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3.1.5 Delegated Authority Procedure and Guidance

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This chapter reflects upon the importance and requirement of detailing, at the outset, the delegation of (the many) decisions required to effect a child’s care in any placement. It also emphasises that this is a dynamic process which should be reviewed with the child’s development, changing circumstances and key events in order to both safeguard them but also promote their inclusion and personal responsibility.

RELEVANT GUIDANCE

Children Act 1989

DfE, Volume 2: Care Planning, placement and case review 2015

Fostering National Minimum Standards 2011

The Care Planning, Placement and Case Review and Fostering Services (Misc Amendments) Regulations (2013)

The Fostering Network, Delegated authority

NOTE  - The policy should be signed by the Director of Children’s Services and the Lead Member for Children.

RELEVANT CHAPTERS

Placement Planning and Disruption Meetings Procedure

Holidays and School / Organisational Trips in the UK Procedure

Holidays and School / Organisational Trips Outside the UK Procedure

AMENDMENT

This chapter was updated in May 2017 by adding a link to The Fostering Network, Delegated authority (see Relevant Guidance above).


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Parental Responsibility and Delegation
  3. The Placement Plan
  4. Who Can Delegate Authority?
  5. Key Principles
  6. Key Practice Points
  7. Types of Consent
  8. The Planning Process
  9. Guidance on Key Consents

    Appendix 1: Delegated Authority - Quick Practice Guidance

    Appendix 2: Delegated Authority - Decision Support Tool


1. Introduction

Young People: know who can make decisions on their behalf, are not stigmatised and do not miss out due to delay;

Parents: know they are relevant in their children’s lives and understand the decision making processes;

Foster Carers / Residential Child Care Workers: are clear about who can agree what;

Social Workers: are clear about the Children’s Services policy in relation to decision making and give consistent advice / delegation to carers.                           

The above regulations make it clear that Social Workers should liaise closely with parents, children and Foster Carers / Residential Childcare Workers from the start of a placement, to enable proper planning to take place about who does what.

Delegated Authority is about:

  • Enabling Foster Carers / Residential Child Care Workers to make every day decisions about their child wherever possible;
  • Normalising the experience of Young People in Foster Care / Residential Care;
  • Reducing delay;
  • Forward planning regarding consent issues;
  • Treating Foster Carers / Residential Child Care Workers as part of the team around the child.

Delegated Authority is not about:

  • Blanket approach;
  • Excluding Social Workers or birth parents;
  • Reducing attention to risk;
  • Foster Carers / Residential Child Care Workers going it alone.


2. Parental Responsibility and Delegation

Delegating Authority means that a person who has Parental Responsibility may arrange for some or all of their responsibilities to be met in certain circumstances by someone else. Birth Mothers, (and possibly Birth Fathers), retain their Parental Responsibility when a child becomes Looked After. If a child is placed under Section 20 of the 1989 Act, the Local Authority does not have Parental Responsibility and so agreement must be reached about what decision making the parents will delegate to the Local Authority and to the Foster Carers / Residential Childcare Workers. A person who does not have parental responsibility but has care of a child / young person (e.g. a foster carer), may do what is reasonable in all the circumstances of the case for the purpose of safeguarding or promoting the child / young person’s welfare. In an emergency, if no agreement has been made, the Carer may do what is ‘reasonable’ and statutory guidance states what is ‘reasonable’ will depend on the urgency of the situation and how practical it is to consult a person with parental responsibility.


3. The Placement Plan

The Children Act 1989 Volume 2 statutory guidance on Care Planning, Placement and Review requires all Local Authorities to ensure the Placement Plan, which sets out the arrangements for the child / young person to live with and be cared for by Foster Carers / Residential Childcare Workers, specifies any arrangements for the delegation of authority from the parents to the Local Authority. It must also include any further delegation from the Local Authority to Foster Carers / Residential Childcare Workers.

The Placement Plan should help the Foster Carers / Residential Childcare Workers understand what decisions they can make.

Where authority has been delegated, the person with parental responsibility still remains liable in law for any failure to meet any part of their parental responsibility.

A person to whom authority has been delegated may be liable if the decision they made was negligent or criminal.


