8.23 Looked After Children
Section 47 Enquiry
In any situation in which there is reason to suspect that a Looked After child is suffering or is likely to suffer Significant Harm, a formal Section 47 Enquiry must be initiated.
Reviews, Care Planning and Conferences
In most cases where a child who is the subject of a Child Protection Plan becomes Looked After, it will no longer be necessary to maintain the Child Protection Plan - see Discontinuing the Child Protection Plan.
There are however a relatively few cases where safeguarding issues will remain and a Looked After child will also have a Child Protection Plan. These cases are likely to be where a local authority obtains an Interim Care Order but the child subject to a Child Protection Plan remains at home, pending the outcome of the final hearing; or where the child's behaviour is likely to result in Significant Harm to themselves or others.
Where a Looked After child remains the subject of a Child Protection Plan, consideration should be given to how best to ensure that the child protection aspects of the child's Care Plan are reviewed.
Looked After Reviews and Child Protection Conferences are separate meetings with different purposes. The plans made at Looked After Reviews must be consistent with the Child Protection Plan and this may be achieved by the Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) who chairs the Looked After Review also chairing the Review Conference. Where this is not possible the IRO should attend the Review Conference and the timing of both processes should coincide to ensure that the most up-to-date information informs the overall care planning process.
Where a Looked After Review or other local authority planning meeting proposes the return of a child subject to a Child Protection Plan to their parents or carers - or any other change which might significantly affect the level of risk - the decision (unless this formed part of the original protection plan) must not be implemented until it is considered by a Review Conference.
Where there is disagreement within the subsequent Child Protection Conference the situation must be brought to the attention of the operational service manager, who in consultation with the senior child protection manager, will decide whether or not to proceed with the plan made at the child care review.
Where a child subject to a Child Protection Plan is removed from accommodation by parents or where a child in care is returned to parents or carers in court proceedings, against the recommendation of the local authority, a Review Child Protection Conference must be convened to consider the risks to the child and the implications for the Child Protection Plan.
If necessary the local authority must take action to protect a child prior to a Review Conference. This must not be delayed until a Review Conference is convened if a Section 47 Enquiry or assessment indicates it is required sooner.
Discontinuing Child Protection Plans
When a Looked After child is no longer living in the situation which gave rise to the child protection concerns that resulted in the Child Protection Plan, and there is no current plan for them to be returned, the Child Protection Plan should be discontinued by the decision of the Review Conference. This would automatically apply if the child is subject to a full Care Order.
Should the Care Plan subsequently include returning the Looked After child to the situation that previously resulted in the Child Protection Plan, consideration should be given to holding a Child Protection Conference first to consider if a Child Protection Plan is required.