PART IV LOOKED AFTER CHILDREN CARED FOR BY PARENTS, REGULATIONS 8 AND 9
Regulation 8, Arrangements for children to be cared for by parents, etc
Children who remain at home under a supervision requirement are subject to all the care planning regulations in Part II, just like children who are placed away from home with kinship or foster carers or elsewhere. The same is true for children who are subject to a permanence order and living with their parents, or with other people who have parental responsibilities and rights under the order, such as kinship or foster carers.
The value of Part IV, with its focus on looked after children cared for by their parents or others with parental responsibilities and rights, is that it draws attention to the potential for adjusting the provisions in the regulations as a whole to take account of this particular group.
Many of these children will be subject to supervision requirements at home and most of those children will live in vulnerable situations where there are elements of risk, either because of the care offered to young children by their parents or because of the behaviour of other children, which behaviour places them or others at risk. This may be the starting point for planned intervention, where the balance of risks indicates that it is not essential to remove the children from the care of their parents, but compulsory supervision is required. A second group consists of children who are returning home after being looked after and placed, but areas of risk remain and home supervision is the next step in the plan.
Where children have been placed and accommodated under section 25 of the 1995 Act and are returning home, they will at that point no longer be looked after children and any support services that may continue to be helpful should be provided under section 22 of the 1995 Act, services to "children in need". Where necessary and where there are sufficient concerns, a referral may be made to the Principal Reporter when at or after the return home of a child, a supervision requirement is indicated.
Where the local authority has a permanence order for the child, and therefore the right to control residence, it is possible at a later date that they may consider that placement back with a birth parent would best meet the child's needs. In this case, unless the permanence order is revoked, the child remains a looked after child and the local authority retain their responsibilities and rights under the order and looked after duties to provide support and on-going services.
Local authorities should note that they cannot arrange for looked after children to live with their parents, or with other people who have parental responsibilities and rights, when children are looked after and placed in accommodation under section 25 of the 1995 Act, regulation 8(2).
Regulation 8(3) says that any arrangements local authorities make for looked after children to live with their parents, or with other people who have parental responsibilities and rights, must be subject to the terms of any existing supervision requirements, warrants, authorisations, or permanence or other orders. And local authorities must not make such arrangements if they return children to the care of people from whom they have been removed under an order, etc.
Children subject to home supervision
Aims of home supervision
The overall aim of home supervision is to promote beneficial changes in the life of the child while enabling him or her to remain at home. These changes may include reducing offending or reducing the risk of abuse or neglect or any other alterations in the circumstances for which the child was referred to a hearing in terms of the grounds for referral in section 52 of the 1995 Act.
Home supervision has the following objectives
- to provide effective measures for the care, protection, support, guidance, treatment or control of children living at home with their families;
- to enable children and their families to recognise and tackle successfully the difficulties and problems which led to the child being referred to a children's hearing;
- to reduce offending behaviour where this is an issue;
- to provide protection for children from others or from themselves, where this is an issue;
- to help ensure school attendance where this is an issue;
- to provide programmes of supervision which will maintain the confidence of Children's Hearing members and the public in the effectiveness of home supervision as an option;
- to provide programmes of supervision which aim to integrate the child in the community and maintain the confidence of the community.
Drawing up the plan
Children on home supervision must have a child's plan covering those matters laid out in regulation 5 and Schedule 2, Part I. The child's plan should be drawn up in close consultation, and, wherever reasonably practicable, in agreement, with the child and family. It should reflect the fact that the day-to-day care is undertaken by the family. The objective is to clarify and strengthen within the child's plan the arrangements for home supervision, so that all those concerned - the child, the parents and the local authority - know what to expect of the arrangements and what is required of them. Some children and families may resist the drawing up of the plan as part of resisting the need for compulsory measures of supervision. Some children may be too young. It should be recorded if it was not possible to obtain agreement to the plan from the child or his or her family.
The services required to address the needs of a child on home supervision generally are different from those of other children who are looked after. In deciding whether to make a supervision requirement and any conditions related to that requirement, the children's hearing will have decided that the child's welfare is best assured by living with their parents. The child's day-to-day care will remain the responsibility of the family. The social worker and others working with the family need to work closely with the child and family, to achieve the objectives for which the home supervision requirement was made.
Supervision requirement conditions set by the hearing may enhance the clarity and focus of the use of home supervision. The plan should build on the statutory requirements and will set out in detail how the objectives identified by the Children's Hearing are to be achieved. The plan should lay out clearly who is responsible for doing what, and what resources or services are to be employed. It should set out expected timescales for the allocation of cases, meetings with the family, drawing up of the child's plan and ongoing contact between the social worker, child and family during the period of the supervision requirement.
