeting must be placed on care first;
  2. A discussion with Legal Services should take place and a legal view obtained for all cases, within 10 working days of the child becoming looked after. A Legal Planning Meeting should take place within 10 working days in the majority of these cases. If a Police Protection Order has been enforced, a Legal Planning Meeting / discussion should take place within 72 hours.

    If not already achieved, consideration should be given to holding a Family Group Conference to consider any possible supports / placements within the extended family / friend’s network and to involve the birth family in the planning process; (See Family Group Conferencing Procedure.)
  3. A Permanency planning meeting must take place prior to the second Looked After Review, organised by the Social Worker and chaired by a Practice Manager. The fostering team and the family finding adoption team (where relevant), or Special Guardianship Coordinator should be invited. The views of the child and young person, their parents, carers and significant others need to be made available to the chair. The permanency planning meeting should reflect multi agency views. The meeting minutes should be recorded on Care First and available to the Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) prior to the second LAC Review.

    Alternatively, a permanency planning meeting should take place prior to a child becoming Looked After if subject to the Public Law Outline Process: (See Care and Supervision Proceedings and the Public Law Outline Procedure.)
    • The permanency planning meeting should evidence that an  SGO / CAO has been explored with any relevant family / friends and/or connected person, in order to inform the assessment process and support future planning;
    • The permanency planning meeting should explore the need for a sibling assessment to inform placement planning and sibling contact arrangements;
    • If adoption is an identified permanence option, the need to consult with Salford’s Adoptive Family Support Services (SAFSS) should be considered.
  4. All completed assessments must be presented to the Final Care Planning Meeting. This meeting should propose a final Care Plan and a clear Contingency Plan. This should aim to be achieved within 26 weeks of the child / young person becoming looked after, whatever the legal status. The view of the IRO should be obtained to inform this meeting. The IRO must have all the assessments available to them in order to give their view;
  5. The IRO must have all the final evidence (social work court statement and final care plan) prior to the court filing date. The IRO must review the final evidence in order to endorse / challenge the proposed final Care Plan; where practicable a LAC Review must be held. There must be an opportunity for the IRO to represent their views independently to the court. Please refer to the ‘Good practice guidance, effectively evidencing the role of the IRO within PLO and Care Proceedings’;
  6. Agency Decision Maker / Fostering panel / Special Guardianship Order Panel.


3. Permanence Pathways

4. Implementing the Final Care Plan (following Conclusion of Care Proceedings)

The implementation of the Care Plan will be reviewed within LAC Reviews. If necessary the IRO will monitor and track the progression of the Care Plan in-between reviews to assist in preventing delay and drift.

A permanence progress meeting should take place no less than once a year to ensure the care plan continues to be underpinned by an updated assessment and is meeting all the needs of the child / young person. The allocated social worker is responsible for organising this meeting. All significant people and agencies involved in the child’s life should be invited to this. 

At the permanence progress meeting, the frequency of home visits and conduct of the LAC Reviews can be considered and the rationale for any change should be clearly recorded. The minutes of the permanence progress meeting should be made available to the IRO and the outcome reflected within the child’s Care Plan. The Care Plan will be reviewed at the LAC review and the plan reviewed by the IRO.


5. Implementing the Final Care Plan (following Conclusion of Care Proceedings)

The implementation of the Care Plan will be reviewed within LAC Reviews. If necessary the IRO will monitor and track the progression of the Care Plan in-between reviews to assist in preventing delay and drift.

A permanence progress meeting should take place no less than once a year to ensure the care plan continues to be underpinned by an updated assessment and is meeting all the needs of the child / young person. The allocated social worker is responsible for organising this meeting. All significant people and agencies involved in the child’s life should be invited to this. 

At the permanence progress meeting, the frequency of home visits and conduct of the LAC Reviews can be considered and the rationale for any change should be clearly recorded. The minutes of the permanence progress meeting should be made available to the IRO and the outcome reflected within the child’s Care Plan. The Care Plan will be reviewed at the LAC review and the plan reviewed by the IRO.


6. Promoting Placement Stability

When a child is placed with carers and there are concerns regarding the stability of the placement and / or the carer’s ability to meet the needs of the child, a Care Planning Meeting should be convened by the social worker as soon as is practicable and no later than 10 working days. This meeting should also take place if 'Staying Put' arrangements are not being progressed.

The care planning meeting should consider supports, and evidence the potential impact of any placement move, balanced with the permanency needs of the child. The minutes of this meeting should evidence a clear risk analysis of the impact of remaining within the placement, compared with a potential move. The view of the IRO should be obtained to inform any decision making process and the IRO should receive a copy of the meeting minutes.


7. Placements Out of the Authority’s Area

(See also Out of Area Placements Procedure.)

