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Greater Manchester SCB Procedures
Greater Manchester SCB Procedures Greater Manchester SCB Procedures

2.16 Financial Assistance for Children in Need

AMENDMENT

This chapter was updated in March 2012, in regard to the Early Years Service and the Care Panel. Section 4, Approval of Financial Assistance was substantially updated and should be re read.


Contents

  1. Provision of Financial Assistance
  2. Criteria for Financial Assistance
  3. Types of Financial Assistance
  4. Approval of Financial Assistance


1. Provision of Financial Assistance

Following completion of a Children and Families Assessment financial assistance in kind, or in exceptional circumstances cash, can be provided to a child, parent or carer under section 17(6) and section18 Children Act 1989 to address identified needs to safeguard and promote a child’s welfare where there is no other legitimate source of financial assistance.

S17(6) Children Act 1989: The services provided by a local authority in the exercise of functions conferred on them by Section 17 may include providing accommodation and giving assistance in kind or, in exceptional circumstances, in cash.

S18 Children Act 1989: Every local authority shall provide such day care for children in need within their area who are (a)aged five or under; and (b)not yet attending schools, as is appropriate.

S18(5) Children Act 1989: Every local authority shall provide for children in need within their area who are attending any school such care or supervised activities as is appropriate (a)outside school hours; or (b)during school holidays.

In order to appropriately and efficiently apply these responsibilities, this guidance outlines the Local Authorities expectations regarding practice and requires all staff who may request financial support from the allocated budget, to be fully aware of these expectations and be able to justify any application for resources accordingly.

The management of the budget and compliance with this guidance, as well as the Local Authority financial regulations, within which this guidance operates, rests with the budget holder.


2. Criteria for Financial Assistance

The Core Criteria for all types of financial assistance are:

  • The payment must be to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child and / or preventing the need for accommodation and Care Proceedings;
  • A Children and Families Assessment must have been completed prior to such payment being made. Where the payment is planned and recurrent it must be included in the child’s Child In Need Plan and the appropriateness of continued funding should be reviewed together with the plan;
  • An allocated team worker must be in place where ongoing funds are being provided to the family. Either actively working with the family to address the deficits leading to the provision of financial support or where relevant have responsibility for the monitoring of ongoing financial commitments and the appropriateness of their usage;
  • All alternatives should be explored with the family to assist in accessing and utilising their existing resources to the best effect and support the family in becoming self sustaining, prior to any application for funding;
  • Payments should be made directly to the supplier or provider of services. Where financial assistance is given directly to the payee this should be in the form of store vouchers;
  • At point of request for financial support it should be confirmed that there are no alternate sources of finance from the Benefits Agency, Housing Benefit, family or friend contributions, other agencies, charities;
  • All financial assistance must be time-limited and subject to review, at a maximum of 12 weeks initially for child care costs and a maximum of 6 weeks for all other assistance. The period for which funding has been agreed must be clearly communicated by the team worker to the person in receipt of the assistance.

In addition to the Core Criteria for financial assistance listed above the following criteria apply to the specific types of assistance offered:


3. Types of Financial Assistance

Emergency Subsistence

This is one-off provision of assistance to meet the child’s or pregnant mother’s essential basic needs for food and heating.

Specific Guidance

  • In cases of alleged theft, the incident must have been reported to the Police by the client, a crime number obtained and recorded in a case note;
  • After an emergency subsistence payment has been made the Children and Families Assessment must be updated to consider the need for budgeting advice to be added to the Child In Need Plan to prevent a further crisis and ensure the family becomes self-sustaining.

Clothing and Equipment

The provision of clothing, furniture, bedding or safety equipment can only be provided where an assessment determines items identified as essential to prevent the child suffering significant harm and/or the need for the child to be looked after by the local authority.

Specific Guidance

  • The assessment should address where needs are identified what avenues the family have taken to address the issue themselves, including family members support, via benefits and how family resources are being utilised;
  • Where the family are unable to access support. Access to community resources should be considered. Liaison with the benefits agency, known Charitable organisations locally that can be accessed and specific grants should be sought. For example, uniform provision can be accessed through schools and the Dedicated School Grant. Or checking with the Children’s Centre for local arrangements and opportunities to access appropriate safety equipment;
  • Submission for funding should include efforts undertaken to seek alternate sources of funding.

Travelling Expenses

This provision is available to support the transport of children, parents, carers or extended family member to attend assessments, activities, appointments and support groups which are essential to a child’s plan or to comply with court direction.

An assessment must ensure and agree that they could not reasonably be expected to travel using their own means due to medical, situational, financial or geographical reasons. This support is to be provided through bus tickets, train tickets or re-imbursement of own, family or friend’s petrol costs.

Taxis are not the first option to be explored and will not be approved unless all other avenues of travel have been exhausted and the cost of travel has been evaluated against the benefits to the child of the appointment.

Specific Guidance

  • GP confirmation of medical conditions reported to impact upon capacity to travel or use public transport are to be provided to the Local Authority by the parent, carer, adult family member;
  • Family Group Conference to be considered to explore the availability of family support where ongoing travel support is required;
  • Re-imbursement of petrol costs to be subject to driver and vehicle being appropriately licensed and insured. The Rates of payment for fuel, has to be based upon average miles per gallon for the vehicle used for an agreed distance between home to meeting, the cost identified to be agreed prior to submission for approval;
  • Only council approved Taxi companies can be used for transportation.

