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6.2.15 Child Arrangements Orders

This should be read in conjunction with Permanency Panel Procedure.

AMENDMENT

This chapter was updated in September 2014 following the introduction of Child Arrangements Orders in April 2014 by the Children and Families Act 2014 (which amended section 8 Children Act 1989). They replace Contact Orders and Residence Orders in private law proceedings.


Contents

1. Introduction
  1.1 Purpose
  1.2 Child Arrangements Order
  1.3 Who Can Apply for a Child Arrangements Order?
  1.4 Duration
  1.5 Variation / Discharge / Appeal
  1.6 Eligibility Criteria for Support
  1.7 Assessments
  1.8 Checks
  1.9 Permanency Panel
  1.10 Decision Making
  1.11 Representations
  1.12 Financial Support Agreement
  1.13 Reviews
  1.14 Education Issues
  1.15 Recording
2. Flow Diagrams Panel Process


1. Introduction

Child Arrangements Orders are one of a variety of options that the Local Authority may wish to consider for children in care in order to secure a stable permanent home for a child, other than with their birth parent. See Permanence Planning Guidance.

A Child Arrangements Order may be used to increase the degree of legal permanence in a placement with relatives or friends, or a long-term fostering placement, where this would be in the child's best interests.

Where a child would otherwise have to be placed with strangers, a placement with family or friends may be identified as a preferred option and the carers may be encouraged and supported to apply for a Child Arrangements Order where this will be in the best interests of the child.

Child Arrangements Orders are Private Law Orders which confer Parental Responsibility to the person who obtains the order, whilst Parental Responsibility also remains with anyone who had PR before the order was made, usually a parent. However the Local Authority cannot share PR under a Child Arrangements Order as any Care Orders are discharged on the making of the Child Arrangements Order.

The Child Arrangements Order decides who a child should live with and can be granted to more than one person. It is useful for situations where the plan is for more equal shared care arrangements with the parents than with Special Guardianship. It can be used to secure the place where a child will live, but allows flexibility about the exercise of PR.

The holder of a Child Arrangements Order does not have the right to consent to the child's Adoption nor to appoint a guardian; in addition, he/she may not change the child's name nor arrange for the child's emigration without the consent of all those with Parental Responsibility or the leave of the Court.

The Local Authority also has the discretion to provide financial support towards the cost of accommodation and maintenance of the child as a result of a Child Arrangements Order being made. However this will usually only be where the child has previously been in the care of the Local Authority or to prevent the child coming into care.

1.1 Purpose

This procedure details the criteria for the Local Authority to provide support to carers in applying for a Child Arrangements Order, the criteria for the provision of ongoing support and the process of assessment and decision making.

1.2 Child Arrangements Order

A Child Arrangements Order means a Court Order regulating arrangements relating to any of the following:

  1. With whom a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact; and
  2. When a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact with any person.

The 'residence' aspects of a Child Arrangements Order (i.e. with whom a child is to live/when a child is to live with any person) can last until the child reaches 18 years unless discharged earlier by the Court or by the making of a Care Order.

The ‘contact’ aspects of a Child Arrangements Order (with whom and when a child is to spend time with or otherwise have contact with) cease to have effect when the child reaches 16 years, unless the court is satisfied that the circumstances of the case are exceptional.

A person named in the order as a person with whom the child is to live, will have Parental Responsibility for the child while the order remains in force. Where a person is named in the order as a person with whom the child is to spend time or otherwise have contact, but is not named in the order as a person with whom the child is to live, the Court may provide in the order for that person to have Parental Responsibility for the child while the order remains in force.

The Court is able to make a Child Arrangements Order on its own motion - i.e. without an application for that order being made (An example would be where a Care Order was applied for but the Court made a Child Arrangements Order instead.) There is a presumption of no order unless the Court considers that to make an order would be better for the child S.1(5).

If the person(s) in whose favour a Child Arrangements Order is made is neither a parent or a guardian of the child, the order has the effect of conferring Parental Responsibility on him or her or them whilst the Order remains in force.

There are two categories of applicant for a Child Arrangements Order:

  • Those who can apply as of right - including any parent or guardian;
  • Those who apply having obtained leave of the Court to do so i.e. anyone else including the child.

In the case of Local Authority foster parents, unless they are a relative of the child, or the child has been with them for one year preceding the application, they must have the consent of the Local Authority to apply for leave of the Court, S.9(3).

The Local Authority cannot apply for a Child Arrangements Order, S.9(2) (Amended), but it can encourage other people to do so (including the child if they are of sufficient age and understanding) where the making of such an Order is a realistic alternative to the child becoming or remaining the subject of a Care Order.

