Placements in Residential Care

See also: Placement Request Form


This procedure applies to all placements of Children Looked After in residential care.

See Decision to Look After Procedure and Care Planning and Court Proceedings for procedures relating to the initial decision to look after a child, and the drafting and approval of the Care Plan and other essential documentation.

Children may also be placed in residential care having acquired Looked After status following a Remand to Local Authority Accommodation, see Remands to Local Authority Accommodation Procedure


This procedure was reviewed in June 2016 and updated as required.

1. Consultation

At the point that it is determined that a placement may be required, and throughout the subsequent process of identifying, planning and making the placement, the social worker must consult and take account of the views of the following people:

  1. The child;
  2. The child's parents, or those with Parental Responsibility;
  3. Anyone who is not a parent but has been caring for or looking after the child;
  4. Other members of the child's family who are significant to the child;
  5. Virtual School;
  6. The child's school or education authority;
  7. The Youth Offending Service, if the child is known to them;
  8. Any other relevant person, e.g. nursery, health care professional, Children's Guardian.
The views of these people should be given by them, in writing, or should be recorded by the social worker.

2. Placements Process

2.1 Placement Request

Where a decision has been made that a child requires a residential placement, the child's social worker should request a placement by contacting the Placement Finding Service, situated in the Fostering Team.

In making this request, the social worker will be asked to provide information about the child, the type of placement sought, the Care Plan, the date by which the placement is required, the likely length of time for which the placement is required and the expected level of contact between the child and parents. The social worker should also outline any risks associated in making the placement.

The Placement Officer will check whether an in-house residential placement is available that appears to be appropriate to meet the child's needs. If such a placement is available or if there is a possibility of a placement by the required date, the social worker will be advised accordingly.

If no appropriate in-house placements are available and the child requires an external placement, the Placement Finding Service will obtain the agreement of the Service Manager (Children Looked After) to start the search and contact other providers to identify suitable placement options.

2.2 Identification and Approval of Placement

Once a resource has been identified, the social worker should contact the relevant registered manager directly to discuss the available placement further.

Wherever possible, the child's social worker should visit potential homes and, as required, consult with other professionals, prior to a decision about the appropriateness of a placement being made. The placement provider should be able to provide evidence to support the appropriateness and effectiveness of any therapeutic approach or model of care they intend to use.

The proposed placement will then be presented to the social worker's manager for approval.

All placements are approved by the Service Manager (Children Looked After). In the absence of the Service Manager (Children Looked After), other Service Managers can seek the approval of the Assistant Director Early Intervention and Safeguarding, Children's Social Care in consultation with Commissioning. In the absence of the Assistant Director Early Intervention and Safeguarding, Children's Social Care, the approval of the Director will be requested.

If the proposed placement is with an external provider, the Service Manager (Children Looked After) must, in consultation with Commissioning, approve the specific terms and conditions of the placement. These terms and conditions must be included in the contract with the provider.

Where the residential placement is outside the local authority area, see also Receiving Notifications from Other Local Authorities or Placement Providers Regarding Children Looked After Placed in Calderdale.

N.B. In addition to the above approvals, in order to avoid placements that disrupt a child's education, the Nominated Officer must approve any change of placement affecting a child in Key Stage 4 except in an emergency/ where the placement is terminated because of an immediate risk of serious harm to the child or to protect others from serious injury - see Education of Children Looked After and Previously Looked After Procedure.

Equally, any placement made outside the local authority area should be able to meet the child's physical and mental health / emotional needs, particularly where ongoing treatment is being undertaken or is assessed as required (see also Health Assessments and Health Recommendation Plans Procedure, Out of Area Placements).

If the young person is considered to be at risk of Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE), or has previously gone missing from care or home, the local Police force through the Safeguarding Unit should be notified as good practice.

Once the relevant manager/s approves the placement, the placement planning process can start - see Section 2.3, Placement Planning. An understanding of the provider's therapeutic approach should inform the child's Placement Plan.

The social worker may then arrange visits to the proposed placement, with the child (if old enough) and parents (if appropriate).

2.3 Placement Planning

Before the child is placed, the child's social worker will liaise with the relevant registered manager to provide details of the child's immediate child care needs and to arrange a Placement Planning Meeting - see Placement Planning Meetings Procedure. The meeting will usually be held in the child's new placement.

