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1.1.4 Family and Friends Care Policy

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This policy provides information about local services which provide help and support to family and friends carers (including informal carers).

The policy sets out the local authority’s approach towards promoting and supporting the needs of children who, for whatever reason, will be brought up by their extended family, friends or other connected people. It covers the assessments which will be carried out to determine any support services required and how such services will then be provided.

USEFUL RESOURCES

Initial Family and Friends Care Assessment: A Good Practice Guide (Family Rights Group, 2017)


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Values, Principles, and Objectives
  3. Evidence Base
  4. Management Accountability
  5. The Legal Framework
  6. Information about Different Support Services for Children and Young People in Calderdale
  7. Financial Support - General Principles
  8. Support with Accommodation
  9. Supporting Contact with Family
  10. Family Group Conference Service
  11. Support Services 
  12. Complaints Procedures
  13. Further Information and Contacts


1. Introduction

This family and friends care policy provides information about local services and policies to help family and friends carers (including informal carers) to be aware of the choices facing them and the services which are available to support them.

Children may be brought up by members of their extended families, friends or other people who are connected with them for a variety of reasons and in a variety of different arrangements.

This policy sets out the local authority’s approach towards promoting and supporting the needs of such children and covers the assessments which will be carried out to determine the services required and how such services will then be provided.

Calderdale Council aims to:

  • Ensure that all local authority services fully understand their duties in respect of children living with family and friends;
  • Improve an understanding of family and friends care and the appropriate support that they can receive;
  • Ensure that family and friends carers receive appropriate support so that children do not become Looked After unless this is demonstrably necessary to safeguard their welfare.

Children and young people who are unable to live with their parents should receive the support that they and their carers need to safeguard and promote their welfare, whether or not they are Looked After. In many circumstances the best option for providing care, emotional stability and potential permanence rests in the option of family and friends care.

Calderdale Council and partners aim to deliver effective services to children and young people who are living with family or friends in any of the following circumstances:

This policy will be regularly reviewed, and made freely and widely available.


2. Values, Principles, and Objectives

Making a difference to the lives of children and young people in Calderdale is at the heart of everything we do.

Our vision is that all children and young people are happy - safe - successful.

Our aims are to make Calderdale a place where children and young people:

  • Start healthy and stay healthy;
  • Are safe at home, in school and in the community;
  • Enjoy learning and achieve their best;
  • Make friends and take part in activities;
  • Stay in education and get a job.

Our values are:

  • Respect - value, regard and reliability;
  • Inclusion - belonging and involvement;
  • Integrity - honesty, trust and fairness;
  • Commitment - tenacity and courage.

It is an underlying principle that children should be enabled to live within their families unless this is not consistent with their welfare. We will, therefore, work to maintain children within their own families, and facilitate services to support any such arrangements, wherever this is consistent with the child's safety and well-being.

This principle applies to all Children in Need, including those who are Looked After by the local authority. Where a child cannot live within his or her immediate family and the local authority is considering the need to look after the child, we will make strenuous efforts to identify potential carers within the child’s network of family or friends (also known as Connected Persons) who are able and willing to care for the child.

We provide support based on the assessed needs of the child and all services seek to ensure that connected persons carers (whether or not they are approved foster carers) are provided with the relevant support to ensure that children do not become, or remain voluntarily Looked After for longer than is necessary.

Services seek to promote the care of children within their family and work in partnership with them taking into consideration children and young people's needs arising from gender, race, culture, religion, language, disability and sexuality.

Services follow the principles of the Children Act 1989:

  • The welfare of the child is paramount;
  • Children are best looked after within their families;
  • Birth parents should, wherever possible, be involved in all planning and decision making affecting their children;
  • Legal proceedings should be avoided whenever possible;
  • The welfare of the child should be promoted by a partnership between the family and the Local Authority;
  • Children should not be removed from their families and contact should not be ended unless it is absolutely necessary to do so for their well being;
  • Children and young people's views will be sought in ways appropriate to their age and understanding;
  • Children's views will always be considered and their participation in the planning process will be fully supported.


