16.1 Children Living Away from Home
Last reviewed in July 2023
Date of next review, July 2025
- Definition(Jump to)
- Essential Safeguards(Jump to)
- Foster Care(Jump to)
- Private Fostering(Jump to)
- Children in Residential Settings(Jump to)
- Foreign Exchange Visits(Jump to)
- Children in Custody(Jump to)
- Children of Families Living in Temporary Accommodation(Jump to)
- Young offender institutions, Secure Training Centres and secure children's homes(Jump to)
This policy deals with the safeguarding issues that arise when a child lives away from home - whether in a Local Authority foster placement, a private fostering setting, a children's home, armed forces bases, boarding schools (including residential special schools) or custodial settings.
The National Minimum Standards and Quality Standards contain specific requirements on safeguarding and child protection for each particular regulated setting where children live away from home.
For safegaurding children in hospital see - Safeguarding children in hospital | Sussex Child Protection and Safeguarding Procedures Manual
Every setting in which a child lives 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. Where services are not directly provided, these safeguards should be explicitly addressed in any contract with a service provider.
All settings must ensure that:
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 which should include representatives from both the placing Local Authority and the Local Authority where the child is living. There should always be a health representative in a strategy discussion, in most cases of a Child in Care this will be the child's named specialist nurse who will have access to the child's medical records.
At the Strategy Discussion it should be decided which Local Authority should take responsibility for the next steps, which may include a Section 47 Enquiry.
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 and families who move across Safeguarding Children Partnership Boundaries
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 Allegations Against People who Work with, Care for or Volunteer with Children Procedure will apply and a Strategy Discussion 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.
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.
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 are required to see children in foster care on their own and evidence of this should be recorded on the child's records.
It should also be noted that allegations or harm may involve other children or young people in the placement rather than the foster carers, in this case strategy discussions need to involve both children's teams.
All arrangements and regulations in relation to private fostering are set out in the Children (Private Arrangements for Fostering) Regulations 2005.
A private fostering arrangement is essentially one that is made without the involvement of a Local Authority for the care of a child under the age of 16 (under 18 if disabled) 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:
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.
Teachers, health and other professionals should notify the local authority of a private fostering arrangement that comes to their attention, where they are not satisfied that the arrangement has been or will be notified.
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 Making a Referral | Sussex Child Protection and Safeguarding Procedures Manual and the Child Protection and Safeguarding Children Procedures will be applied.
It is the duty of every 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 7 days of receiving notification that the arrangement has started . As part of this duty, the local authority is required to assess the suitability of the private foster carer and the private fostering arrangement. The Local Authority must also arrange to visit privately fostered children at regular intervals in accordance with the regulations. Children should be given the contact details of the social worker who will be visiting them while they are being privately fostered.
Children in Residential Settings
All residential settings where children and young people are placed must adhere to the Children's Homes Regulations 2001 (as amended by the Children's Homes (Amendment) Regulations 2015, associated guidance) and all other relevant regulations and to the relevant Quality Standards . Children in these settings are particularly vulnerable and must be listened to. Settings include:
Children under 16 who spend more than 2 weeks in residence during holiday time in a school, become privately fostered children for the purposes of the legislation during that holiday period.
A child who is Looked After or placed in any residential home, hospital or school (where they are receiving full-time education) is excluded from the Private Fostering definition.
The welfare and safety of children living in boarding school should be promoted and provided in line with Boarding schools: national minimum standards
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 in accordance with the Making a Referral. The concerns may range from bullying or abuse by other children to allegations against staff. Where the concerns relate to a member or members of staff and/or the care the child is receiving in the residential setting, Allegations against people who work with, care for or volunteer with children will apply and a Strategy Discussion will be held.
Foreign Exchange Visits
Children on foreign exchange visits typically stay with a family selected by the school in the host country and are vulnerable for reasons comparable to others living away from home.
Schools should not place a pupil from an overseas school with a:
Schools should take reasonable steps to ensure that relevant schools abroad take a comparable approach.
Where a professional is aware of a child, under 16 (or under 18 if disabled), who is staying or it is proposed will stay in a family for more than 28 days, they should make a referral to Children's Social Care because the child will be considered to be Privately Fostered. This imposes significant duties on both the providers of care and Children's Social Care - see 'Private Fostering' section above.
Children in Custody
The local authority has the same responsibilities towards children in custody as it does to other children in the local authority area.
Under the Legal Aid, Sentencing & Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, children who are remanded to Youth Detention Accommodation are considered to be looked after by the Local Authority and are managed within the statutory Looked After Children framework.
Young Offenders Centres which accommodate young people (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. Accordingly, if information comes to light, from whatever source, that a young person has suffered or is likely to suffer significant harm, the professional who receives the information or has a concern must report this immediately to the safeguarding manager, or equivalent designated safeguarding children professional, and the Governor. A referral to LA children's services should be made - 5.2 Making a Referral | Sussex Child Protection and Safeguarding Procedures Manual
The Police will inform safeguarding partners of a child arrest within 1 hour of the detention being authorised (not arrival) at a custody centre, both in and out of normal business hours.
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.
There is evidence that care experienced people have a lifelong increased risk of homelessness and associated risks of exploitation and subsequent involvement with the criminal justice system
It is important that effective systems are in place to ensure that children from homeless families receive services from health and education, social care and welfare support services as well as any other specific services, because with frequent moves the y 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 learning to read and write. Where a child who needs specific treatment misses appointments due to moves the problem may become an issue of Significant Harm.
Children’s services and housing services should work together to plan and provide services that are centred on young people and their families, and prevent young people from being passed back and forth between services.
This may include young people who have been in the care of the local authorityEvidence suggestsyougn people have better outcomes if they are accommodated either within previous foster placements or in the same geographical area. Either through the "stay put" or "stay close" schemes - Homelessness and Children’s Social Care in England
For more information see Provision of accommodation for 16 and 17 year olds who may be homeless and/or require accommodation
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 Social Care Services in accordance with Making a Referral
Young offender institutions, Secure Training Centres and secure children's homes
The Local Authority has the same responsibilities towards children in custody as it does to other children in the Local Authority area.
Under the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, children who are remanded to Youth Detention Accommodation are considered to be looked after by the Local Authority and are managed within the statutory LAC framework.
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 Partnership and local authorities. See the Standards set out in 'National Standards for Youth Justice Services 2013'.
All custodial settings which accommodate children should have internal policies and procedures, in line with these Procedures, to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. Accordingly, if information comes to light, from whatever source, that a young person has suffered or is likely to suffer significant harm, the professional who receives the information or has a concern must report this immediately to the safeguards manager or equivalent designated safeguarding children professional, and the Governor.
The Governor must ensure an assessment is undertaken by the safeguards manager or equivalent designated safeguarding children professional as soon as possible (but in any case within 12 hours) and overseen by the setting's safeguards committee. LA children's social care should be consulted for expert advice as required.
A referral to LA children's services should be made in line with Making a Referral. The Governor or the safeguarding manager / equivalent designated safeguarding children professional should participate in the strategy meeting / discussion. If the child is involved with a Youth Offending Team, their supervising officer should also participate.