4. Who Can Delegate Authority?

If the Local Authority has an Emergency Protection Order, Interim Care Order or Care Order, the Local Authority has the authority to delegate. (NB Parental Responsibility vested under an Emergency Protection Order is limited and subject to a number of specific duties, a local authority cannot consent to a medical examination or other assessment of the child unless the court has given a specific direction.)

If the Local Authority does not have such an Order, it is the parent, or someone else with parental responsibility, who must agree to delegate authority to the Foster Carer.

There are some instances whereby a young person who is 16 or over, or under 16 but considered mature enough to do so, can consent in their own right, e.g.:

  • From the age of 16 a young person can consent to their own Care Plan if they are Looked After by the Local Authority and there is no court order in place;
  • A young person aged 16, (or younger if considered by medical staff to have sufficient understanding of the implication of treatment), can consent to their own medical treatment;
  • Parents / persons with Parental Responsibility should be helped to understand the benefits to their child of appropriate delegation to the Local Authority and Foster Carers / Residential Childcare Workers.


5. Key Principles

  • Effective delegation of authority should minimise delays in decision-making and maximise the child / young person’s opportunity to enjoy their childhood and a full family life;
  • In practice this means working out, as far as possible, the areas in which decisions can be delegated before the need to take them occurs;
  • Young people’s views and feelings should be taken into account when discussing the issues in relation to delegated authority;
  • Parents must be supported and informed so they can play as full a part as possible in their child / young person’s lives and must be clear about what has been agreed;
  • Foster Carers / Residential Childcare Workers should be enabled and supported to take everyday decisions about their looked after child where appropriate. In long-term placements this is even more important;
  • A Foster Carer’s span of responsibilities should take account of their wishes and feelings about undertaking the tasks involved;
  • Decisions about delegation of authority should be based on good quality assessments of need and risk of the individual child / young person and Foster Carer;
  • Foster Carers / Residential Childcare Workers should be trained and supported to undertake appropriate risk assessments in areas in which they are authorised to make decisions.


6. Key Practice Points

  • The Placement Planning Meeting is the forum to share information and to sort out who does what and agrees what, when a child / young person is placed. It should be focused on ensuring the day-to-day needs of the child / young person are met with the minimum of disruption. It is also concerned with ensuring that the child / young person can feel as normal as possible in care;
  • Parents, Foster Carers / Residential Childcare Workers and children (subject to their age and understanding) should attend a placement planning meeting before the placement begins, or, where this is not possible, within five days after the placement starts in order to discuss and ensure that there is clarity about who will have the authority to make particular decisions;
  • Parents should be given all the information they need to reach a decision about delegation of authority. They should be given full opportunity to discuss any concerns they have with the social worker and should be kept informed about decisions made about their child / young person;
  • Sharing information about day-to-day care and routines is essential but not enough in itself. Foster Carers / Residential Childcare Workers cannot care safely and make decisions without good quality information about the history of the child / young person and the family. Social Workers must ensure that Foster Carers / Residential Childcare Workers receive this;
  • Delegation of authority should be revisited at every review and discussed with all the parties between reviews. Any changes must be incorporated into the Placement Plan by the Social Worker. This will ensure that changes in the child / young person’s circumstances, or in the parent’s willingness to delegate authority, or the Foster Carers / Residential Child Care Worker’s skills and confidence to take on authority, can be reflected in that plan;
  • Delegations of authority have to be agreed by those with parental responsibility. A Foster Carer / Residential Childcare Worker never has parental responsibility for their looked after child; they can make decisions only acting on behalf of the Local Authority and parent. Parental responsibility cannot be transferred.


7. Types of Consent

  1. Signed Consents: E.g. passports, medical consent, school trips;
  2. Implicit Consents: No signature required but consent issues concerns the young person’s access to or use of another service / activity / individual e.g. opticians, overnight stays, Facebook;
  3. Day to Day Decisions: That is those decisions involving the Foster Carers / Residential Childcare Workers own personal care of the young person. E.g. pocket money, transport, and bedtime.


8. The Planning Process

The Placement Plan

The Placement Plan is contained within a Looked After child / young person’s Care Plan.

It must be drawn up before the child is placed, or if not possible, within 5 days of the start of the placement.

The Placement Plan Part II is the format used to identify the appropriate delegations, and some guidance notes have been added to this procedure guidance and to the format itself to assist.

