In all cases the first and most important factor to consider is the child's safety. Should there be any concern that the child may be at risk, it is essential that local child protection procedures are followed.
All children and young people who are privately fostered are potentially vulnerable. Children are recognised in law as a vulnerable group in our society who require additional protection from the risks posed to them by different forms of harm, therefore a child-specific response is necessary. Therefore if there is any suspicion that the child is at risk, then police and social work services should be contacted.
Getting it Right for Every Child (GIRFEC) is the national policy aimed at improving outcomes for all children and young people. It provides the overarching approach to support delivery of all other policies for children, young people and families. The wellbeing of children and young people is at the heart of GIRFEC.
The GIRFEC approach uses eight wellbeing indicators in which children and young people need to progress in order to do well now and in the future. These eight wellbeing indicators defined as - safe; healthy; achieving; nurtured; active; respected; responsible; and included. GIRFEC provides a common language for practitioners.
The GIRFEC approach includes having a named person for every child, from birth (or sometimes before), until they reach 18 years of age. A named person will normally be as follows:-
- Birth - at this early stage, the most appropriate named person for the child is the midwife who currently records personal information for use within their own agency, to be shared with other agencies when appropriate.
- Shortly after birth up to school age - The midwife would transfer any record to the public health nurse or health visitor who could then take on the role of named person. They would remain the named person until the child reaches school age (typically 5) and would be the point of contact for any person who may have a concern about the child pre-school.
- At school - once the child starts school, the role of the named person would transfer from health to education. In primary schools, this may be at Head or Depute level. In secondary school, it might be a member of the senior management team who has lead responsibility for pupil support, and then delegated to a member of staff with a pastoral remit for the child, such as a guidance/pastoral care teacher.
The Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill, was introduced to Parliament in April 2013. The Bill seeks to formally legislate for the named person role. The functions of a Named person are described as:
"Doing such of the following where the named person considers to be appropriate in order to promote, support or safeguard the wellbeing of the child or young person:
(i) advising, informing or supporting the child or young person, or a parent of the child or young person;
(ii) helping the child or young person, or a parent of the child or young person, to access a service or support; or
(iii) discussing, or raising, a matter about the child or young person with a service provider or relevant authority"
The named person will be part of a network of support and will themselves be supported by the management framework and procedures in place within the health boards, local authorities and partnerships.
The named person will record and action any concern about a child's wellbeing that has come to their attention, either through their own knowledge of the child or if a concern is raised by another service or from within their own organisation.
Once a concern has been brought to their attention, the named person - who will be the first point of contact for the child and their family - needs to take action, help or arrange for the right help in order to promote the child's development and wellbeing. The named person will, due to their role, have an oversight of known issues in the child's life and will be able to use that oversight, in collaboration with other services, to make a professional judgement on the most appropriate and proportionate course of action. In the case of a child subject to private fostering arrangements this will mean that the named person may be best placed to assess any risk to the child's wellbeing.
The overarching governing principle when making decisions in relation to private fostering arrangements will be ensuring the safety and wellbeing of any children involved. The purpose of this guidance is to help provide a consistent approach to local authority Children's Services across Scotland in carrying out their statutory responsibilities in relation to private fostering arrangements.
The guidance also highlights the responsibility of local authorities to raise awareness regularly to help identify any further private fostering arrangements within local areas and ensure private foster carers receive any support required to ensure the wellbeing needs of any child living in a private fostering arrangement are being met and that no child is overlooked.
While follow-up procedures are for local authority children's services staff, the private nature of these arrangements means that they may first come to the attention of the named person, housing or services within the wider community. These services too will need to be reminded regularly of their responsibility to ensure the wellbeing of any children under their supervision and to act appropriately.
Complementary to this guidance two leaflets have been prepared; one to be used in raising awareness and providing information for services in contact with children; the other to provide information for parents and carers on requirements related to children being privately fostered. These can be found on the Scottish Government website
The guidance also aims to address some areas of confusion reported in relation to private fostering, as well as highlight potential areas of risk where private fostering arrangements may not have been brought to the attention of local authorities purposefully, leaving some children in potentially vulnerable circumstances.