3. Evidence Base

Evidenced based research is used to improve services and develop ways of working that will continue to improve services for children and young people, families, friends and carers.

Strengthening partnership links with local universities and working with them on national and local research projects underpin this evidence base, for example:

  • Private Fostering 2009 - the findings from the research were used to improve services for children who are privately fostered.

We work in partnership with local universities, improving social work training, social work placements and continued professional development.

Our Workforce Development and Human Resources services work to improve the standards of all employees working within the Children and Young People’s Service.

Information based on research and work that has been piloted elsewhere is used to inform the guidance provided by central organisations such as the Children's Development Workforce and we in turn use this to improve both training guidance policy documents for employees that work with children, young people, family and carers.

Calderdale Council is a learning organisation. The findings from research and the national guidance based on the research inform our future strategies, policies and development.

For example the recommendations which followed from the Laming Report (on child protection), the Munro Report - A child - centred system; both of which are available from the GOV.UK website.

The views of children, young people family and carers are central to our work and are always taken into consideration when developing services for children and people. All research undertaken gathers the views of children, young people, family and carers through e.g. one to one discussion, group discussion, questionnaires, the youth assembly, the children in care council, foster carer support groups, parenting forums, etc.

Further information will be sought on the thoughts and views of children and young people on the family, friends and carers policy.

Data is regularly collected through Management Information Team to inform decisions made on all work relating to children and young people including safeguarding, foster care, connected persons foster care, and private fostering.


4. Management Accountability

The Head of Children's Social Care have overall responsibility for children's social care services in Calderdale and has the overarching responsibility for this policy.

It is their responsibly is to ensure that:

  • The policy meets statutory requirements and is responsive to the identified needs of children and carers;
  • Local authority staff understand the policy and that they operate within its framework so that it is applied in a consistent and fair manner across the authority;
  • Local partners are aware of their responsibilities towards children living in family and friends care and are proactive in meeting those needs; and
  • The policy is publicised sufficiently to ensure that anyone who may be considering becoming a family and friends carer can be aware of its content and be clear about how to contact the local authority and other agencies for further information about relevant services.

The Service Manager for Safeguarding and Quality Assurance works closely with the Calderdale Safeguarding Children Board and senior managers to ensure that safeguarding requirements are met and the safety of children and young people in Calderdale remains a priority.

The Calderdale Service Manager for Fostering and Team Manager for Fostering have the responsibility to develop and maintain the overview of Fostering Services in Calderdale, to ensure that fostering policy is kept informed by up to date local information and that it is implemented consistently, engages all relevant parties and keeps the service at the forefront of good practice.

There are four geographical areas, managed by Locality Managers, covering Early Intervention and Social Care Teams. They are:

  • Upper Valley;
  • Lower Valley;
  • Central and West;
  • North and East.

The core functions of the Locality Teams are as follows:


5. The Legal Framework

All local authorities have a general duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of children in need living within their area and to promote the upbringing of such children by their families. The way in which they fulfil this duty is by providing a range and level of services appropriate to those children’s assessed needs (Section 17, Children Act 1989). This can include financial, practical or other support. Financial support is only provided in exceptional circumstances, to provide urgent assistance to families following an assessment of need (see Section 7, Financial Support - General Principles).

It is important to note that local authorities do not have a general duty to assess all arrangements where children are living with their wider family or friends network, rather than their parents, but it does have a duty where it appears that services may be necessary to safeguard or promote the welfare of a Child in Need and in Private Fostering situations.

Children in need may live with members of their family or friends in a variety of different legal arrangements, some formal and some informal. Different court orders are available to formalise these arrangements.

Children Looked After are by definition a Child in Need, whether they are Accommodated under Section 20 of the Children Act 1989 (with parental consent) or in care subject to a court order whereby the local authority shares Parental Responsibility for the child.

The local authority has a responsibility, wherever possible, to make arrangements a child who is Looked After to live with a member of the family (Section 22 of the Children Act 1989).

Section 6, Information about Different Support Services for Children and Young People in Calderdale sets out the local authority powers and duties in relation to the various options.