The Placement Plan Part II should however be completed for each individual in full, with agreed and named delegations and any additional notes required to clarify the decision making process.

The Placement Plan Part II should be reviewed at each Statutory Review.

The Placement Plan must include details of who does what and key consents / decisions must be included. It should include as much detail as possible, and where there are two Foster Carers in a household, the Plan should address the joint nature of their responsibilities.

The Plan must be made available to parents and Foster Carers / Residential Childcare Workers as part of the Care Plan. The Plan should be agreed by the parents, Local Authority, Foster Carers / Residential Childcare Workers and child / young person.

The Carer must sign the Placement Plan.

Key consents and decisions / tasks should be anticipated and agreed upfront. The age and interests of the young person and lifestyle of the carers should all be considered in an effort to predict what decisions are likely to arise. Foster Carers / Residential Childcare Workers should take responsibility for informing Social Workers as soon as they become aware that a matter arising may require a decision about delegation of authority.

The Placement Plan Part 2 sets out as many predictable areas as possible and all should be considered before the start of the placement (or within 5 days).

This cannot be a definitive list of tasks and responsibilities. It is a guide to establishing clear delegation though not every area will apply to every child. It can be used to help birth parents understand the concept of delegated authority.

Reviewing the Placement Plan

The Independent Reviewing Officer must consider the issues within delegated authority agreement at every review along with other plans in the overall Care Plan.

Particular attention should be paid to any areas not considered or anticipated at the original placement planning meeting.

The review should consider if the balance of delegation between the Local Authority, parent and Foster Carer / Residential Childcare Worker is working and meeting the child / young person’s needs.

Any changes to delegated authority must be recorded in the Placement Plan.

Parents, Foster Carers / Residential Childcare Workers and children should, where possible, be involved in the review meeting.

Where there are differing views as to how the placement is managed, or about any aspect of delegated authority, disagreements should be resolved with the assistance of the Independent Reviewing Officer, or by consultation between managers of the care professionals. The child / young person’s Social Worker, Foster Carer / Residential Childcare Worker and Family Placement Officer (if in a foster placement) are the key professionals working with the child / young person and placement. Good communication between these professionals outside formal reviews is essential.

Assessment and Delegation

  • Decisions regarding the level of delegated authority should be based on good quality assessment of need and risk for the individual child / young person and Foster Carer / Residential Childcare Worker;
  • The balance and distribution of responsibilities will differ in individual placements depending on factors such as:
    • The age and views of the child / young person;
    • The experience of the Carer (if foster placement);
    • The legislative basis of the placement;
    • The nature and length of placement;
    • Role and involvement of the parent: (i.e. delegation in short term placements will differ to long term or permanent placements where the distribution of responsibilities should support the key relationship between the young person and the Foster Carer / Residential Childcare Worker).
  • Before delegating tasks to a Foster Carer the Family Placement Officer must consider the carers level of training, experience and confidence;
  • The areas of delegation to a Foster Carer should be discussed in supervisory visits and statutory child care visits to ensure they make sure and are working in practice:
  • Foster Carers will be covered by legal indemnity insurance and the Foster Care Agreement will set out in writing the arrangements for meeting any legal liability of the Foster Carer by reason of a placement;
  • In making decisions about whether or not to permit a Looked After Child to stay overnight with a friend, or have a holiday with their friends, or with relatives of their Foster Carers, or to go on a school trip, Foster Carers / Residential Childcare Workers and the Local Authority should consider the following factors:
    • The wishes and feelings of the child / young person;
    • Whether there are any restrictions in the Care Plan / Placement Plan;
    • Whether there are any restricting Court Orders;
    • Whether there are any factors in the child’s past experiences, or, behaviour which could preclude the overnight stay, visit or holiday;
    • Whether there are any grounds for concern that the child may be at risk in the household, or from the activities proposed;
    • The age and level of understanding of the child / young person;
    • The length of the stay and the reasons for it.

If in any doubt about any appropriate decision, the Foster Carer / Residential Childcare Worker should consult the Social Worker for advice.


9. Guidance on Key Consents

See Appendix 1: Delegated Authority - Quick Practice Guidance.

See Appendix 2: Delegated Authority - Decision Support Tool.