1.3 Who can apply for a Child Arrangements Order?

  • A parent or guardian;
  • A party to a marriage (whether the marriage is subsisting or not) where the child was brought up as a child of the family;
  • A person with whom the child has lived for 3 years. (This need not be continuous but must not have started more than 5 years before or ended more than 3 months before the making of the application);
  • A Local Authority Foster Carer with whom the child has lived for 1 year;
  • Where a Child Arrangements Order is already in force, a person who has the consent of those in whose favour the Child Arrangements Order was made;
  • Where the child is Looked After, a person with the consent of the relevant Local Authority;
  • In any other case, a person who has the consent of all those with Parental Responsibility.
Anyone else who wishes to apply, including the child, must apply to the Court for leave to make the application for a Child Arrangements Order.

1.4 Duration

The making of a Child Arrangements Order can now be made until the child is 18 and will have the effect of discharging a Care Order.

1.5 Variation / Discharge / Appeal

Any person entitled to apply for a Child Arrangements Order can apply for its variation or discharge. Anyone else shall be entitled to do so if the Order was made on their application (S.10(6)).

A Child Arrangements Order is discharged by the subsequent making of a Care Order (S.91(2))

Appeal is to the High Court or, where applicable, the Court of Appeal.

1.6 Eligibility Criteria for Support

Schedule 1 paragraph 15 of the Children's Act states "Where a child lives, or to live with a person as a result of a Child Arrangements Order, a Local Authority may make contributions to that person towards the cost of accommodation and maintenance of the child".

According to the Wirral Council Policy on Financial Support for Special Guardianship and Child Arrangements Orders, financial support will only be considered if an assessment has taken place that one of the following exists.

  • Where it is necessary to ensure that the carer can look after the child;
  • Where the child needs special care which requires greater expenditure of resources by reason of illness, disability, emotional or behavioural difficulties, or the continuing consequences of past abuse or neglect;
  • Where the Local Authority considers it appropriate to contribute to legal costs, including Court fees for the person applying for a Child Arrangements Order or the discharge of such an order; or an application for any other order under Section 8 of the Children Act 1989; or an order for financial provision to be made to or for the benefit of the child;
  • Where the Local Authority considers it appropriate to contribute toward to the expenditure necessary for the purposes of accommodating and maintaining the child, including the provision of furniture and domestic equipment, alterations to and adaptations of the home, provision of means of transport, and provision of clothing, toys and other items necessary for the purpose of looking after the child.

The full Policy should be read along with the Payment of Legal Fees Procedure and the Provision of Suitable Accommodation to Meet the Needs of Children in Care Procedure when considering eligibility for financial support.

Financial support can be paid as:

  • Periodical payments to meet the need which is likely to give rise to recurring expenditure; or
  • A single payment; or
  • Payment by instalments.

Any ongoing financial support will cease to be payable to a person with a Child Arrangements Order if:

  • The child ceases to have a home with him;
  • The child ceases full-time education or training and commences employment;
  • The child qualifies for Income Support or job seeker's allowance in his own right; or
  • The child attains the age of 18.

All periodic payments are subject to annual review.

1.7 Assessments

Where Child Arrangements Orders are being considered as an option for permanency and securing Parental Responsibility for a child, and there is a need for a support plan, assessments must have been completed on both the child and carers.

The assessments must consider the following:

  • The developmental needs of the child;
  • The parenting capacity of the prospective applicants for Child Arrangements Order;
  • The viability of a long term placement;
  • The family and environmental factors that shaped the child's life;
  • What life might be like with the new family;
  • Any previous assessments;
  • The wishes and feelings of the child, the child's parents and any other relevant relatives about a Child Arrangements Order, the child's religious and cultural upbringing and contact with relatives;
  • The needs of the prospective applicants for a Child Arrangements Order.

The assessments must consider whether:

  • The continuing care of the child by the applicants of the Child Arrangements Order is in the child's best interests;
  • The applicants have raised concerns about their financial situation;
  • Financial help is necessary to assist the proper care of the child in its existing network;
  • The applicants would be eligible for legal aid.

Where financial support is being considered, the financial assessment officer must be contacted to carry out a full financial assessment. This financial assessment will consider the person's financial resources, their reasonable outgoings and commitments and the financial needs and resources of the child.

The applicants should be informed that any financial support requires presentation to a permanency panel who will make a recommendation to the Head of Specialist Services for approval.