There will be some circumstances where a distant or out of authority placement has been assessed to best meet a child’s needs and to ensure they are effectively safeguarded. Under the Children’s Homes and Looked after Children (Miscellaneous Amendments) (England) Regulations 2013, a distant placement is outside the area of the responsible authority and an out of borough placement (OOB) is within an adjoining local authority. This request should be completed for all proposed distant and out of borough placements with the exception of a placement with the parent,(see Placements with Parents Procedure) a Connected Person or a foster carer approved by Salford.

The request for an OOB placement needs to be approved by the Assistant Director.

The request for a distant placement needs to be approved by the Strategic Director for Children and Adult Services.

A Care Planning Meeting must take place to assess if an out of authority or distant placement is needed for a child and all significant people and agencies involved in the child’s life should be invited to this. Consultation with Salford’s Family Placement Duty manager should take place to inform this meeting regarding available in house placements. The view of the IRO should be obtained to inform this meeting.

If the decision has been made at a Legal Planning Meeting that a child needs to become looked after, consultation with the Family Placement Team should take place as soon as is practicable regarding in house care options.

All in house care options should be fully considered and explored before an external placement request is made, this must be evidenced within the care planning meeting.

The placement request form should be completed via the carefirst document.

The allocated social worker should attend the first available Placement Tracking Panel whereby placement options can be considered and matching progressed. This will include timely consultation with the authority whereby the child maybe placed to complete a thorough assessment of the placements ability to meet the child’s needs. Contact details of all local authorities can be accessed via ADCS Out of Area Children in Care Notifications (England).

A pre placement planning meeting should take place for all planned placements.

The ‘request to approve a distant / out of borough placement for a looked after child’ form must be completed in order for the Assistant director / Strategic Director of Children’s and Adult Services to approve this plan. This evidences the assessment of the placements ability to meet the child’s needs.

The IRO must be consulted with before any final decision is made about making an out of authority placement. The IRO is responsible for ensuring that the wishes and feelings of the child have been obtained and taken into full consideration.

If an out of authority or distant placement is required on an emergency basis it may not be possible to complete all the above actions. As a minimum the Assistant Director / Strategic Director of Children’s and Adult Services must be provided with the following information and the emergency approval form should be completed:

  • The child’s wishes and feelings and evidence that they have been given due consideration;
  • Evidence that the proposed placement is the most appropriate placement available and consistent with the child’s Care Plan.

An Emergency Placement is the placement of a Looked after child in foster care or residential care (including Secure Accommodation) made without the usual planning and/or thorough assessment process having taken place because of the need to ensure the safety and the welfare of the child immediately.

The following placements are deemed to be Emergency Placements:

  • The placement of a child outside normal working hours;
  • Any placement where the necessary plans are not in place, i.e. where a child is abandoned, has suffered/is at risk of Significant Harm, or where there is an exceptional and immediate need to end an existing placement;
  • A placement in Secure Accommodation without a Court Order but authorised by the designated Manager (Placements-Secure Accommodation) for a maximum of 72 hours. (See Placements in Secure Accommodation Procedure.)

A placement planning meeting should take place within 72 hours of an emergency placement commencing.

A Care Planning Meeting should take place within 5 days of an emergency placement taking place. This meeting should consider the purpose of the placement and work that is required to safely return the child to the placing local authority. The view of the IRO should be ascertained to inform this meeting.

A legal planning meeting should take place within 10 working days if the child was not already looked after and is accommodated subject to Section 20. (See Decision to Look after and Care Planning Procedure, Obtaining Parental Consent.)

The social worker should attend the Placement Tracking Panel at the earliest opportunity.

Please see Appendix 2: Request to Approve a Distant or an out of Borough Placement for a Looked After Child.

8. LAC Consultation Reviews

LAC Reviews will take place in line with statutory guidance. Where a child has been matched and placed in a long term foster placement for over one year, (excluding family/friends/connected persons), a decision can be made to conduct a consultation review once a year, whereby all the necessary information will be considered by the IRO but a face to face meeting will not be required.

If this arrangement is agreed, this will be evidenced within the minutes of the permanency progress meeting, taking into account the needs, age and level of understanding of the child. The minutes of the permanence progress meeting should be made available to the IRO and the outcome reflected within the child’s Care Plan. The Care Plan will be reviewed at the LAC Review. The view of the child and carer must be presented to this meeting.

If a review takes place as a consultation, the IRO will remain responsible for ensuring that the child’s voice is heard and evidenced. The IRO will set a date for this consultation to be completed within statutory timescales. Consultation will take place with the allocated social worker. Consultation forms from the child, carer, parents, significant others and professionals should be completed and provided to the IRO within the agreed timescales. If needed, the IRO will initiate further consultation.

The IRO will complete the LAC chairs review report which should be distributed within 20 working days.

9. Statutory Visits for Foster Care

Minimum visits are prescribed by Regulation within the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review Regulations (2015), Volume 2, page 100. (See also Social Worker Visits Procedure.)

The child must be visited within the first week of the start of a foster placement and a minimum of every six weeks for the first year of the placement. Visits during subsequent years must take place at intervals of no greater than six monthly.