Participants will include:

  • The parent;
  • The child (if appropriate);
  • The key residential staff;
  • Any other relevant professionals, e.g. a representative from the child's school;
  • Anyone else considered appropriate or who will have a role in the placement.

The purpose of the Placement Planning Meeting is to finalise the Placement Plan, explain daily routines, discuss the Care Plan and consider how the placement will meet the child's needs. This will involve a discussion of the child's needs, including their personal history, religious persuasion, cultural and linguistic background and racial origin, their health and education needs and how these are to be met. It will also include the arrangements for registering the child with local health professionals (GP, dentist and optician). The Responsible Authority is required to draw up a Placement Plan before the child is placed, or if not practicable, within 5 working days from the start of the placement.

The Placement Plan should provide clarity for the child and carer about the following:

  • How day to day parenting tasks will be shared between the carer and the responsible authority – including clarity about financial arrangements and contact;
  • The circumstances leading to the child becoming looked after;
  • The long term plan for the child and its timeframe; and
  • The objectives for the placement being offered and how these reflect the Care Plan.

For children placed in residential care, the Placement Plan should cover the following issues in addition to those for all placements set out in the Decision to Look After Procedure:

  1. The type of accommodation to be provided and the address;
  2. Where the authority has, or is notified of, Child Protection concerns relating to the child, or the child has gone missing from the placement or from any previous placement, the day to day arrangements put in place by the appropriate person (placement provider) to keep the child safe;
  3. Any behaviours which have been of concern to previous carers and which may have contributed to previous breakdown of a placement and how the Placement Provider will seek to manage and respond to these;
  4. The child's personal history, religious persuasion, cultural and linguistic background and racial origin;
  5. Where the child is Accommodated, the respective responsibilities of the Local Authority and parents/anyone with Parental Responsibility; any delegation of responsibility by parents/anyone with Parental Responsibility to the Local Authority for the child's day-to-day care; the expected duration of the arrangements and the steps to bring the arrangements to an end, including arrangements for the child to return to live with parents/anyone with Parental Responsibility; where the child is aged 16 or over and agrees to being provided with accommodation under Section 20 Children Act 1989, that fact;
  6. Delegated Authority issues including the circumstances in which it is necessary to obtain in advance the Local Authority's approval for the child to take part in school trips or overnight stays etc.;
  7. Information concerning the child's health and education, contact arrangements, visits by the responsible authority and any arrangements for visits by an independent visitor. The content of the child's Health Recommendation Plan and PEP;
  8. The child's religion and culture and the manner in which these are reflected in their daily life and any help the child may need to keep these links;
  9. Arrangements for contact between children, birth parents and siblings and specified other friends and relatives;
  10. The Local Authority's arrangements for the financial support of the child during the placement.

The meeting also provides an opportunity to ensure that the registered manager has a copy of any relevant court order and that full information is shared about any behaviour management issues.

Wherever possible, the Placement Planning Meeting should be used to plan any introductions to the placement, for example whether arrangements should be made for the child, parents and the social worker to visit the home and/or whether it may be appropriate to have an introductory overnight stay. If this is not possible, arrangements may be made for residential staff to visit the child and parents; or for information about the home to be sent to the child and/or the parents, for example about routines in the home, bedtimes, meals, visitors, pocket money, school, privacy and the overall expectations in relation to the child's behaviour within the home.

If it is not possible to hold a Placement Planning Meeting before the placement, because of the urgency of the placement, it must take place in order that the Placement Plan is prepared within 5 working days of the start of the placement.

The child's social worker will complete and arrange for the circulation of the Care Plan and Placement Plan/Placement Information Record to the child, parents and residential staff.

At the time of the placement, the residential staff must also be given any additional information about details of the child's day to day needs which may not be covered by the Placement Information Record but are important to ensure that the home is in the best possible position to help the child settle in the new placement, for example any particular fears at night-time or other emotional needs.

The child's social worker must provide the child with written information about the looked after service, including information on using the authority's Complaints Procedure and information about how to access an Advocate.

The social worker should ensure that any Children's Guide and other information about the placement that is available for the child is also obtained and given to him/her.

In all cases, the child should be accompanied to the placement by the social worker and helped to settle in. Suitable luggage should be used and a child's belongings should never be transported in bin-bags or other inappropriate containers.

