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6.7 Children Living Away From Home

Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Essential Safeguards
  3. Foster Care
  4. Private Fostering
  5. Children in Residential Settings
  6. Children in Hospital
  7. Children in Custody
  8. Children of Families Living in Temporary Accommodation
  9. Foreign Exchange Visits


1. Introduction

Revelations of the widespread abuse and neglect of children living away from home have done much to raise awareness of the particular vulnerability of such children. Many of these revelations have focused on sexual abuse, but physical and emotional abuse and neglect - including peer abuse, bullying and substance misuse - are equally a threat in institutional and other settings.

Concerns for the safety of children living away from home have to be put in the context of attention to the overall developmental needs of such children and a concern for the best possible outcomes for their health and development.

Every setting in which they live should provide the same basic safeguards against abuse, founded on an approach that promotes their general welfare, protects them from harm and treats them with dignity and respect.

These values are reflected in regulations and in the National Minimum Standards, which contain specific requirements on safeguarding and child protection for each particular regulated setting where children live away from home - see also Guidance for Safe Recruitment, Selection and Retention for Staff and Volunteers and Managing Allegations Against Adults who Work with Children and Young People Procedure.


2. Essential Safeguards

Where the child is disabled, additional guidance is set out in Children with a Disability and Child Abuse Procedure.

The following essential safeguards should be observed in all settings such as foster care, residential care, private fostering, armed forces bases, healthcare, boarding schools (including residential special schools), Prisons, Young Offenders' Institutions, Secure Training Centres and secure units. Where services are not directly provided, these safeguards should be explicitly addressed in any contract with a service provider.

All settings must ensure that:

  • Children feel valued and respected and their self-esteem is promoted
  • There is an openness on the part of the institution to the external world and to external scrutiny; including contact with families and the wider community
  • Staff and foster carers are trained in all aspects of safeguarding children, are alert to children's vulnerabilities and risks of harm, and knowledgeable about how to implement safeguarding children procedures
  • Children are listened to, and their views and concerns responded to
  • Children have ready access to a trusted adult outside the institution, e.g. a family member, social worker, independent visitor or children's advocate. Children should be made aware of independent advocacy services, external mentors and Child Line
  • Staff/carers recognise the importance of ascertaining the wishes and feelings of children and understand how individual children communicate by verbal or non-verbal means
  • Clear procedures exist for referring safeguarding concerns about a child to the relevant local authority
  • Complaints procedures are clear, effective, and user-friendly and are readily accessible to children and young people including those with disabilities and those for whom English is not their preferred language.
  • Bullying is effectively countered - see Bullying Procedure
  • Recruitment and selection procedures are rigorous and create a high threshold of entry to deter abusers and there is effective supervision and support that extends to temporary staff and volunteers - see Guidance for Safe Recruitment, Selection and Retention for Staff and Volunteers
  • There is effective supervision and support that extends to temporary staff and volunteers
  • Contractor staff are effectively checked and supervised when on site or in contact with children
  • Clear procedures and support systems are in place for dealing with expressions of concern by staff and carers about other staff or carers (a Whistle-blowing Policy)
  • There is respect for diversity, and sensitivity to race, culture, religion, gender, sexuality and disability
  • Staff and carers are alert to the risks of harm to children in the external environment from people prepared to exploit the additional vulnerability of children living away from home

Where there is reasonable cause to believe that a child has suffered Significant Harm, the Local Authority for the area in which the child is living has the responsibility to convene a Strategy Discussion/Meeting, which should include representatives from the responsible Local Authority that placed the child, if different.

At the Strategy Discussion/Meeting it should be decided which Local Authority should take responsibility for the next steps, which may include a Section 47 Enquiry. See also Children Moving Across Local Authority Boundaries Procedure.


3. Foster Care

The Local Authority's duty to undertake a Section 47 Enquiry, when there are concerns about Significant Harm to a child, applies on the same basis to children in foster care as it does to children who live with their own families.

When the concerns relate to a child placed in a foster home outside the area of the responsible local authority - see Children Moving Across Local Authority Boundaries Procedure.

Where there is reasonable cause to believe that a child in foster care has suffered or is at risk of suffering significant harm in the foster placement, the Managing Allegations Against Adults who Work with Children and Young People Procedure will apply and a Strategy Meeting will be held.

