15.17 Safeguarding Looked After Children (children in care)
This policy was last reviewed in October 2022
Date of next review October 2024
- Section 47 Enquiry(Jump to)
- Reviews, Care Planning and Conferences(Jump to)
- Discontinuing Child Protection Plans(Jump to)
- Promoting well-being and positive identity(Jump to)
- Pre-birth Planning for Care Leavers(Jump to)
- Criminalisation of looked-after children(Jump to)
Section 47 Enquiry
If there is reasonable cause to suspect a Looked After child is suffering, has suffered or is likely to suffer Significant Harm, Children's Social Care should convene a Strategy Discussion, see Strategy Discussions
The need for a strategy discussion applies equally to looked after children and it should not be assumed that the child is safe because they are in care, or to assume that other existing procedures will effectively take the place of established child protection multi-agency working. To do so poses a risk.
Reviews, Care Planning and Conferences
There are however relatively few situations where safeguarding issues will remain and a Looked After child will also have a Child Protection Plan. These situations are likely to be where a local authority obtains an Interim Care Order but the child with 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.
Looked After Reviews and Child Protection Conferences may be held as combined meetings in order to ensure a coherent plan. Looked After Reviews can go by another name, depending on the part of the county you are working in, in some areas this is called Me and My World.
The plans made at Looked After Reviews must be consistent with the Child Protection Plan. This will ideally be achieved by the Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) who chairs the Looked After Review process also chairing the Review Conference. Where this is not possible the IRO should be involved in the Review Conference and the timing of both processes should coincide to ensure that the most up-to-date information informs overall care planning.
Where a Looked After Review or other local authority planning meeting proposes the return of a child on 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 reviewed and endorsed by the child’s IRO as part of a combined Looked After Review and Review Conference.
Where there is disagreement within the subsequent Child Protection Conference concerning a Looked After Child, the child’s IRO must be informed immediately and a decision made on whether or not to proceed with the plan made at the child in care review. The social worker should also bring the matter to the attention of their operational service manager. Professionals should always attempt to resolve differences at the lowest possible level. Where necessary, the child’s IRO will consider activating the dispute resolution process (IRO Handbook).
Where a child on 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.
The child’s IRO should be notified immediately of any significant events or proposed change impacting on the agreed care plan. The IRO must be consulted before any decision is reached to change the child’s care plan. In the IRO’s absence, the IRO manager must be consulted.
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 on a full Care Order.
Should the Care Plan for a Looked After Child subsequently include returning the child to the situation that previously resulted in the Child Protection Plan, a Looked After Review chaired by the child’s IRO should be convened. Consideration should be given to the child’s safeguarding needs and type of plan required. Active consideration should be given to a Family Group Conference.
Promoting well-being and positive identity
NICE has a guide for social workers and social care practitioners to help support the wellbeing of children and young people in care. The guide explains that a focus on wellbeing can improve outcomes and discusses building positive relationships, working through a child’s personal history and incorporating trauma-informed training for practitioners.
Record keeping in realtion to looked after children is very important, case recording is the child's story of what happend and why. Further support with case recording can be read in Underlying Policy, Principles and Values under the section on Case Recording.
Pre-birth Planning for Care Leavers
Please see - Pre-birth Planning for Care Leavers
Please see - Children/Young People Under 18 Who Become Parents
Criminalisation of looked-after children
There is also a National protocol on reducing criminalisation of looked-after children available.