In relation to financial support, local authorities may provide carers of children in need with such support on a regular or one-off basis, under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989. This is discretionary; however, the status of the placement will usually determine the nature and amount of the financial support.

Additionally, the legal status of the child may have a bearing on the levels of financial support which may be available to carers, as there are different legislative provisions which apply to children living with family or friends in Looked After/adoption/special guardianship/Child Arrangements Order arrangements.

The following sections of this policy set out the support we may provide to family and friends who are caring for children within these different contexts.


6. Information about Different Support Services for Children and Young People in Calderdale 

Calderdale Children and Young People's Partnership Executive and partner agencies are leading the improvement of services across the authority and undertaking commissioning of services for children, young people and their families. In each of the four localities there is a local panel that works to meet the needs of local children, young people, families and carers, through the delivery of a range of services from different agencies and organisations.

Some examples of support services for children and young people, their families and cares within Calderdale are:

  • Early Years e.g. childminders/nurseries;
  • Children's Centres; 
  • Day Care;
  • Support provided in and by schools and colleges;
  • Parenting Support;
  • Health service e.g. GP, health visitors, health teams, school nurses, dental health;
  • Local youth services; 
  • Summer activities programmes, e.g. play schemes;
  • Local leisure facilities.

6.1 Informal Family and Friends Care Arrangements

Where a child cannot be cared for within his or her immediate family, the family may make their own arrangements to care for the child within the family and friends network.

Many family and friends carers are the child’s grandparents, who may be older, in poorer health and less well off financially than others who are bringing up children. Significant numbers of aunts, uncles and older siblings are also family and friends carers.

Caring for a child can have a significant impact on the carers’ lifestyles, and there may also be a range of practical problems to address, such as accommodation needs.

The local authority does not have a duty to assess any such informal family and friends care arrangements, unless it appears to the authority that services may be necessary to safeguard or promote the welfare of a child in need.

In such cases, the local authority has a responsibility under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989 to assess the child’s needs and provide services to meet any assessed needs of the child.

Following assessment, a Child in Need Plan may be drawn up and a package of support will be identified. This can comprise a variety of different types of services and support, which in some instances of assessed need will include financial support.

6.2 Private Fostering Arrangements

See Private Fostering Procedure.

A privately fostered child is a child under 16 (or 18 if disabled) who is cared for by an adult who is not a parent or close relative, where the child is to be cared for in that home for 28 days or more.

A close relative is defined as ‘a grandparent, brother, sister, uncle or aunt (whether of the full blood or half blood or by marriage or civil partnership) or step-parent. It does not include a child who is Looked After by a local authority.

In a private fostering arrangement, the parent still holds Parental Responsibility and agrees to the arrangement with the private foster carer. However, it may still be a private fostering arrangement if the child has made the arrangement and there is no parental consent - this arrangement will require a private fostering assessment.

It is a legal requirement that the parent and carer must inform the local authority of the private fostering arrangement. It is also a legal requirement that any local authority employee who is aware of a private fostering arrangement which has not been notified to children's social care must notify the authority.

If you are privately fostering a child or young person, are arranging to privately foster or are aware of an arrangement please telephone the Children's Assessment Team (CAT). 

The local authority has a duty to assess and monitor the welfare of all privately fostered children and the way in which they carry out these duties is set out in the Children (Private Arrangements for Fostering) Regulations 2005.

A private fostering arrangement is also defined as a Child in Need and an assessment should address whether there is the need to provide services under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989. Following assessment, a child in need plan will be drawn up and a package of support will be identified if appropriate.

Further information about private fostering can be found on the Calderdale Council’s website pages by searching for private fostering (see Calderdale Council website) or by visiting the Somebody Else's child website.

6.3 Family and Friends Foster Carers - Connected Persons

A Connected Person means a relative such as a grandparent, brother, sister, uncle or aunt (whether of the full blood or half blood or by marriage or civil partnership) or step-parent), friend of or other person connected with the Child Looked After (section 105 of the 1989 Act).

A Connected Person (of Child Looked After) who is assessed and becomes approved as a foster carer is often referred to as a family and friends foster carer.

To enable family and friends to care for a Child Looked After as foster carers, they must first be approved as foster carers - see Assessment of Prospective Foster Carers Procedure.