Applicants for a Child Arrangements Order must be advised to seek benefit and tax advice. Referral can be made to the Welfare Rights Unit. Former foster carers may be eligible for benefits that they were not previously eligible for e.g. Child Tax Credits, Child Benefit etc. It is important that anyone claiming Income Support claims Child Tax Credit. In determining any financial support, the Local Authority can take into account any other grant, benefit, allowance, or resource which is available.

1.8 Checks

Where the Local Authority is considering supporting the application for a Child Arrangements Order and the provision of support services checks must be made on the prospective applicants for Child Arrangements Orders by the Fostering Service, unless checks have been made in the last 12 months

The checks to include

  • Enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service;
  • Health;
  • Education;
  • Probation;
  • NSPCC;
  • Specialist Services Locality Offices;
  • OFSTED;
  • Last employer;
  • All employers where the prospective applicant for a Child Arrangements Order has worked with children.
Medical checks should be carried out, but not medical examinations. This can be achieved by writing to the GP of the prospective applicant for a Child Arrangements Order, with their written consent, and ascertaining if there are may medical issues which may be a barrier to them caring for the child long-term.

1.9 Permanency Panel

When all the assessments are completed, the child's Social Worker must prepare a report, using the Report to Permanency Panel template, to present to the Permanency Panel. The report must contain sufficient information for the Permanency Panel to make a recommendation on the suitability of the carers to obtain a Child Arrangements Order for the child(ren), the appropriateness for the child(ren) to have a permanent home with the prospective carers with a Child Arrangements Order, the support plan and any financial support. The report must also contain the manager's comments and recommendations before presenting to panel.

The Social Worker must book an appointment to attend the Permanency Panel with the Permanency Panel administrator and all paperwork must be provided 5 working days before the panel date. The paperwork must include the report to permanency panel, the financial assessment spreadsheet, the support plan and if ready the draft Court report.

See Permanency Panel Procedure for further details about the role of the Permanency Panel and Report to Permanency Panel for further details about the paperwork and approval process.

1.10 Decision Making

The decision for all applications for Child Arrangements Orders and any support plans, including financial support will be made by the Head of Specialist Services following recommendations made by the Permanency Panel (see Permanency Panel Procedure). The Head of Specialist Services will make a decision within 7 working days of receiving the panel minutes.

The Head of Specialist Services will write to the prospective carers with Child Arrangements Orders detailing the proposed support plan, advise them of their rights to seek independent advice or advocacy and informing them that they have 28 days to appeal against the proposed decision.

A final decision cannot be made about provision of support services until representations by the carers with Child Arrangements Orders are considered.

1.11 Representations

Any representations by the carers with Child Arrangements Orders to change the proposed support plan will be considered initially by the Chair of the Permanency Panel. If there are changes in the circumstances the Chair of the Permanency Panel will consider referring the case back to the Permanency Panel to be considered. If there is no new information the case will be referred to the Director of Children's Services who will make the final decision.

1.12 Financial Support Agreement

When the Permanency Panel has recommended to pay financial support the financial assessment officer will prepare a financial agreement to be signed by the Head of Specialist Services.

After the Permanency Panel have considered the application for financial support and the Head of Specialist Services has approved the support, the financial agreement form (signed by the Head of Specialist Services) must be sent to the applicants. The carers with Child Arrangements Orders must sign and return one copy of the agreement to agree to the details of the payment.

No payments can start until the carers with Child Arrangements Orders have either agreed the financial support plan, or 28 days have lapsed since the decision was made about the support plan, whichever is the earliest.

A copy of the completed and signed Financial Agreement Form must be then sent to the Payments Administrator to enable processing of the correct payments.

1.13 Reviews

If support is being provided to the carer and child with a Child Arrangements Order the responsibility for any reviews of the support plan remains with the district team. Where the support plan includes financial support, the carer with a Child Arrangements Order must provide an annual statement of their financial circumstances, the financial needs and resources of the child, their address and whether the child still has a home with them.

The review of financial support will be undertaken by the financial assessment officer and the Payments Administrator.

1.14 Education Issues

When a Care Order has been discharged the Child in Care Education team must be informed, due to ending of the child in care status.

Additional support from education may need to be discussed with appropriate services such as Behaviour and Educational Support Teams (BEST), Learning Mentors, Educational Social Workers, SENCO and the continuation of Individual Educational Plans and Personal Educational Plan.

1.15 Recording

Information in relation to assessments for Child Arrangements Orders will be recorded on ICS. Where the child was previously in care it is important that the financial support is agreed and information provided to the Payments Administrator before the care order is discharged to ensure continuity of financial support payments.

Where support is being provided, the case must remain open to the relevant district team.


2. Flow Diagrams Panel Process

Click here to view Flow Diagrams Panel Process.

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