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5.1.13 Matching Policy

Contents

1. Introduction
2. Legal Framework
3. Key Principles
  3.1 Risk Assessments
  3.2 Appropriate Matching Carers with Children or Young People
  3.3 Effective Assessment and Approval of Carers and Prospective Adopters
  3.4 Equal Opportunities and Valuing Diversity
  3.5 Training and Support of Carers and Prospective Adopters
4. Factors to be Considered in the Matching of a Placement for the Child
  4.1 Purpose of the Placement
  4.2 Length of Placement
  4.3 The Wishes and Feelings of the Child
  4.4 Partnership with Parents and Family Members
  4.5 Siblings
  4.6 Promotion and Maintenance of Contact Between the Child, Family, Friends or other Connected Persons   
  4.7 Diversity Issues 
  4.8 Educational Considerations  
  4.9 Health Considerations
  4.10 Past Experiences and Behavioural Needs
  4.11 Avoiding Delay
  4.12 Previous Placements
5. Factors in Relation to Choice of Carer
  5.1 Prioritising Factors in Matching a Child with a Placement
  5.2 Deciding a Match 
  Appendix 1
    Referral for Child to be Placed with Wirral Council Foster Carer
    Risk Assessment (Wirral Fostering Service)
  Appendix 2
    Independent Placement Referral Form


1. Introduction

Wirral Council aims to ensure that each child or young person for whom a placement is required is carefully matched with a carer(s) who is capable of meeting his/ her assessed needs. This procedure sets out the relevant factors which must be considered when placing a child and provides guidance about the way to identify the essential and desirable elements for any proposed placement so that it is possible to identify how closely a match can be made.


2. Legal Framework

This procedure addresses all matching in children’s services, including commissioned residential placements, fostering placements both emergency and planned and matching for permanent placements. It takes account of the following Legislative framework:

  • The Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010 (Care Planning Regulations - Regulation 22) and Associated Guidance;
  • The Care Leavers (England) Regulations 2010 and Associated Guidance;
  • The Children’s Homes (Amendment) Regulations 2011, Associated Guidance (Volume 5) and National Minimum Standards;
  • The Fostering Agencies Regulations 2011, Associated Guidance (Volume 4) and National Minimum Standards (Standard 11);
  • The Adoption Guidance and National Minimum Standards.


3. Key Principles

Wirral Council have recognised that good matching is strongly linked to placement stability and have adopted the following key principles when placing a child:

  • Thorough Assessment of the Child or Young People’s Needs;
  • An assessment of the child or young person need is made prior to any placement, communicated with all parties concerned and updated regularly.

3.1 Risk Assessments

It is essential that the Social Worker has assessed the risks to the child or presented by the child and had developed a risk management plan. These risks are encapsulated within the referral forms sent to either family placement team / contracts team (see Appendix 1 and Appendix 2). See factors to be considered in the matching a placement for the child - Past Experiences and behavioural needs and previous placements.

3.2 Appropriate Matching Carers with Children or Young People

Each child or young person placed in care or for Adoption is carefully matched with a carer capable of meeting her or his assessed needs.

3.3 Effective Assessment and Approval of Carers and Prospective Adopters

Each carer or Prospective Adopter is subject to and participates in a comprehensive assessment of his/ her ability to carry out their duty and be formally approved by the appropriate Local Authority before a child is placed in his/ her care.

3.4 Equal Opportunities and Valuing Diversity

Children and young people and their families are provided with care services which value diversity and promote equality.

3.5 Training and Support of Carers and Prospective Adopters

All carers are given the appropriate training, support, information and advice to enable him/ her to provide consistent, high quality and professional care to the child or young person placed with him / her.


4. Factors to be Considered in the Matching of a Placement for the Child

Wirral Council understands the importance of continuity of care for a child always considers the following factors as part of a child’s assessment and the development of their Care Plan:

4.1 Purpose of the Placement

In order to judge whether a carer or particular residential placement will be appropriate for a child the purpose of the placement must have been agreed. Children are looked after for a number of different reason and so for each child it will be important to consider:

  • Why they are being looked after;
  • What the intentions of the placement are;
  • Whether any specific tasks are required;
  • What the desired outcomes will be;
  • Whether these expectations are realistic;
  • What input is required from other agencies;
  • The view of other agencies using the placement should be ascertained and the needs of the child considered against other children in placement.