Planning Home Supervision Programmes
The decision to impose compulsory measures of supervision rests with the Children's Hearing and should be based on a report containing an assessment of the child and family's situation, and an indication of the options and outcomes considered best suited for the child, supported with reasons.
Planning for home supervision will vary depending on the age and the needs of the child and the grounds for referral. The supervision provided for a young child at risk of abuse will be very different from that provided for a fifteen year old who has offended. If home supervision is to be recommended to the children's hearing, the social worker needs to discuss this with the family and the child, taking account of his or her age and maturity.
When planning for the home supervision of a child who is the subject of actual or potential abuse, a protection plan will have been developed by an inter-agency child protection case conference, if the child is registered. This needs to be included in the report to the hearing, and reflected in the child's plan.
If there is an outline or suggested child's plan in existence before the Children's Hearing, this should be included in the report to the children's hearing. Where infants or very young children are involved, alongside arrangements to ensure their safety, attention should be paid to the key developmental concerns at this stage, recognising the long lasting impact of poor early attachments, neglect and exposure to domestic violence or chaotic care, even if this is not directed at the child. Growing knowledge of early brain development and the social and emotional needs of children indicate the importance of direct early intervention services to vulnerable children at home under supervision requirements, and also of addressing issues of parenting ability.
Where children are of school age, a report from the child's school should, as a general rule, be provided directly to the Children's Hearing. It should give as full a picture as possible of the child's situation as seen in his or her behaviour and performance at school. Liaison between the school and the social worker should take place in the preparation of the report.
The hearing should have information about how home supervision objectives are to be achieved and which techniques and services are to be used. A range of different approaches can be used in any supervision programme and the social worker needs to ensure that they are properly co-ordinated and effective in their delivery. This will require ongoing review. Collaboration between agencies and within the local authority is essential.
The methods used in home supervision may include
- family-based work;
- one-to-one work;
- group-work techniques;
- resources in the community.
After the Hearing
Once a Children's Hearing has made the decision to make a home supervision requirement, the social worker allocated by the local authority should
- if possible at the end of the hearing, see the family to discuss the terms of the supervision requirement; and
- arrange to visit the child and family immediately where there is a significant level of risk, but in any case within two weeks; and
- work with the family and the child to complete and write up the child's plan, specifying the frequency, location and nature of contact with the social worker.
The local authority should allocate a social worker to take responsibility for the case. This should be done immediately if the level of risk requires this or at least within two weeks if a social worker has not already been allocated.
Children's Hearings rightly expect that where they impose a supervision requirement, a child will receive the supervision which is required. It is unacceptable for a child not to be seen after a requirement for home supervision has been made. If it is impossible to implement a requirement, for example, by being unable to maintain the agreed contact because of a refusal to co-operate by the child and/or his or her family, the local authority needs to consider the best way to proceed and should hold a looked after child review. If this review concludes that the requirement is not being complied with a request should be made for an immediate review by a Children's Hearing.
The Child's plan
Local authorities should consider regulation 5 and the guidance provided on it. ( Child's plan)
For a child looked after at home, the plan should record:
- details of the supervision requirement;
- timescales for meeting of objectives and for reviews;
- how disagreements are to be dealt with;
- occurrences that would lead to a review hearing being arranged;
- any other plans relevant to the child, for example, child protection or a co-ordinated support plan for education.
Regulation 5(2) and (3) states who should be consulted and what the child's plan must include. The plan should, wherever reasonably practicable, be based on agreement between the child (where of sufficient age and maturity), the parents, the local authority and any other relevant parties, for example, the school. The plan will then represent a written agreement to which all can work. A plan must be drawn up even if the child or his or her family do not wish to become involved in this or if they disagree with some aspect of it. The social worker should seek to reach a position of agreement with the child and family on as many of the objectives of the home supervision requirement as he or she can, although the welfare of the child should remain the paramount consideration throughout.
Other family members may be included in the plan and so may the school and other professionals as appropriate, and they may also have statutory or agreed tasks. As a written document, the plan should wherever possible be signed by all the parties and a copy give to each of them. Regulation 5(4) states who must get a copy of the child's plan.
Delivering the Supervision Programme
The responsibility for ensuring that a supervision requirement is carried out lies with the local authority. Where the child's plan identifies roles for departments and agencies, the local authority should ensure they are committed to and undertake their allocated tasks.
