Section 17 Payments
Please note: Any payments made to support children and families need to take into consideration eligibility for other benefits. See also Protocol between Children's Social Care and Revenues and Benefits Service before a final decision is taken about what payments should be made.
AMENDMENTThis chapter was amended in July 2013 to include the above note.
1. One off Section 17 Payments
1.1 Criteria for Section 17 Payments
Financial assistance may be used for children in need. This includes:
- In a crisis to enable a child to remain with family or known carers;
- To prevent unnecessary suffering e.g. hunger and/or to maintain a very basic standard of child care;
- For children with disabilities, to minimise the immediate effects of their disability;
- Homeless 16 and 17 year olds who need help with costs associated with obtaining temporary or permanent accommodation;
- Where a the child is suffering or likely to suffer ill treatment at the hands of someone in the household, and that person proposes to move out, assistance to that person to enable them to obtain alternative accommodation.
Longer term payments, for example where it is clear that unless financial support is provided the child will become looked after, should be considered under the procedures outlined in Section 2, Regular Financial Assistance of Section 17 Payments.
Payments for transport may only be made under this procedure in the following circumstances:
- Payments of costs associated with contact between parents and Children Looked After e.g. bus and train fares for parents travelling to contact;
- One off transport costs associated with attending appointments with the D.S.S, housing or housing advice e.g. bus or train ticket;
- Payment of transport costs to enable a parent to move out of the home in an emergency e.g. to a refuge following domestic violence.
All other transport costs should be paid from the transport budget.
Payments for home care may not be made using this procedure.
Payments for sessional work may not be made using this procedure.
Support in kind (e.g. purchase of mattress, fire guard, food parcel, heating, nappies) may be paid using this procedure.
1.2 Who Makes Applications for Financial Assistance
Requests for financial assistance will be received by duty social workers and social workers allocated to cases.
Requests for assistance received by the worker from open cases allocated to them should be processed by that worker.
Requests for assistance received at the office and from open cases which do not require a home visit may be processed by the duty social worker or allocated worker.
Requests for assistance which are not allocated cases but require a home visit should be processed by the duty social worker.
Straight forward requests which are not from open cases and which do not require a home visit should be processed by the the duty social worker.
If the case is open, the request for assistance should be recorded on the Client Information System.
1.3 When to Make a Referral
If the request is from an unallocated case or is a new referral the following steps which are explained in detail in the Contacts and Referrals for Children in Need Procedure should be carried out.
1.4 Information Gathering
The appropriate worker should find out:
- The reason for the request;
- The amount being requested or what item the Department is being asked to assist with;
- Indication of ability to pay or contribute towards costs.
This should be recorded on a first contact form.
If the assistance is for a specific item or items the social worker should identify the supplier offering the best price.
If payment to the supplier is to be by cheque the following should be recorded:
- Who the cheque is payable to;
- Reference number for transaction e.g. order number;
- Full postal address.
If the supplier is to be invoiced record the full postal address.
1.5 Checks to Make
The Benefit Agency should be phoned to verify when the last giro was paid and when the next one is due.
The Benefit Agency should be asked whether payment has been requested for the same purposes from them.
Check whether a giro which has been lost or stolen or not delivered has been reported to the Benefit Agency and to the police. Ascertain whether any assistance may be available from the Benefit Agency.
The police should be phoned to verify thefts and the crime number recorded.
Check the CIS to ensure whether similar payments have been made at a different office.
Check whether agencies such as Water, Electricity are fulfilling their statutory obligations.
Seek proof of identity and proof that the person has children.
The outcome of these checks should be recorded on the application form.
1.6 Repayment of Monies by Clients
The Children Act states that payment may be a subject to conditions as to the repayment of assistance or of its value (in whole or in part) with the exception that clients in receipt of the following benefits cannot be asked to make repayments:
- Income support;
- Family credit;
- Disability working allowance;
- An income based job-seekers allowance.
If repayments are to be sought a written agreement should be drawn up using the standard form SUP-03ii and signed by the client and the social worker.
- Consider whether the benefits of proposing repayment are compatible with the staffing costs associated with ensuring repayment is made. Repayment must be pursued when a loan is formally agreed;
- Amount, type (cheque/cash) and purpose of payment;
- Amount to be repaid;
- When repayments are to start;
- Amount and frequency of repayments;
- Proposed method of repayment/collection.
1.7 Amounts Which Can be Paid
Team Managers may authorise payments of:
- Up to £50 in cash;
- Up to £150 by cheque.
Payments of up to £300 may be authorised by the Operations Manager.
No more than £300 may be paid per application.
Proposals to pay amounts exceeding £300 must be presented to Committee.
1.8 Options for Payment
The following methods of payments are available and should be selected according to the case:
- Payment of cash to the client;
- Make the purchase with the client;
- Payment of cheque to the nominated person, for collection at the Children's Social Care office or the Finance Department;
- Arrange for supply of an item on provision of a cheque to the supplier;
- Arrange for supplier to invoice the Department for the item.
Wherever possible goods should be purchased directly by the Department in order for the Department to reclaim the VAT it has paid.
1.9 Completing the Application Form(s)
Applications for financial assistance and assistance in kind should be made on the Application for Financial Assistance under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989 form. If the application is for a loan the form Application for Loan Under Section 17 should be completed.
These forms must be completed in full.