4.2 Length of Placement

It is important to identify the length of placement is likely to be required in order to ensure that if a child is successfully matched to a carer that they can remain in that placement for as long as they need to. It is not in the child’s best interest to experience frequent change of placements and can be damaging to their wellbeing. Predicting the length of the placement can sometimes be difficult therefore it is important where possible to build into the arrangements a certain amount of flexibility to take account of unforeseen developments.

4.3 The Wishes and Feelings of the Child

The child’s wishes and feelings must be ascertained having regard to his/ her age, understanding and situation. The level of a child’s participation in the process will depend on an assessment of their understanding and the quality of information they receive about the process. Sometimes in order to promote the welfare of a child it may be necessary to take a decision that is not consistent with his/ her wishes and feelings because they may be restrictive or unrealistic. The reasons for not acting on their views and wishes must be explained to the child.

4.4 Partnership with Parents and Family Members

The wishes and feelings of Parents and Family Members will always be considered.

The wishes and feelings of parents those with Parental Responsibility and any other person whose views are considered to be relevant must be taken into account. Parents in particular are likely to have specific knowledge about the needs of their child, which will be relevant to the matching process. Personal knowledge should be taken into consideration when assessing the needs of a child.

It will not always be possible to make decisions that parents and family members agree with. Parents will sometimes have different wishes from the child and their priorities for the child may also differ. Their views may be too restrictive or unrealistic. The needs of the child may be too complex and diverse that the choice of available carers are limited so it may not be possible to meet every requirement the parent may have.

4.5 Siblings

Unless the siblings are specifically assessed as needing to live separately Wirral will strive to keep the siblings placed together. If this is not possible good quality, regular contact sessions will be arranged, where appropriate and a placement will continue to be sought which will meet the needs of all the siblings.

4.6 Promotion and Maintenance of Contact Between the Child, Family, Friends or other Connected Persons   

Contact between family members or friends will be actively promoted to meet the child’s needs where it is reasonably practicable. It is sometimes damaging to the child wellbeing to have ongoing contact with specific family members. Where a decision has been made not to agree contact it must be clearly documented in the child’s Care Plan.

4.7 Diversity Issues

Wirral Council understand that it is not sufficient just to identify the ethnic background of a child it is also important to be aware of the implications of cultural elements which may affect the child, i.e. family culture, religion, language, community and society. These elements can influence the way in which child views the world. In today’s society people have very diverse mixed ethnicity and it is important that individuals take pride in all elements of their racial heritage.

A child’s needs would be most likely met if a match is made with a carer with similar ethnic origin and religion. This is because continuity of experience can more easily be met, as natural opportunities will arise for the child to share in their culture. Such a placement may also best facilitate contact with the natural family. However, these are not decisive factors in their own right and must be considered in relation to other significant factors as it would not be acceptable for a child to miss out on a placement solely on the grounds that a carer did not share the same race or culture.

When assessing the needs of a disabled child it will be necessary to consider whether special equipment will be required at the placement and whether adaptations will need to be made to the property. Carers should also be able to meet the child’s assessed needs in relation to their disability and have an understanding of the issues the child will face.

In prioritising factors in these areas consideration should be given to whether the decision will promote the child’s welfare and whether it is consistent with the child’s wishes and feelings.

4.8 Educational Considerations  

Wirral Council is required to promote educational achievement as an integral part ort of their duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of the children they look after. When placing a child consideration should be given to:

  • The child’s education history;
  • The need to achieve continuity in the child’s education;
  • What school year is the child in (particular efforts should be made not to disrupt young people in years 10 and 11 - key stage 4);
  • The need to identify any educational needs which the child may have;
  • Action which will need to be taken.

Every looked after child will have a Personal Education Plan which outlines the role of the teacher, Foster Carer and Social Worker

4.9 Health Considerations

Wirral Council is required to provide good health care for the child and make arrangements to monitor the child’s health care in accordance with the health plan. When placing a child considerations should be given to:

  • The child’s state of health;
  • The child’s health history and the effect of the child’s health and health history on his development;
  • Whether the child has any allergies;
  • Whether a child needs must be placed with carers who don’t smoke.

4.10 Past Experiences and Behavioural Needs

Consideration must be given to a child’s personality and overall patterns of behaviour and history of what has happened in their life so far. It is important to identify whether any additional support will be required to help the carer cope with, manage and where necessary modify the child’s behaviour. This should include consideration of the child’s relationship within and outside the family and the type and quality of rearing the child has experienced.

It is also important to identify whether the placement of a child poses possible risks to the carer and their own family (maybe necessary to check the criminal background of the child). Consideration should also be give to the support structures that the carer and the child are likely to require.