Foster Carers / Residential Childcare Workers should be supported to make more decisions and manage risk. Children / Young People in Care should, as far as possible, be treated as other children are.

However, where children are accommodated under Section 20, only the person with parental responsibility can agree to delegate authority to the Carer.

1. Health Care

The Placement Plan will show clearly where the Foster Carer / Residential Childcare Worker has delegated authority to take decisions or give consents, both in emergencies and in respect of planning treatment.

Routine medicals

Foster Carers / Residential Childcare Workers should be able to give and sign consent. They must inform the Social Worker of the outcome.

Immunisations

Foster Carers / Residential Childcare Workers should have delegated authority wherever possible. Concerns about particular immunisations should be explored with parents at the start of the placement.

Non-routine medical treatment

The Placement Plan will consider who can give consent to emergency treatment. Foster Carers / Residential Childcare Workers can do what is reasonable in an emergency. More intrusive or planned procedures should be discussed in advance and delegation made clear.

Optician

Routine eye and sight tests should be delegated.

Dentist

Foster Carers / Residential Childcare Workers should be able to consent to routine examinations and treatment where possible.

See Appendix 2: Delegated Authority - Decision Support Tool.

2. Education

School day trips

Schools risk assesses these trips. Delegation should be to the Carer wherever possible and if not, reasons made clear.

Longer school trips / trips involving hazardous activity

Such trips may require additional funding from the Local Authority, and Foster Carers / Residential Childcare Workers must consult in this instance, and where a potentially hazardous activity is involved. Implications for contact will need to be considered.

Choosing a school

The choice of school should be discussed with and agreed by holders of parental responsibility. Foster Carers / Residential Childcare Workers should then be able to accept the Plan and sign relevant forms.

Change of school

This needs to be agreed at a Review meeting and consent of parent / person with Parental Responsibility obtained as the impact on the child / young person may be significant.

Meeting with school staff

This may vary according to the short or long term nature of the placement. In medium to long term placements the Carer will usually meet school staff, but must keep the Social Worker informed. Steps to keep parents involved must be considered.

Accessing Education / and leisure activities e.g. football clubs, guides etc

Looked After children / young people should have the same opportunities as any child / young person to take full advantage of extra-curricular education activities. Foster Carers / Residential Childcare Workers should be delegated the task of providing agreement wherever possible.

See Appendix 2: Delegated Authority - Decision Support Tool.

3. Leisure and Every Day Life in the Foster Home

Visiting Friends / Sleepovers

Looked after Children should be granted the same permissions to take part in normal activities as their peers. It is normal practice therefore, for the responsible authority in agreement with those with Parental Responsibility; to delegate to the Carer day to day decision making about allowing a Looked after Child to stay overnight with friends. THIS SHOULD BE STATED IN THE PLACEMENT PLAN.

Foster Carers / Residential Childcare Workers should make the same judgment as a parent would make in terms of reasonable assessment of risk.

Foster Carers / Residential Childcare Workers should be made urgently aware of any individuals / addresses which may place a child at risk and this should be included in the Placement Plan.

There may be exceptional reasons to require the Foster Carer / Residential Childcare Worker  to seek the permission of either the responsible authority or a person with Parental Responsibility, or to place specific restrictions on allowing a child to stay overnight with friends. 

Where this is the situation, the decision should be based on clearly stated reasons which are necessary to safeguard the child or young person. This must be clearly stated in the Placement Plan. The restriction must take into account consultation with the child / young person and must be fully explained to the child / young person and must be regularly reviewed.

Foster Carers / Residential Childcare Workers should always have contact details of the household the child will be staying in and should make contact beforehand, as would any good parent.

Holidays in UK

See also Holidays and School / Organisational Trips in the UK Procedure.

Holidays will usually require discussion with the parent and consultation with the Local Authority for both funding and contact implications. Foster Carers / Residential Childcare Workers should ensure the Local Authority is given adequate notice, and it is necessary for the Local Authority and parents to know the whereabouts of the child / young person. Children and Young People should not be taken out of school.

Holidays abroad

See also Holidays and School / Organisational Trips Outside the UK Procedure.

A person with Parental Responsibility MUST give consent.