Where a child is Looked After by the local authority, they have a responsibility wherever possible to make arrangements for the child to live with a member of the family who is approved as a foster carer (Section 22 of the Children Act 1989).

When a child is placed by the local authority with family, friends or other Connected Person, the family or friends carers must to be assessed and approved in line with the requirements of the Fostering Services Regulations.

At times there may be an urgent need for a temporary approval of placement (Regulation 24). Subject to the successful completion of assessment checks the Connected Person may be approved, by the Agency Decision Maker, as a foster carer for up to 16 weeks. This period has been set to allow time for the full approval process to be undertaken, which will also include criminal record checks via the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS). This temporary placement can only be extended a further 8 weeks in exceptional circumstances (Regulation 25 of the 2010 Regulations).

Where approval is given to a placement under this procedure, the child or young person will have a Placement Plan which sets out the specific arrangements surrounding the child/young person and the carers. This includes the expectations of the foster carers and the support they can expect to receive to enable them to fulfil their responsibilities for the child/young person.

Information and advice is available for family and friends who apply to be foster carers for a specific Child who is Looked After. An information pack is available to potential foster carers about the process and they will be given the name and contact details of the social worker from the fostering service allocated to carry out the assessment.

The fostering recruitment and assessment team is responsible for the recruitment and assessment of all new mainstream foster carers and the assessment of all Connected Person carers.

Once Connected Person carers are approved as foster carers, they will be allocated a supervising social worker from the fostering service to provide them with support and supervision, and they will receive fostering allowances for as long as they care for the child as a foster carer.

Whilst the child remains a Child Looked After, with the foster carer, they will be expected to cooperate with all the processes that are in place to ensure the child receives appropriate care and support. For example, this includes contributing to reviews of the child’s care plan enabling statutory health assessments, visits, and education, cooperating with the child’s social worker and promoting the child’s holistic emotional and social needs, for example, promotion and monitoring of contact between the child and their parents (where appropriate).

6.4 Child Arrangements Order

A Child Arrangements Order is a Court Order which sets out the arrangements as to when and with whom a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact.

Person named in the order as a person with whom the child is to live, will have Parental Responsibility for the child while the order remains in force. Where a person is named in the order as a person with whom the child is to spend time or otherwise have contact, but is not named in the order as a person with whom the child is to live, the court may provide in the order for that person to have Parental Responsibility for the child while the order remains in force.

Child Arrangements Orders may be made in private family proceedings in which the local authority is not a party nor involved in any way in the arrangements. However, a Child Arrangements Order in favour of a relative or foster carer (who was a 'Connected Person') with whom a child is placed may be an appropriate outcome as part of a permanence plan for a Child in Need or a child who is Looked After.

It is not anticipated that Child Arrangements Order allowances will be paid to families within private child Care Proceedings.

6.5 Special Guardianship Order

Special Guardianship offers a further option for children needing permanent care outside their birth family. It can offer greater security than a Child Arrangements Order without absolute severance from the birth family.

Relatives who are approved as foster carers may apply for a Special Guardianship Order after caring for the child for one year.

As special guardians, they will have Parental Responsibility for the child which, although is still shared with the parents, can be exercised with greater autonomy, on day-to-day matters than where there is a Child Arrangements Order.

Again, Special Guardianship Orders can be made within private family proceedings and the local authority may not be a party to any such arrangements. However, a Special Guardianship Order can be made in relation to a relative or foster carer (who may or may not have been a Connected Person) with whom a child is placed as an outcome within public care proceedings as part of a permanence plan for a child in need or a Child Looked After.

Where the child was Looked After immediately prior to the making of the Special Guardianship Order, the local authority has a responsibility to assess the support needs of the child, parents and special guardians.

Any carer wanting further information regarding which order would be the most suitable should seek legal advice.

6.6 Adoption Order

Adoption is the process by which all parental rights and responsibilities for a child are permanently transferred to an adoptive parent by a court.

As a result the child legally becomes part of the adoptive family.

