Looked After Children guidance
Sometimes Social Services arranges for children and young people to live away from home. This may be with the agreement of your parents or because we think it is safer for you. When we arrange for children and young people to live away from home the law calls them ‘looked after’ children.
Your feelings about being looked after
When children and young people become looked after, they tell us that they have lots of feelings and can be worried about what’s going to happen next. But it is different for different people.
If you would like to send the service a message or complaint, contact us directly or call us.
Whatever you are feeling right now there are some important things you should know:
- you will be involved in the decisions about what happens next
- there are people you can talk to, like your social worker and carers
- your social worker will visit regularly to check you’re okay.
When we get involved in looking after you, we have to write down what we will do to help you. This is called a care plan.
A care plan says:
- why you need to be looked after
- how long you will be looked after
- who you are going to live with and where
- what contact you will have with your family and friends
- what needs to happen to help you stay healthy
- what help you need to do well with your education
- anything else that is important to you and your care.
You care plan
It says we're going to support your:
- contact with family and friends
- parents or guardians to help look after you.
Creating your care plan
Your parents or guardians and social worker should be involved in writing your care plan and placement agreement. You will be involved if you are old enough to understand what is happening. A care plan and placement agreement should be written within ten days of you being looked after.
Once written, copies will be given to you, your parents or guardians, and the people who are looking after you.
Some people who are looked after have a care order. A care order is made by the court, which gives us responsibility for caring for you. Your parents or guardians can keep their parental responsibility too. This means that we share legal responsibility for you with your parents or guardians for as long as the care order is in place.
If you have a care order
Your parents or guardians cannot take you home unless we agree to it. Your parents or guardians have the right to apply to the court to end the care order.
If you do not have a care order
There is no care order when your parents or guardians have arranged for us to look after you. Your parents or guardians may take you home at any time. It is best for this to be planned by talking with your social worker and the people who are looking after you.
A placement agreement tells you what happens day to day where you live. It includes things like your living arrangements, allergies, and health issues. It also explains things like who you will be able to see or not see, pocket money allowance, times in and out and travel.
If you agree with your plan, you will be asked to sign a form. You do not have to agree with the plan.
Placement agreement meeting
This is the meeting where your care plan is agreed. It is run by your social worker’s manager. It should happen just before you move to your new placement or, at the very latest, in the first week that you are there. You will be invited to this meeting with your parents and carers. Sometimes your carers’ own social worker will also come to this meeting. You should be asked for your wishes, feelings and views. These should be listened to. This doesn’t mean we can always do what you want. However, what we can promise is to explain the reasons for any decisions that are made.
Placement information record
This form is used to write down what needs to happen to make sure you get what you need on a day-to-day basis.
The forms cover:
- Staying healthy.
- The days, times and how you will travel to see family and friends.
- How you will get to school.
- The clubs, activities and hobbies that you would like to take up or continue.
- Any support you need to meet your religious, racial and cultural needs.
- How often you will see your social worker.
You will help decide these things with your social worker and carer. You will be given copies of these plans.
Review meetings happen to make sure the plans that are made for you are carried out and to think about whether changes need to be made to these plans. Your first review should happen within four weeks of you moving to your placement. Another review happens three months later and then every six months.
Your social worker should speak to you before your review to ask you:
- who you think should be there
- where it should happen
- what things you think need to be talked about.
Whether you want a person, like an advocate or friend, to come with you to help you say what you want to say
Who will be at my review
You are the most important person to be there and you should come to every one so that you can have your say. We want you to feel able to talk at your review so we try to keep the meeting as small as possible.
This is a list of other people who usually come to reviews:
- independent reviewing officer (who runs the meeting)
- foster carer or keyworker
- social worker
The independent reviewing officer takes notes of the meeting. Everyone who is there gets a copy of these once they have been written. If you or your parents don’t come to this meeting, you still get to have a copy of the notes.
Leaving care or transitioning to adult social care
Planning for leaving care takes time and you won’t be expected to move on until you are ready.
When you reach 16 years of age, the law says you should have a personal advisor whose job is to help you prepare and plan for your future. Your personal advisor will usually be a social worker.
Your personal advisor will help you to complete a pathway plan. This helps you think about what you need to do to get ready to leave care.
The plan covers:
- who will support you after you leave care
- where you will live
- your plans for going to college or getting a job
- what practical skills you need to learn, like managing money, cooking, paying bills
- what money you will get and from where
- your health
- any other help you might need.
If you leave care after you are 16 yeas old, Children's Services will help and advise you until you turn 21 years old (or 24 years old if you are in full-time education).
You have a right to:
- be involved in all decisions made about you and your life
- be treated with respect
- be treated fairly
- be listened to
- be healthy
- be safe
- have an education
- have an advocate
- see your social services file
- complain if there are things you are not happy about
- if you don’t see your family very much, you have the right to an independent visitor.
Your social worker must:
- put your safety and wellbeing first
- listen to your wishes and feelings
- involve you in all the decisions made about you and your life
- make a clear plan for your future
- give you a copy of this plan
- check that the plan is working by
- reviewing it
- talk to your parents about this plan and about other important things that are happening in your life
- help you keep in touch with your family and friends.
How to get something stopped, started, or changed
If you want something stopped, started, or changed, you can talk to your social worker, carer, an advocate, or anyone else whom you think might be able to help you.
Your social worker is there to help you and should work hard to sort out any problems or concerns that you have. This doesn’t mean they will always be able to do what you want. However, they should be able to explain the reasons for any decisions that have been made.
Advocacy can also help you get something stopped, started, or changed.
An advocate will:
- listen to you and give you information to help you make choices
- help you to speak up for yourself
- help you have a say in decisions made about your life
- be honest about what they can and cannot do
- put you first, work for you and only you.
How do I get an advocate
NYAS (National Youth Advocacy Service) is the local children’s rights and advocacy service. It is independent and not part of Children's Services. It is free and confidential.
When you start to be looked after, you will be given a leaflet and details of how to contact NYAS. Alternatively, your social worker can contact them on your behalf. You may find it useful to talk with an advocate before each review, to discuss if there is anything they can do to help you to have your say.
If you want to contact an advocate at any other time, call 0300 303131, or ask your social worker to get in touch for you.
You can also visit the NYAS website for more information.
Making a complaint with Children's Services
If you are concerned about the way you are being treated or any of the decisions that are being made by social services, you have the right to complain.
How to make your complaint heard
You can do this by:
- filling in a complaint form which you get from your social worker or reviewing officer
- you can get in touch with the Children's Rights and Participation Officer.
The Children's Rights and Participation Officer would also like to hear from you if you have:
good experiences of being looked after and the workers who you have really helped you or you enjoyed working with
- a suggestion about how we could do things better.
Even small suggestions can make things a lot better for you or other children and young people.
Contact the Children's Rights and Participation Officer, email@example.com.
What happens next
If you make a suggestion or comment of any kind about our social services, we will make a note of what you say and get in touch to explain what we do with that information.
If you make a complaint about Children's Services, the complaints manager will contact you to let you know your complaint has been received and what will happen next.