Looked after children: legislation and national guidance
This statutory guidance provides clarification on the 'sufficiency duty' placed on local authorities under 22 (G) of the Children Act 1989 to secure sufficient accommodation to meet the needs of their looked after children and young people. It is designed to guide local authorities to: modify their commissioning practices to ensure they have sufficient accommodation to meet their needs; and ensure that they have a strategic plan around commissioning placements for their looked after population.
This national guidance clarifies the responsibilities of local authorities under section 20 of The Children Act 1989 and Part 7 of The Housing Act 1996 with regard to young people aged 16-17 years at risk of homelessness or requiring accommodation following the House of Lords judgement in R (G) v Southwark (2009) UKHL26. In particular, it concerns itself with the function sof children's services and housing services when young people seek help from or are referred to local authorities because of homelessness.
These documents specify the requirements for care plans, including health and education plans, placement decisions and monitoring, and case reviews. They consolidate previous regulations and guidance, providing a central source of reference for local authorities' work with looked after children.
When a child becomes looked after, either on a short-term or long-term basis, it is the duty of the Local Authority as a corporate parent, to safeguard and promote his or her welfare. This means that alongside planning secure and reliable care and responding to the child’s need to be well and healthy, local authorities have a specific responsibility to support their educational achievement. This document describes what local authorities need to do to demonstrate they are actively fulfilling their legal responsibilities to implement this duty.
This major piece of legislation established the principle that the welfare of the child is paramount, and placed a general duty on local authorities to safeguard and promote the welfare of children within their area. (Crown, 1989)
This act sets out legislation to improve outcomes for children and young people who are looked after by the state, or who are at risk of needing to be looked after. This includes a new duty on local authorities to secure sufficient accommodation for looked-after children. The effect of the act is to amend relevant sections of the Children Act 1989. (Crown, 2008)
This act aligns adoption law with the relevant provisions of the Children Act 1989, to ensure that the child's welfare is the paramount consideration in all decisions relating to adoption. It places a duty on local authorities to maintain an adoption service and provides a new right to an assessment of needs for adoption support services for adoptive families and others. (Crown, 2002)
This act strengthens provision for care leavers by placing a duty on local authorities to assess and meet the needs of young people aged 16 and 17 who are in care or care leavers, and to keep in touch with care leavers until they are at least 21. Each young person is expected to have a young person’s advisor to co-ordinate the provision of support and a pathway plan to map out a clear route to independence. (Crown, 2000)
Guidance and regulation
This guidance clarifies funding and other responsibilities and emphasises the need for local authorities, PCTs and SHAs to effectively commission health services for looked-after children in their area. The document gives background information and context for the guidance including recent statistical information and evidence from research and practice as well as information about how to commission effectively. (DCSF, DH, 2009)
Personal education allowances are intended to provide additional, personalised support to looked-after children who have been identified as at risk of not reaching expected standards of attainment. This guidance sets out how they should be used, including the scope that exists for local authorities to pool the budget for a group of their looked-after children where this would result in increased support. (DCSF, 2008)
This guidance seeks to transform current levels of educational attainment for looked-after children. It sets out the different elements that should be in place in a local authority to achieve this. One of the key elements is the appointment of a ‘virtual school head’ to track the schooling of every looked-after child and to ensure appropriate additional provision. (DCSF, 2009)
This guidance sets out the essential actions local authorities should take to comply with the duty to promote educational achievement. (HM Government, 2005)
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