Table of Contents
The term ‘looked after’ refers to children and young people who are provided with accommodation by the Local Authority or which is commissioned by the Local Authority for more than 24 hours. It places specific responsibilities on the local authority to safeguard and promote the child’s / young person’s welfare.
Children and young people who live away from home, whilst not being ‘looked after’, may still be vulnerable. Such settings include Private Fostering, healthcare, boarding schools (including residential special schools), prisons, young offenders’ institutions, secure training centres, secure units and army bases.
2. Safeguarding Looked After Children
Children and young people, either ‘looked after’ or living away from home, should be afforded the same essential safeguards against abuse, and practice needs to be framed on an understanding that there may be additional risks and vulnerabilities for children and young people living away from home.
Many agencies may be involved, but all should have policies and procedures that are in line with the Local Safeguarding Children Boards’ arrangements and ensure that children and young people have their general welfare promoted, are protected from harm and treated with dignity and respect.
When a referral is received concerning a child or young person who is looked after, the same procedures should be followed as for any child or young person. The duty to undertake Section 47 Enquiries when there are concerns about Significant Harm is the same.
In situations where an allegation is made against a member of staff, see Managing Allegations or Serious Concerns in Respect of Any Adult who Works or Volunteers with Children.
Where a Looked After Child remains the subject of a Child Protection Plan, there should be a single planning and reviewing process, led by the Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO), leading to the development of a single plan.
Consideration should be given to the IRO chairing the Child Protection Conference where a Looked After Child remains subject to a Child Protection Plan. Where that is not possible, it will be expected that the IRO will attend the Child Protection Review Conference.
The timing of the review of the child protection aspects of the Care Plan should be as per the frequency of the Looked After Review.
The Looked After Review, when reviewing the child protection aspects of the plan, should consider whether the criteria continue to be met for the child to remain the subject of a Child Protection Plan.
Consideration must be given to ensuring that the multi-agency contribution to the review of the Child Protection Plan is addressed within the review of the Care Plan.
Any changes to the child or young person’s care arrangements, or circumstances such as a return to their birth parents, should be discussed at the Looked After Review and the risks evaluated prior to decisions being made.
If a decision has been made by the court to return the child home, then the court’s directions should be clearly recorded in the Care Plan, particularly if the actions prescribed differ from those within that plan. All agencies must be notified in writing.
Professional disagreements in relation to the child’s case should be brought to the attention of the relevant senior manager and should be dealt with in line with the Resolution of Professional Disagreements Procedure.
3. Safeguarding Looked After Children who are placed for Adoption and in Foster Care from other Local Authorities
There are occasions where the Local Authority finds that children have been ‘placed’ in their area from other Local Authorities rather than merely ‘found’. As with all other groups of children in specific circumstances they should be afforded the same essential safeguards against abuse. Although the child remains the responsibility of the placing authority it should not interfere with swift and efficient investigation and subsequent support and protection to the child. In the event of a crime, prevention of a crime or where a child is suffering or likely to suffer Significant Harm it is recognised that the investigating responsibility lies with the Police Authority and Local Authority as to where the crime, potential crime takes place and where the child is found. However, It may be possible for the Local Authorities to negotiate as to which is best suited to continue the investigation. All other agencies where the child is placed should be willing and prepared to assist the placing responsible Local Authority in their duties of ensuring the welfare and safety of this particular group of children. In circumstances where the child/ren requires a Child Protection Plan this will be the placing authority’s responsibility to devise this and engage with the support agencies where the child is placed. The child’s name will appear on the transient list of the Local Authority in which they are placed.
4. Safeguarding Looked After Children who are placed for Adoption and in Foster Care outside the County Boundaries
There will be a number of the population of children who are Looked After who, for a number of reasons, reside outside of the boundaries of the responsible Local Authority. These children are still the corporate responsibility of the placing Local Authority and are often the most vulnerable of the Looked After population. There should be clear productive communication paths between agencies from where the child originates and those in the authority where the child is placed. The child should be entitled to any other services in the area of their placement as any other child who resides in that area.
5. Investigating Historical Abuse of Children who are Looked after by the Local Authority
The Local Authority should investigate historical abuse and consider issues of Significant Harm in relation to that child/ren and further the impact of any other children that may be exposed to a similar risk at the present time or the future. Children’s allegations should not be dismissed once they are considered to be ‘safe’ in Care. The child’s welfare, the therapeutic benefits of investigation and the safety of others should be considerations when deciding as to how far to proceed with historical allegations.