In all cases there should be clarity at the outset of the placement about consents and passports. The possibility of foreign travel should be discussed with parents in principle. Someone with Parental Responsibility must always give consent and only someone with Parental Responsibility can apply for a passport.

NB: arrangements should be in place to allow short notice (especially in relation to school trips, cheap holiday deals etc). Carers should, however, give notice of their intention to book as far in advance of actually doing so as possible. Children and young people should not be taken out of school.

Haircuts

This is often a sensitive issue and must be fully explored with parents at the outset. If possible, consent should be delegated to carers but cultural and religious significance must be taken into account.

Photographs and media activity

Family pictures should have no restrictions although the Local Authority is clear pictures including Looked After children / young people cannot be posted on social networking sites. Other types of photos and media activity are more problematical given issues of confidentiality and safeguarding may be present. The age and competency of the young person must be factored in.

School photographs

Foster Carers / Residential Child Care Workers should be enabled to consent for formal school photographs.

Media activity e.g. pictures of football teams

The ‘who consents’ issue should be judged in relation to risk and any restriction on the child’s photo or name appearing in the media should be based on good assessment and specified in the Placement Plan.

Participating in hazardous activities

Early anticipation and discussion is important. Prior consultation with parents and the Local Authority will usually be necessary. The Local Authority must ensure necessary insurance is in place. If the carer is delegated to take decisions on activities that can cause injury e.g. sailing, skiing, climbing, the Carer needs to ensure the young person has adequate safety equipment; proper supervision and adequate preparation and insurance.

Sex education

A child / young person’s involvement in school provision for sex and relationship education should be discussed at the Placement Planning meeting and the parents’ wishes identified. If it is agreed the child / young person attends, the Carer should be able to consent to any school documentation, unless parents have expressed particular wishes about what they want their child to be told, a Carer should respond as a reasonable parent.

Mobile phones

Restrictions should be specified at the time of placement and in Reviews.

Disability living allowance

The appointee is usually the Foster Carer. The parent or Local Authority’s agreement is not required. The Local Authority is not responsible for monitoring the award but the Department of Work and Pensions can be asked to investigate if there are concerns the Disability Living Allowance award is not being used appropriately.

See also Appendix 2: Delegated Authority - Decision Support Tool.

4. Faith and Religious Observance

Foster Carers / Residential Childcare Workers cannot actively persuade a child / young person to change their religion. If a looked after child / young person wishes to change their religion, full consideration should be given to the longer term implications in a Review. (This does not prevent children / young people being placed with a foster family of a different faith.)

5. Identity and Names

With young children it is usual practise to retain birth names unless there are particular safeguarding issues. With older children, their wishes and feelings should be taken into account and the views of parents / persons with Parental Responsibility sought where possible.

6. Contact Arrangements with Significant Other / Close Relatives of the Child

Subject to any Court Order and the contents of the Placement Plan, the Local Authority has a duty to promote contact, unless this is not practicable or consistent with the child’s welfare.

Foster Carers / Residential Childcare Workers must be clear from the Placement Plan what delegated authority they have to make day to day decisions about contact arrangements.

Good practice should be followed in that contact plans and delegations should follow full assessment including:

  • Disclosure & Barring Services (DBS) checks on any relative the child is going to visit on a frequent or regular basis, undertaken by the Social Worker for the child;
  • Contact arrangements must be kept under regular review and full and clear records must be maintained to form the basis for a clear understanding as to decisions about contact;
  • A clear and well informed risk assessment must be undertaken to inform decisions about contact, undertaken by the Social Worker for the child;
  • The child or young person must be consulted over the issue wherever practicable and their views, wishes and feelings taken into account, or, if not acted upon, a record kept as to why not;
  • The contact plan must be an integral part of the child’s Care Plan and Placement Agreement.

7. Children who are Looked After Visiting, Staying Overnight or Spending Holidays with the Foster Carers Fiends or Relatives

There is no requirement that the individual should be approved as a Foster Carer.

During assessment, the Service will undertake Disclosure & Baring Services (DBS) checks on those people in the applicants support network, including people who will be frequently involved with the child. This is important as at this stage the applicant and their family are new to the Service.

Once approved, the Placement Planning Meeting for each child will consider whether and at what stage, decisions can be delegated to the Carer, allowing the child to visit or stay with one of the named and DBS (Disclosure and Barring Services) checked.