Emergency placements

Where an emergency placement is unavoidable local authorities should always make available information that is vital to allow the Home to care safely for the child – e.g. medical information, Child Protection matters and information about any known serious behavioural issues which may place a child at risk of harm to him or herself or others.

The placement plan must be agreed and signed by the nominated officer. Where this is a Placement at a Distance this should be agreed by the Children's Services Director.

2.4 Notification of Placement

The child's social worker will update the child's electronic record with the details of the placement within 5 working days.

Where the placement is within an external provider, the Contracts Officer will notify the finance section so as to trigger payments as appropriate.

Notification of the placement will also be sent by the child's social worker to the Designated Nurse for CLA, the Virtual School Team, the local Children's Social Care (if the placement is in the area of a different local authority) and the child's GP.

The child's social worker will notify all family members consulted and involved in the decision-making process of the placement.

The child's social worker must also notify the allocated Independent Reviewing Officer or, if it is the first placement, the Independent Review Unit of the placement. This notification will trigger the appointment of an Independent Reviewing Officer, if it is the first placement, and the setting up of arrangements for a Looked After Review.

These notifications must be made in writing, advising of the placement decision and the name and address of the children's home where the child is to be placed.

The notifications should be before the start of the placement or within 5 working days.

The child's social worker should also notify - preferably in writing but it may be verbally - all those involved in the day to day arrangements for the child, including school and any health professional or YOT worker actively involved with the child.

It will be necessary for the home or the child's social worker to ensure the child is registered with a GP, Dentist and Optician, either retaining practices known to him or her (which is preferable) or in the area where they are placed.

In relation to a first Looked After placement it will also be necessary for the social worker to liaise with the Designated Nurse for CLA to arrange a Health Care Assessment - see Health Care Assessment and Health Recommendation Plans Procedure. The social worker must arrange for the completion of a Personal Education Plan - see Education of Children Looked After and Previously Looked After Procedure.

For any new placement, every effort should be made to enable the child to remain at the same school unless there are reasons which would be detrimental to his or her well being. In order to avoid placements that disrupt a child's education, the Nominated Officer must approve any change of placement affecting a child in Key Stage 4 except in an emergency/ where the placement is terminated because of an immediate risk of serious harm to the child or to protect others from serious injury.

Changes to the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010, introduced a new definition of a placement of a Child Looked After 'at a distance', i.e. outside both the area of the local authority looking after the child, and the area of any adjoining local authority. The decision to put a child in such a placement is required to be approved by the Director of Children's Services. There are consultation and notification requirements in relation to such placements.

What this means in practice - A decision to place a child outside the area of the responsible authority must not be put into effect until it has been approved by the Service Manager (Children Looked After) or in the case of a proposed Placement at a Distance this must be approved by the Director of children's services.

In the case of out of area placements, written notification must be given to the area authority of the arrangements for placement before the placement is made or, if the placement is made in an emergency, within five working days of the start of the placement unless it is not reasonably practical to do so.

The notifications must include:

  1. Details of the assessment of the child's needs and the reasons why the placement is the most suitable for responding to these; and
  2. A copy of the child's care plan (unless already provided in the case of a Placement at a Distance).

3. Support, Monitoring and Ending of Placements

3.1 Support and Monitoring of Placements

The child's social worker must visit the child in the placement within one week of the placement and then at a minimum every six weeks; see Social Worker Visits to Children Looked After Procedure.

Where there are concerns in relation to the progress of the placement, consideration should be given to seeking additional resources, via Placement Panel, to assist the placement.

Where there are any changes to the child's placement and/or legal status during the placement, the child's social worker must update the child's electronic records within 5 working days.

A looked after review should be convened where:

  • The child is, or has been, going missing or running away from the home;
  • The placement provider, parents or area authority are concerned that the child is at risk of harm; or
  • The child so requests, unless the Independent Reviewing Officer considers that the review is not justified.

See also: Child Looked After Reviews Procedure.

3.2 Ending of Placements

The child's social worker must notify the Placement Finding Service when a placement ends and arrange to inform, through the Contracts Officer, the relevant finance officer so that any payments to the provider will cease. The social worker will also inform those notified when the placement was made of the ending of the placement.

Note: Where the placement is a commissioned resource from an independent or private provider, the social worker must ensure that the Placement and Finance Officers are informed immediately so that formal contractual notice can be given.

Where the placement ends in an unplanned way, consideration should be given to holding a Disruption Meeting - see Placement Planning Meetings Procedure.