Child Care Costs

This includes financial assistance for day nursery, childminder, after school clubs and play scheme provision. This provision must be part of a Child In Need or Protection Plan where it is essential to safeguard the child’s welfare and prevent the need for the child to be looked after by the Local Authority.

In providing assistance for Child Care there is a responsibility to ensure the service provided is appropriate and of sufficient quality to ensure the provision is of value to the child and provides a safe environment.

Specific Guidance

  • In the first instance where extended support is required a Family Group Conference should be held to explore family-based child care support available;
  • In addition, in every case where applicable free child care resources should be used and if not, the reasons why this has not been taken up, should be explained as part of the request for resources. Early Years Service should be contacted in terms of whether the child is entitled to free entitlement and to determine a suitable nursery school/class or provider that will meet the child's needs;
  • Where free child care cannot be accessed or the use of child care is required for a short time or for an specific event, consideration should be given as to whether the needs identified meet the criteria of supported child care budget, accessed via application through the local funded Day Care Panel;
  • Child care provision must be to meet the needs of the child, not the parent/carer. As such any child care provision to be sourced must have an Ofsted rating of 'Good' or above and be registered. Local availability can be sourced through the Funded Day Care Panel Co-ordinator. Any queries, advice and support regarding the identification of such resources can be accessed through the managers of the local Children's Centre;
  • Child care provision to be agreed for a maximum of 12 weeks initially and for subsequent periods of up to 6 weeks thereafter. A CiN Review to be held before each further period of child care is provided.

Accommodation

This includes provision of short-term emergency accommodation for families, short-term support for children living with friends or extended family and adults excluded from a household to safeguard a child, where a financial assessment concludes they do not have sufficient financial means to secure their own accommodation. In all relevant instances enquiries and support should have been requested from the Local Housing Authority, Benefits Agency and extended family and friends.

Specific Guidance

  • A Family Group Conference should be held to seek an extended family supported resolution if applicable;
  • The addressing of homelessness of young people between 16 and 18 years of age is subject to the Homelessness 16/17 Year Olds Protocol. Financial provision will only be provided in compliance with the application of this protocol;
  • All adults to be signposted to the Local Housing Authority to request 28 days emergency housing under the Homelessness legislation, section 188 Housing Act 1996;
  • Adult family and friends to be signposted to the Benefits Agency for a benefit assessment to ensure all entitlements are claimed;
  • Parents/carers and extended family members to be approached to provide initial financial assistance, key deposits etc for young people who secure supported accommodation.

Legal Fees

This includes contributions to applications and legal advice / representation for extended family and friends who are supported by the Local Authority to secure a child’s welfare through a private law application.

Such action is to be used rarely and carefully. The assessment must clearly evidence such action is in the best interests of the child and additional written evidence provided from all parties involved, that they are in agreement that this is the most appropriate course of action.

Specific Guidance

  • Agreement must be reached that any instructed legal representative that the Local Authority makes contributions to, will charge at the basic Legal Aid rate;
  • Social Workers to assist extended family / friends to complete and issue a private law application in cases where there is agreement between parties.

Refer to Legal Protocol 2010.

Ongoing Financial Contributions

There are some circumstances where ongoing financial support has to be provided, in each of these circumstances the appropriate guidance in determining the appropriateness of financial support should be followed and relevant authorisation obtained in accordance to that guidance.

Specific Guidance


4. Approval of Financial Assistance

All requests for financial assistance should be made by the team worker on the application form with the supporting welfare issue that needs addressing and the alternatives that have been explored. Cumulative costs for each child over a financial year must also be taken into account when deciding the appropriate level of delegated authority and should also be available to support the discussion in context.

The need for financial assistance must have been identified by the team worker in the Analysis of an Initial or Children and Families Assessment and form part of the Child In Need Plan. In all cases the child's worker will make their request to their supervising Practice Manager who will review work undertaken and will confirm approval for submission to the Service Manager, or will identify additional actions that need to be undertaken.

The schedule for authorisation applicable to this budget is as follows;

Financial Approval Limits Authorised to Sanction
£1 - £499 Service Manager
£499 - £5,000 Head of Service
£5,000 and above Assistant Director

It is expected that the usual practice will be that all proposed expenditure is submitted for approval and agreement through the delegated power. Where the Service Manager is unavailable, the Head of Service must be approached for approval.

Any application for funds will not be approved or released with the completion of the supporting documentation detailing amount and the reason for expenditure listed. This is to be signed by the Worker and Practice Manager. Authorisation is not given without the signature of the decision maker reflecting agreement.

The completed approval form should be stored on the child's case file, whether approved or not, with the nature of the request and outcome being recorded in case notes by the worker. At the time of the payment a letter must be sent by the worker to the parent/ carer or person to whom the finance is paid confirming the amount paid, the reason for the payment and the section of the Children Act under which the payment has been made.

Where ongoing services have been identified as a need and require approval, for the provision of services over a period of time. A Review Form should be completed, with the weekly amount listed, the time this weekly payment should be made from to the end or review date. The total commitment should also be listed to ensure budget commitments are correctly monitored.

A copy of any review form completed and approved will also be given to the Teams budget operator for the maintenance of financial management of the budget.

Monitoring Spend

The monitoring of spend will be undertaken monthly by the finance team and shared with the management group to ensure spend is monitored and managed appropriately.

End