The completed application form should be attached to the referral and first contact form.
If repayments are to be made a copy of the written confirmation of payment and the application for loan should also be attached.
1.10 Decision Making
The Team Manager should be asked to approve the application.
In the absence of the Team Manager another Team Manager should be asked.
If verbal consent to pay is given by telephone, this must be followed up by E-mail within 24 hours to ensure a written record of the approval exists for audit purposes.
The Team Manager should fill in the amount to be paid and sign the application.
1.11 Payments and Records of Payments
When the application form(s) has been completed it/they should be given to the Locality Services Administration Manager (LSAM).
A photocopy of the application(s) and the receipt which has been signed by the client should be put on the case file.
Making cash payments
The L.S.A.M must complete 2 official receipts unless the payment is direct from the L.S.A.M. to the client in which case one receipt should be completed.
One receipt must be signed by the social worker. The L.S.A.M. can then give the social worker the cash.
The social worker must get the client/payees signature on the other receipt before making the payment.
The social worker must record the transaction on the case file and put the signed receipt on the case file
The L.S.A.M should complete the administrative section of the application form and file the form.
The L.S.A.M should update the computer spreadsheet.
2. Regular Financial Assistance of Section 17 Payments
2.1 When Financial Assistance can be Applied for - Criteria
Financial assistance may be given where:
- There are or were grounds for care proceedings but the Local Authority has agreed to support a relative who has not been a foster carer for a child, in applying for a Child Arrangements Order;
- A Child Arrangements Order is made and the Local Authority has had no involvement in the case but there is a likelihood of the child becoming Looked After by the Local Authority if assistance is not given;
- It is clear that unless financial support is provided the child/young person will become looked after and the Local Authority is supporting a plan for a child to be cared for by extended family;
- Private fostering arrangements have been approved and necessitate financial assistance see Private Fostering Procedure.
Financial assistance will not be given under this procedure for children/young people remaining with their parents. If assistance is needed in these circumstances see Section 1, One off Section 17 Payments.
2.2 Making the Application for Financial Assistance
Requests for assistance received by the worker from open cases allocated to them should be processed by that worker.
Requests for assistance which are not from open cases should be processed by the Social Worker from the Children's Assessment Team (CAT).
The appropriate worker should complete the pro-forma Application for Regular Financial Assistance Under Section 17 in full.
The Team Manager should sign the Application.
The completed and signed application should be sent to the Operations Manager, for approval.
2.3 Approval for Payment of Regular Financial Assistance under Section 17
On receipt of the application, the Operations Manager can give approval for the payment. However, the Operations Manager may return the application form to the Social Worker if further action is required prior to approval.
When approval has been granted, the Social Worker must send the final page of the application form Application for Regular Financial Assistance Under Section 17 to the accounts section to start payments. The social worker must send the pro forma letter 'Regular Financial Assistance Under Section 17 - Initial Notification' to the person receiving the regular financial assistance.
The Social Worker must ask the Locality Services Admin Manager or their deputy to enter the person receiving payment on the relevant computer records.
Note: The payment will not be made if the entry is not made. Accounts need the paperwork and the information from the relevant computer records.
Regular financial assistance will be paid after approval from the Operations Manager, in one of the following bands:
|a.||Income Support at the level appropriate to the age of the child (includes child benefit).|
|b.||Child Benefit only.|
|(Note) These rates will be payable until the first payment is received from the Benefit Agency. Part weeks will not be payable. The payment will stop the week following the receipt of money from the Benefit Agency. The onus is on the Social Worker to check when benefits are received by the carer and inform the Accounts Section to stop payment|
|c.||There may be exceptional circumstances where the child's/carers' needs merit continuing financial assistance beyond the receipt of the benefits in a) and/or b) above
The social worker will need to make such circumstances clear on the application form. The maximum assistance available under this band is the Income Support rate for the age of the child.
Any assistance made in this category is approved for a maximum of six months and is subject to the same review process as bands a) and b) above (see Section 2.5, Review of Payments and Variation of Allowances).
Frequency of Payments
Regular Section 17 payments will be paid in the same way as foster care allowances.
2.5 Review of Payments and Variation of Allowances
The regular payments will be subject to a six monthly review. The review will check that the reasons for financial assistance and household circumstances remain the same. The anticipated length of time that financial assistance will be needed should be assessed.
Six monthly reviews will be the responsibility of the Social Worker/Child Care Support Worker allocated to the case.
Regular Financial Assistance under Section 17, being directly based on Income Support and Child Benefit rates, will be automatically increased in line with changes in the rates as they occur.
Carer(s) receiving financial assistance will be required to inform the Local Authority of any change in their or the child/young person's circumstances, including change of address, so that the allowance may be reviewed accordingly.
Carer(s) failing to supply the Local Authority with information at the six monthly reviews will have their eligibility for financial assistance revoked by the Head of Children's Social Care until such time as the information is supplied.
Where financial assistance is suspended, the Head of Children's Social Care may recommence payment if as a result of a review the Head of Children's Social Care considers that financial assistance should be paid.
2.6 Termination of Financial Assistance
The financial assistance will continue to be paid until:
- The six monthly review assesses that the financial assistance is no longer required;
- A change in the child/young person's or carer(s) circumstances makes them ineligible for assistance;
- Any period agreed between the Children and Young People's Services and the carer(s) expires.