In these circumstances, enquiries should consider the safety of any other children living in the household, including the foster carers' own children, grand-children or any children cared for by the foster carers in their home as well as any children whom the foster carers may be caring for or working with outside their home in a voluntary or paid capacity e.g. teaching, faith or youth work, scouts or many other groups.

As foster care is undertaken in the privacy of the carers' own home, it is important that children have a voice outside the family. Social workers have a legal duty to see children in foster care and evidence of this should be recorded on the child's records. Further details of this requirement - including the need to see children on their own - are set out in Children's Services own procedures.

Foster carers should monitor the whereabouts of their foster children, their patterns of absence and contacts, and follow the recognised agency procedure whenever a foster child is missing from their home.

Where the concern arises in relation to a looked after child's placement, the local authority for the area where the child is placed also has responsibility to ensure that other local authorities who also have placed children in the same foster home are aware of the concern or allegation and that consideration is given to protection of other children in the placement. They should also inform the Regulatory Authority.


4. Private Fostering

A private fostering arrangement is essentially one that is made, without the involvement of a local authority, for a child under the age of 16 (under 18 if disabled) to be cared for by someone other than a parent or close relative for 28 days or more. Privately fostered children are a diverse and sometimes vulnerable group which includes:

  • children sent from abroad to stay with another family, usually to improve their educational opportunities
  • asylum-seeking and refugee children
  • teenagers who, having broken ties with their parents, are staying in short-term arrangements with friends or other non-relatives
  • language students living with host families

Under the Children Act 1989, private foster carers and those with Parental Responsibility are required to notify the local authority of their intention to privately foster or to have a child privately fostered, or where a child is privately fostered in an emergency.

For further details see the Hertfordshire County Council leaflet about Information on private fostering: Do you know someone under 16 who is living away from their parents?

Teachers, health and other professionals must notify Children's Services of a private fostering arrangement that comes to their attention, where they are not satisfied that the arrangement has been or will be notified.

Following notification of a private fostering arrangement, it is the duty of the local authority to satisfy itself that the welfare of the children, who are privately fostered within their area, is being satisfactorily safeguarded and promoted. This includes an initial visit to the child and private foster carers within one week of receiving notification that the placement has started and subsequent assessment under the Framework for the Assessment of Children in Need and their Families. The private foster carers will be separately assessed and this will include an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check.

The local authority must also arrange to visit privately fostered children at regular intervals - at a minimum:

  • every six weeks in the first year;
  • every twelve weeks in the second or subsequent years, and
  • additionally, if reasonably requested to do so by the child, private foster carer or parent.

Children should be given the contact details of the social worker who will be visiting them while they are being privately fostered.

All arrangements and regulations in relation to private fostering are set out in the Children (Private Arrangements for Fostering) Regulations 2005.

Children's Services have their own detailed procedures for carrying out their responsibilities on this issue.

When there are concerns about Significant Harm to a child who is privately fostered the local authority and all the other agencies have the same duties to make enquiries as they do to any other child. The concerns must be reported to the local authority where the private foster placement is located in accordance with the Referrals Procedure and the Safeguarding Children Procedures will be applied.


5. Children in Residential Settings

All residential settings where children and young people are placed, including children's homes and residential schools, whether provided by a private, charitable or faith based organisation, or a local authority, must adhere to the Children's Homes Regulations 2001 and all other relevant regulations and to the relevant National Minimum Standards.

Clear records must be kept and reviews and inspections must take place in accordance with National Minimum Standards and regulations.

All such establishments must have in place complaints procedures for children and young people, visiting and contact arrangements with social workers and Independent Visitors (for looked after children), as well as parents, advocacy services.

Social workers have a legal duty to see children in residential care who are looked after, and evidence of this should be recorded on the child's records. Further details of this requirement - including the need to see children on their own - are set out in Children's Services own procedures.

Where there is reasonable cause to believe that a child in a residential setting has suffered or is at risk of suffering Significant Harm, a referral must be made to Children's Services in accordance with the Referrals Procedure. The concerns may range from bullying or abuse by other children to allegations against staff - see Bullying Procedure, Children who Abuse Others Procedure and, where the concerns relate to a member or members of staff and/or the care the child is receiving in the residential setting, the Managing Allegations Against Adults who Work with Children and Young People Procedure will apply and a Strategy Meeting will be held.