The role of the social worker in home supervision is:
- to maintain contact at the level agreed in the care plan;
- to undertake direct work with the child and ensure that at all points the child's views are sought and listened to concerning intervention in his or her life;
- to work closely with the child's family, listen to their views and to ensure the child's needs are met and welfare ensured;
- to oversee the implementation of the child's plan and ensure the focus of work is on achieving its objectives;
- to co-ordinate the work of other professionals with the child and family as agreed in the child's plan
- to ensure that reviews of the child's plan are undertaken at least at the statutory minimum level in regulation 44 (guidance on PART XII REVIEW OF THE CHILD'S CASE, REGULATIONS 44 TO 47)
Where the child's offending is a key issue
Where the supervision requirement is based on offence grounds or where offending is a key issue, the social worker should in addition focus on the reasons for previous offending behaviour and how to ensure this does not re-occur. The worker will need to discuss with the child and family any failure to keep to the terms of the supervision requirement. If this failure is serious, a looked after review should be called. If this review concludes that the requirement is not being complied with, an early review hearing should be requested.
Where the child's protection is a key issue
Where protection is a key issue, the social worker should ensure that the child protection plan remains consistent with the home supervision requirement and the child's plan. The social worker should also ensure that the level of contact is maintained by all parties who are part of the protection plan, and keep in contact with other professionals such as school and health visitor. If further concerns are raised, and where necessary, child protection procedures should be initiated. In less urgent situations, an early looked after review should be held which may then conclude that a review hearing should be requested.
Failure to attend school
Where failure to attend school regularly is the problem, the social worker should obtain regular reports from school on attendance. Where school attendance remains a problem, this should initially be discussed with the school, and if there is no improvement again it may be necessary to call a looked after review. If this review agrees that the supervision requirement is not being complied with, an early review hearing should be requested.
Changes in circumstances
During the course of a supervision requirement, the circumstances of the child and family may change. New causes of concern may arise or new information may be obtained and these should be recorded by the social worker. Most changes may be accommodated during the course of the supervision requirement by consulting with the child and family, revising objectives and agreeing to amend the methods and services. Where, as a consequence of these changes, the local authority is of the view that the supervision requirement should cease or be varied, they should refer the case to the Principal Reporter, section 73(4)(a). This may include consideration of altering the child's living situation to have a condition to reside with suitable members of the child's kinship network, or in a placement provided by the local authority. Where this is a potential next step, wherever possible this should be discussed openly with the family and child, and addressed in a planned manner.
Ending and Withdrawing
The overall aim of a statutory supervision requirement is to enable the family and child to function satisfactorily so that compulsory measures of supervision are no longer required. The young person and family should therefore know the timescales to which they are working. The ending of compulsory measures of supervision does not mean that contact between the child and/or family and the social worker should automatically cease. During the final reviews, the social worker should discuss whether continuing support may assist the family when statutory supervision ends. Voluntary provision of services could be offered with explicit objectives and methods agreed by the child and his or her family.
When a young person ceases to be the subject of a home supervision requirement on or subsequent to his or her school leaving date, then the local authority has a duty under the aftercare provisions to advise, guide and assist the young person unless they are satisfied that his or her welfare does not require it, section 29 of the 1995 Act. For those young people on supervision at home the duty to advise, guide and assist applies just as much as for those placed away from home. Their needs may, however, be different and an assessment of those needs should be made before they cease to be looked after such as under the
Support and Assistance of Young People Leaving Care Regulations 2003.
The resources needed for high quality home supervision involve both direct social work and a range of services for children and their families. The resources available in any one local authority area will vary and competing demands will affect their availability. Local authorities should, where appropriate, establish shared services and services developed in partnership with the voluntary sector. Nevertheless, resources are finite and Children's Hearing members need to be kept informed about the resources available and any constraints. Discussions between the local authority and Children's Hearing members should take place regularly to discuss such matters.
Regulation 9, Notification of occurrences,
The duties in regulation 9, about notification of occurrences to the local authority, should be carefully explained to parents and others with parental responsibilities and rights, when children and young people are looked after at home. Local authorities' procedures should cover areas such as this as part of what should be provided to parents and children in writing about home supervision and supervision requirements generally.
Where kinship or foster carers have parental responsibilities and rights under a permanence order, they have duties under this regulation. However, they also have similar duties in terms of Schedules 5 and 6, respectively, as part of the Kinship Carer Agreements or Foster Carer Agreements which they have signed.