Foster Carers and the Local Authority should consider the following:

  • The legal basis of the placement must be considered, in that if the placement is under Section 20 the parent / person with Parental Responsibility must either give consent, or agree to delegate consent to the foster parent;
  • The child’s wishes and feelings must always be central to the decision making and so the age and level of understanding of the child concerned must be taken into account;
  • The length of stay;
  • The reasons for the holiday / visit.

In most cases it will not be necessary to renew the DBS (Disclosure and Barring Services) checks at the point of expiry 3 years later for those offering support.

By this stage the Service and the Carer will have developed a good working relationship which allows the Carer to have a maximum amount of delegation in relation to day to day decisions, including allowing children and young people to visit, stay, go on holiday with the Carers’ friends and relatives taking account all the following:

  • If in exceptional circumstances there have been issues leading the Service to have concern about the appropriateness of such delegation or there is evidence that the Carer has used the delegation inappropriately, then more limited decisions will apply and DBS checks may continue.

In line with the above guidance, there will be a Placement Planning Meeting for each child which will need to agree specific delegations. Decisions reached will take account of the above general guidance:

  • The knowledge, skills and abilities of the Carer;
  • The Carer’s history with the Service;
  • The wishes and feelings of the child and any additional special needs;
  • The type of placement (legal status of placement i.e. short or long term);
  • Particular vulnerability / resilience of the child.

As in most families, the expectation is that these decisions are made with the child at the centre, and are in their best interests, therefore it is expected that children have continuity of care within a small extended family network.

NB: if the Placement Plan includes regular and sustained respite to be provided by a friend / relative of the Carer, in order to sustain and support the placement, this will be seen as ‘shared care’ and as such the Respite Carer must be fully approved as a Foster Carer.


Appendix 1: Delegated Authority - Quick Practice Guidance

Introduction

The purpose of this policy is to provide guidance and clarity around decision making for looked after children, which will:

  • Minimise delays in decision making and maximise the child's opportunity to enjoy their childhood and a full family life. (In practice, this means working out, as far as possible, the areas in which decisions can be delegated, before the need to take them occurs);
  • Take into account the views and wishes of the child or young person, when discussing the issues in relation to delegation of authority;
  • Support parents in playing as full a part as possible in their children's lives, by ensuring they are kept informed and involved as far as possible;
  • Equip carers with the knowledge and confidence necessary, for them  to feel able to make day to day decisions, where appropriate, as they would for their own child, and without the child feeling that they are different as a looked after child;
  • Support carers in being recognised as key members of the ‘team around the child’, who play a valuable role in problem solving and conflict resolution.

Practice points
:

Prior to, or within 5 days of the child being placed, a Placement Plan needs to be drawn up, which will explicitly identify distribution of tasks, consents and responsibilities between parents, social workers and foster carers. It is important to gain agreement by all the parties to the plan, the parents (if this is feasible), the child's social worker, the foster carer (who must sign the placement agreement) and the foster carers' supervising social worker. At this placement planning stage, it is also important for everyone to try to anticipate the consents and agreements that may be needed in the coming weeks or months, as a way of avoiding problems further down the line. Decisions identified can then be collated into a checklist, which will specifically give the name of the lead person with respect to each consent / decision / task and their role. 

Clarifying who is best to take everyday decisions depends on many factors: the child's age, views, legal status and care plan, the parents' views and the experience and views of the foster carers. Collaboration and consultation are therefore vital for successful partnership working.

The child's legal status is particularly relevant when considering who has Parental Responsibility. For children who are accommodated under Section 20 of the Children Act, the Local Authority does not have Parental Responsibility, which makes it even more crucial to identify which tasks the parent is prepared to delegate to the carer or the Authority and those for which they would wish to retain  active involvement in.

The Placement Plan is meant to be a living document which can evolve over and in light of the child's changing needs and care plan. It is also recognised that delegated authority is likely to change increasingly over time in favour of the young person, as they grow up and progress into adulthood.

Any changes to delegated authority can be considered at the statutory review and recorded in the placement plan.

Click her to view Delegated Authority Proforma.


Appendix 2: Delegated Authority - Decision Support Tool

Click her to view Delegated Authority - Decision Support Tool.

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