When the concerns relate to a looked after child placed in residential care outside the area of the responsible local authority - see Children Moving Across Local Authority Boundaries Procedure.

Where the concern arises in relation to a looked after child's placement, the local authority for the area where the child is placed also has responsibility to ensure that other local authorities who also have placed children in the same residential setting are aware of the concern or allegation and that consideration is given to protection of other children in the placement. They should also inform the Regulatory Authority.


6. Children in Hospital

Hospitals should be child-friendly, safe and healthy places for children. Wherever possible, children should be consulted about where they would prefer to stay in hospital, and their views should be taken into account and be respected. Care should be provided in an appropriate location and in an environment that is safe and well suited to the age and stage of development of the child or young person.

Ideally, children under 16 should not be cared for on an adult ward. Where it cannot be avoided, an assessment of the child's needs must be undertaken by the hospital. Hospital admission data should include the age of children, so that hospitals can monitor whether children are being given appropriate care in appropriate wards.

Hospitals must have policies in place to ensure that their facilities are secure and regularly reviewed.

When the child has been in hospital for three months or more s85 of the Children Act 1989 requires the appropriate health/hospital trust to notify the Responsible Authority i.e. the local authority for the area where the child is normally resident or, if this is unclear, where the child is accommodated. This is so that the local authority can assess the child's needs under the Framework for the Assessment of Children in Need and their Families and decide whether services are required under the Children Act 1989.

Any concerns about Significant Harm to a child within a hospital or health based setting must be referred to the Children's Services in whose area the hospital is located in accordance with the Referrals Procedure.

No child about whom there are child protection concerns who is known to Children's Services and who is an inpatient in a hospital should be discharged home without a referral to establish that the home environment is safe, the concerns by medical staff are fully addressed and there is a plan in place for the ongoing promotion and safeguarding of the child's welfare.

For further reading and information see the National Service Framework for Children, Young People and Maternity Services (NSF) 2004 and the Public Inquiry into Children's Heart Surgery at the Bristol Royal Infirmary 1984-1995: Learning from Bristol.


7. Children in Custody

The local authority has the same responsibilities towards children in custody in its area as it does to other children.

Young Offenders Institutions which accommodate Juveniles (16-18) must have policies and procedures in place which set out their duties to safeguard and promote the welfare of the children and young people in their care.

Specific institutions in an area must ensure that there are links in place with the Local Safeguarding Children Boards and local authorities.

The Local Authorities responsibilities are set out in Local Authority Circular (LAC) 2004(26).


8. Children of Families Living in Temporary Accommodation

Placement in temporary accommodation, often a distance from previous support networks or involving frequent moves, can lead to individuals and families falling through the net.

It is important that effective systems are in place to ensure that children from homeless families receive services from health and education, Children's Services and other support services as well as any other specific services, because with frequent moves they may become disengaged from services. For example a child who is not registered with a school or a GP will miss out on basic services such as health screening, eye tests, immunisations and basic education. A process must be in place in each CCG area to identify children not registered with a GP so that they can be signposted to a GP. There must also be a process in each area for children missing from education - see Children who go Missing Including from School Procedure.

Where a child who needs specific treatment misses appointments due to moves the problem may become an issue of Significant Harm.

Temporary accommodation, for example bed and breakfast accommodation or women's refuges, may be a location which is not secure and safe and where other adults are also resident who may pose a risk to the child.

All concerns of Significant Harm to a child should be referred to Children's Services in accordance with the Referrals Procedure.


9. Foreign Exchange Visits

Children on foreign exchange visits typically stay with a family selected by the school in the host country. Where this is for a period of less than twenty eight days they are not 'privately fostered'.

In these circumstances the only agency involved is Children's Services (Education), with the school making arrangements to select host families and to negotiate the provision of families abroad.

In the event that any child in a household is subject to a Child Protection Plan or is the subject of a Section 47 Enquiry, the household should (until there is a satisfactory resolution of concerns) be regarded by the school as unsuitable to receive a pupil from an overseas school.

Schools should take reasonable steps to ensure that relevant schools abroad take a comparable approach.

End