An adoption order in favour of a relative or foster carer (who was a Connected Person) with whom a child is living may be an appropriate outcome as part of a permanence care plan within public care proceedings.

Calderdale Council must make arrangements, as part of its adoption service, for the provision of a range of adoption support services. They undertake assessments of the need for adoption support services at the request of the adopted child, adoptive parents and their families, as well as birth relatives. The support required is set out in an adoption support plan and may include financial support. 


7. Financial Support - General Principles

Where the child or young person is not Looked After by the local authority and there is family and friends care of someone else's child, for example informal family carers or someone privately fostering a child, there may be entitlement to state benefits and allowances, such as child benefit and child tax credit. The parent retains overall financial responsibility for the child

Where this is a previous foster carer, Calderdale Council will provide a means tested assessment, where applicable, to ensure that we provide the appropriate level of financial support. The amount that is paid will be determined by this assessment in line with national rates and will be subject to regular review.

The Welfare Rights service can provide advice regarding benefits and they can help people to identify whether they are receiving the benefits they are entitled to.

It is recommended that carers of children seek that advice initially and some of this information can be found on the Calderdale Council web pages under ‘welfare benefits’ or at your local benefits agency or on the GOV.UK website.


8. Support with Accommodation / Housing

The authority works with social housing providers to ensure, whenever possible, that family and friends carers of children living in social housing are given appropriate priority to move to more suitable accommodation if this will prevent the need for a child to become Looked After. This is in order to support children and young people living within the community as opposed to public foster/residential care.

The Calderdale Young People's Homelessness Strategy (16/17 year olds) has been developed in partnership with other organisations and discussion with young people to address the accommodation and support needs of homeless young people aged 16/17 in the authority. The vision of this strategy is to prevent and reduce youth homelessness.

The strategy covers the following groups of young people:

  • Young people aged under 16 who have been identified as being at risk of homelessness;
  • Young people aged 16 and 17 who are homeless or at risk;
  • Care leavers aged 16 - 21 who are moving to independent living; and
  • Young people aged 16 - 18 who need accommodation and a high level of support due to complex needs.

The prevention of homelessness and reintegration of young people into the family home is likely to be more successful where full consideration is taken of the needs of the whole family and where a focus is not just placed on the immediate housing issue but the underlying causes of family breakdown.

The local authority provides accommodation for every Child in Need within its area requiring accommodation. Before providing accommodation it must be clear that the child or young person is a Child in Need and

  • There is no one who has Parental Responsibility for the child;
  • The child is lost or has been abandoned;
  • The person who has been caring for the child is prevented (whether or not permanently and for whatever reason) from providing the child with suitable accommodation or care.

Accommodation may be provided if this would safeguard or promote the child or young person's welfare (Section 20 (1) of the 1989 Act).

The local authority does not acquire Parental Responsibility in respect of an accommodated child. However Section 3 (5) provides for a person who does not have Parental Responsibility for a child but who has care of the child to do what is reasonable to safeguard or promote the child's welfare. This is thought generally to enable carers to make decisions and take action in situations where this is required to protect a child and there is no time to consult with those who have Parental Responsibility for the child.


9. Supporting Contact with Family

The Local authority has a duty to promote contact for all children Looked After, 'where it is necessary to do so in order to safeguard and promote his or her welfare'.

Information regarding contact and family mediation services, and how to make use of their services is available from Calderdale Council through the Children's Assessment Team (CAT) or by via the Family Services Directory.

It is often within the child/children's best interests to retain some form of contact with their birth family. Carers of children will be expected to promote contact between children and their families unless there are serious safeguarding issues. The amount type (i.e. direct or indirect), and venue, can vary depending on what's in the best interests of the child and is also dependent on their age.

Where a child is Looked After by the local authority, contact between the child and his or her family will be promoted, ‘unless it is not practicable or consistent with the child’s welfare’. The overall objective of the contact arrangements will be included in the child’s care plan and the specific arrangements will be set out in the child’s placement plan.


10. Family Group Conference Service

See Family Group Conferences Procedure.

Family Group Conferences (FGCs) are meetings held for family members in order for them to agree and achieve the best outcomes for children.