4.11 Avoiding Delay

Wirral Council recognises that delays in planning a placement can be detrimental to a child. Thought must be given to how urgently a placement is required. Some children may need to be moved into a place urgently, but in other cases it may be better to keep children where they are and wait until an appropriate placement becomes available.

4.12 Previous Placements

Consideration will be given by Wirral Council to information in relation to a child’s previous placements and the experiences they have encountered. This includes consultation with Independent Reviewing Officers.


5. Factors in Relation to Choice of Carer

When placing a child Wirral Council will take account of the skills and specific experience of the carer. In matching a child to a prospective carer, factors such as the age of the carer, the carer’s family composition and the likely impact that placing a child will have on the family will also be taken into account. Every effort will be made to ensure that carers are chosen who can meet the assessed needs of the child.

5.1 Prioritising Factors in Matching a Child with a Placement

Wirral Council will ensure that in situations of potential or actual conflict with the needs of the carer, parents and other family members, the key consideration which will be used to guide the process will be the wellbeing of the child.

The child’s Social Worker must be explicit about the essential and desirable factors of the placement.

The possibility of a placement with a relative or friends should always be explored before a decision is made to use another carer. A placement with a Wirral approved Foster Carer must also always be considered before considering an independent placement.

In order to assist social work staff in prioritising the relevant factors in matching, referral forms have been drawn up (one for Family placement and one for commissioned services - see Appendix 1 and Appendix 2)

For independent placements there are two ways in which a referral is made to the Contracts and Procurement Team:

  • Referral to the Contracts and Procurement Team is made as a result of a recommendation made by the Independent Placement Panel (IPP) chaired by the Senior Manager or the person delegated to deputise in their absence and approved by the Head of Specialist Services;
  • Referral to the Contracts and Procurement Team made out with IPP process, as a result of an emergency breakdown of present placement, this could be fostering, residential or family breakdown. This can only be done with approval of the Head of Specialist Services or the person delegated to deputise in their absence.

In respect of Residential Services - Children with Disabilities (CWD), this is completed via a panel process. Membership of the panel consists of Service Manager - CWD, Residential Manager, CWD Family Support Manager and Psychologist. The aforementioned matching considerations are discussed between the Social Worker and the panel members.

5.2 Deciding a Match 

Once all relevant information has been gathered the process of matching will then be to consider how far a particular carer meets the needs of a child.

Where it is proposed to use a carer approved by Independent Fostering Agency (IFA), the relevant Form F will be sent to Contracts Officer, who then forwards document to both the young person’s Social Worker and Duty Officer within family placement team. They will consider the detail in terms of matching requirements, It may also be appropriate to see the carer's most recent review.

The child's Social Worker should ensure the arrangements for the support and supervision of the proposed placement is agreed and satisfactory.

Regulation 24 of the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review Regulations 2010 allows for temporary approval of a connected person for up to 16 weeks while a full assessment is completed in accordance with the Fostering Services Regulations 2011. A connected person means Grandparent, Brother, Sister, Uncle or Aunt (whether full or half blood or by marriage or civil partnership), step parent or friend or other person who is connected such as a Childminder, Teacher or Youth Worker who the child knows in a more professional capacity. (See Children cared for by family and friends)

Consideration of the carer's suitability will be based on all the aforementioned matching factors.

No placement should be made with a commissioned residential provider before the reports from the Ofsted have been checked to ensure there are no concerns regarding assessment, approval and review. Commissioned providers will normally be derived from the North West providers (PIMS).

Details of the matching process including the names and views of those consulted must be recorded on the child's file in ICS. The specific elements of matching taken into consideration and areas where carers require additional support to compensate for any gaps in the match must also be recorded.

Once the most appropriate provision is commissioned the Social Worker should complete an Individual Placement Agreement (IPA), they are able to be assisted in the completion of this documentation by either Contracts Assistant or Manager - Residential and Resources. The IPA then forms the base from which a contract evaluation is completed and any issues are forwarded to the Senior Manager either directly or via the IPP process.

This Policy will be monitored and updated on an annual basis, utilising the collation of management information of placements. The effectiveness of the Policy will be indicated by:

  • The general progress of placements as indicated by review reports;
  • Level of breakdown;
  • Success of placements in facilitating rehabilitation, providing a permanent home.


Appendix 1

Click here to view Referral for Child to be Placed with Wirral Council Foster Carer.

Click here to view Risk Assessment (Wirral Fostering Service).


Appendix 2

Click here to view Independent Placement Referral Form.

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