The decision to reduce the frequency of home visits should be discussed and the rationale stated within the permanence progress meeting, considering the age, understanding and views of the child. The minutes of the permanence progress meeting should be made available to the IRO and the outcome reflected within the child’s Care Plan. The Care Plan will be reviewed at the LAC review and the plan endorsed or challenged by the IRO.

The frequency of visits should always be determined by the circumstances of the case and visits should take place whenever reasonably requested by a child or foster carer regardless of the status of the placement. For young people aged 16 plus, visits will never take place at a frequency less than 8 weekly.


10. Ceasing to Look after a Child

Where a child is subject to a Care Order they will cease to be Looked After at the direction of the court or once they turn 18 years of age.

If subject to a Care Order, a Schedule 3 assessment must be completed if the plan is to return the child to the care of the birth parent/s or person with parental responsibility. The schedule 3 assessment is completed within the court CAFAS template.

 Where a child under the age of 16 years has been Looked After on a voluntary basis (Section 20) for at least 20 working days, the decision to cease to Look After the child must not be put into effect until it has been approved by the Assistant Director. Where a child ceases to be looked after because of a return home and is not an Eligible child, the child will be a ‘Child in Need’ (The Children Act 1989 guidance and regulations, Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Case Review, June 2015).

The agreed process:

  • A CAFAS assessment to be completed or updated. The assessment should state the rationale for the plan to cease looking after the child, stating what supports and services are required. The social worker and their practice manager should consider the need to attend the Families on Track panel. The assessment must clearly identify how the child will be safeguarded;
  • A referral for an independent Child in Need (CIN) coordinator should be made and a CIN plan should be developed within 2 weeks of returning home;
  • The CAFAS assessment must be shared with the relevant Head of Service and then the Assistant Director. The ceasing to be looked after approval request form will be completed and saved onto Documentum. A Management Decision will be placed on care first to evidence the decision making;
  • The IRO must review the assessment and proposed plan and where practicable, a LAC Review should take place prior to the child ceasing to be looked after;
  • If the child ceases to be looked after and this has been unplanned, an assessment of the risk should be completed within 24 hours and the CAFAS updated / completed within 15 working days. The ceasing to be looked after request form should be completed and saved onto Documentum as stated above. 

Where a young person is aged 16 or 17 and is Section 20 looked after, the decision to cease to look after the young person must not be put into effect until it has been approved by the Strategic Director for Children’s and Adult Services. A young person’s looked after status should not cease simply as a result of a move from a regulated to an unregulated placement. (The Children Act 1989 guidance and regulations, Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Case Review, June 2015).

The agreed process:

  • CAFAS to be completed / updated, evidencing that ceasing to be looked after will safeguard and promote the young person’s welfare. A LAC risk assessment to be completed;

    OR,
  • If eligible for after care services, pathway plan to be completed / updated, evidencing that ceasing to be looked after will safeguard and promote the young person’s welfare. A LAC risk assessment should also be completed;
  • The CAFAS / Pathway Plan assessment must be shared with the relevant Head of Service and then the Strategic Director for Children’s and Adult Services. The ceasing to be looked after approval request form will be completed and saved onto Documentum. A Management Decision will be placed on care first to evidence the decision making;
  • The IRO must review the assessment / Pathway Plan and a LAC Review should take place prior to the young person ceasing to be looked after.

Please see Appendix 4: Ceasing to be a Looked After Approval Request- Under 16s and Appendix 5: Ceasing to be a Looked After Approval Request - Aged 16 or 17.


11. The Role of the IRO within the Care Planning Process

The Independent Reviewing Officer’s (IRO) primary focus is to quality assure the care planning and review process for each child in care and to ensure that their current wishes and feelings are given due consideration. To be successful, the role must be valued by senior managers and operate within a supportive service culture and environment. An effective IRO service should enable the local authority to achieve improved outcomes for children.

The purpose of the child’s review is to consider the quality of the child’s Care Plan, based on the local authority’s assessment of the child’s needs. The Care Plan for each individual child must specify how the authority proposes to respond to the full range of the child’s needs. The IRO must be satisfied that the plan identifies who is responsible for achieving the plans objectives and has clear timescales set.

The Children and Young Person’s Act 2008 introduced the revised Care Planning guidance in April 2011 and June 2015, strengthening the role and duties of the IRO in respect of the monitoring of cases in-between reviews and ensuring the IRO has obtained the views, wishes and feelings of the child.

See Statutory Reviews for Looked After Children Policy and Guidance.

Click here to view the Development of Care Planning and the Role of the IRO flowchart


Appendices

Click here to view Appendix 1: SGO Application Process - LAC Children

Click here to view Appendix 2: Request to Approve a Distant or an out of Borough Placement for a Looked After Child

Click here to view Appendix 3: Emergency Request to Approve a Distant or an Out of Borough Placement for a Looked After Child

Click here to view Appendix 4: Ceasing to be a Looked After Approval Request- Under 16s

Click here to view Appendix 5: Ceasing to be a Looked After Approval Request - Aged 16 or 17

End