They promote the involvement of the wider family/social network to achieve a resolution of difficulties for children in need and may help to identify short-term and/or permanent solutions for children within the family network. It is essential that this process is supported by a facilitator/co-ordinator.

Any plan to convene a FGC must be fully discussed with the family and the child, and the family's willingness to participate in the process must be confirmed via the social worker or family support worker.

The child or young person and the family can identify which family members attend. In this instance members of the group may include blood relatives, significant friends / neighbours and carers where they are the carers for the child or young person.

FGC or other forms of family meetings will be offered at an early stage. If a child becomes Looked After, perhaps following an emergency, without a family group conference having been held, then, where appropriate, we will arrange one as soon as possible. FGC support will be offered as part of the plan based on assessed needs.


11. Support Services

Family and friends carers may sometimes feel quite isolated, and getting together with others in a similar position can often be an invaluable source of support. Local support groups are a valuable way of helping carers to access information about services which will help them to care for the children.

There is also a wide range of parenting support activity provided by the Early Intervention teams and through schools in Calderdale.

Out of school activities, information and advice is provided for young people through Calderdale Young People's Service.

11.1 Child and Parenting Support

11.1.1 Emotional Health and Well Being Support

Calderdale Council offers the Calderdale Therapeutic Service (CTS), as well as access to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS).

The CTS service provides advice and support to children and adolescents who have emotional and behavioural difficulties, or mental health problems or disorders and their families. For example eating disorders, self harming, conduct disorders, substance misuse to name a few. CTS can provide post adoption support and works to support all placements that are at risk of disruption.

This specialist service is multi-disciplinary and involves professionals from a range of agencies who work together to promote the mental health and emotional well being of children and young people.

CAMHS works in partnership with Calderdale Children and Young People's Trust, the CTS, GP Consortia and regional commissioning groups.

Social workers and other social care staff work within the CTS, but referrals to the CAMHS service can be made through the child's GP, psychologist (educational and clinical), social workers and Children's Social Care, other professionals including schools; via a Early Intervention Child and Family Single Assessment.

11.1.2 Calderdale Children's Rights Service

The service provides befriending and advocacy support for children who are `Looked After'. The main areas of work of the service include:

  • Children in Care Council;
  • Advocacy;
  • Bullying advice and support;
  • Children's rights;
  • Child protection/child abuse advice and support;
  • Support for children with disabilities;
  • Social exclusion work;
  • Support for children who run away.

The service undertakes group work with children and young people and ensures they are in contact with the people who make decisions on their behalf. This service provides Children Looked After with an opportunity to become involved in decisions and ensure that their needs are taken into account within Calderdale's service provision and decision making. For more information on the Children’s Rights Service, see Calderdale Council website.


12. Complaints Procedure

Where a family or friends carer is not satisfied with the level of support being provided to enable them to care for a child or young person, they have access to the local authority’s complaints process.

Our aim is to resolve any dissatisfaction without the need for a formal investigation but where an informal resolution is not possible, a formal investigation will be arranged.

Calderdale Council provides access to a complaints service for all children, young people carers and families.

The timescales and process are set out in the complaints procedure. The procedure ensures that at least one person who is not a member or officer of the authority, takes part in the consideration of the complaint and in any discussion held by the authority about the action to be taken.

If you are having problems, it is very important that you tell us or tell someone you trust, so that we can deal with the problem. You can contact us or send in a complaint if you are:

  • A child who is being Looked After or who is not being Looked After but a child in need;
  • A person who qualifies for after-care services;
  • A parent or other person with Parental Responsibility;
  • Any foster parent; or
  • Any other person who the authority or voluntary organisation considers has a sufficient interest in the child’s welfare to warrant representations being considered by them about the discharge by the authority or voluntary organisation of any of their functions in relation to the child.

To enquire about a complaint contact:

Calderdale Council
Health and Social Care
Complaints and Compliments Unit
1st Floor, Westgate House,
Westgate, Halifax
HX1 IPS
Tel: 01422 392279

See also Complaints and Representations Procedure


13. Further Information and Contacts

Calderdale Council

Department for Education

Public services information - GOV.UK

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