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6.1.17 Provision of Suitable Accommodation to Meet the Needs of Children in Care

Contents

  1. Principles of the Policy
  2. Procedure


1. Principles of the Policy

  1. The Children and Young People's Department have a responsibility to ensure that Foster Carers have appropriate accommodation or are able to secure appropriate accommodation themselves to fulfil their role;
  2. The Department must assess carers prior to any approval to ensure their accommodation is fit for purpose in relation to the terms of any approval. There may be circumstances that arise through an emergency that lead to placements being made where Foster Carers do not have the capacity in their home to care for a child in the long term. Care must be exercised when making such placements that they are short term only or that carers are able and willing to secure appropriate accommodation themselves;
  3. Expectations about what carers need to do in such circumstances must be clarified at the outset of the placement not introduced when Care Plans have been finalised in relation to permanence. Such an approach is costly to the Council;
  4. In placing children in care the accommodation requirements must be considered at an early stage to ensure that children have a reasonable living space or can share a bedroom appropriately in relation to the age and gender of the children placed and how long it is needed. According to National Minimum Standards for Fostering Services, Standard 10.6 each child over the age of three should have their own bedroom unless it has been agreed by each child's responsible authority and the wishes of the children concerned in sharing have been considered;
  5. The Department has to be in a position to finance any housing adaptation or development. Needs for such intervention have to be clearly evidenced including details of alternative means of meeting needs having been investigated. Any development has to be proportionate to need;
  6. The Policy is specific to Foster Carers with whom the local has placed a child in care. It does not include applications to adapt property for children with a disability.


2. Procedure

  1. The District Social Worker and Supervising Social Worker must identify at the onset of any placement of a child in care, that the carer has suitable accommodation to meet the child's needs relative to the Care Plan;
  2. If a need arises subsequent to the placement being made this must be explored with the carers, for example whether the child poses an increasing risk to another child he/she shares a room with, and a decision made about whether the placement should continue. A disruption meeting should be held at this stage;
  3. If children are to remain with carers subject to assessment and Care Planning process but accommodation needs remain, then a more detailed discussion over the issues and how they may be resolved should take place. Early discussions with the LAC Service Manager and District Manager are essential given risks and potential cost involved;
  4. The attached form provides a structure of questions that help establish solutions with the Foster Carers that may not require development of their property. These must be a primary focus for the LAC Service Manager and District Manager to work together in such cases;
  5. In exceptional circumstances, consideration is given to a development or adaptation of a carers home (whether owner or tenant).

Following consideration of the relevant application form:

  • Either the Senior Manager will recommend further action and return it to the LAC Service Manager to carry out; or
  • He / she will recommend the application proceeds to the Permanency Panel for a recommendation and a meeting with the Head of Specialist Services and the Director.

If not approved - A written explanation will be provided to the LAC Service Manager who will meet with the carer to explain the reasons for the decision.

If it is supported - A decision will be taken by the Director of Children's Services as to whether the case needs to be presented to full cabinet for approval or not and will proceed on that basis.

For Home Owners

There will be a charge against the property at the level borrowed. The charge will be interest free provided the carers continue to look after the child/children in care until they reach 18; or 16 if the child elects to live independently. If the carers relinquish care prior to this then interest will be charged from the point the placement ended.

If more than one child in care is placed but only one child's placement ends before he/she is 18 (16 if the child elects to live independently) then a proportion of the interest will be charged. For example if three children are placed and one disrupts one third of the interest is charged from the date the child moves.

If the child leaves after 16 on a voluntary basis or after 18, no interest is payable

Upon death of the home owner, the capital is repayable if both Foster Carers die or voluntarily leave the property or it is otherwise sold.

The charge can be transferred if the carers choose to move house provided the child (or children) in care is/are under 18 and remain in their care. If for example one of three children placed is over 18 when the carers move and either has left the home or remains with them this will not affect the position over transferring the charge as two children remain in their care who are under the age of 18.

A legal agreement must be drawn up prior to any funds being released for any development on the basis of this Policy.

If the Carer is not a Home Owner

These are even more exceptional in a nature and generally the principle is to support a move of tenancy. The properties do not yield a recovery of the sum invested as the carers do not own them and this is a significant factor in considering the viability of financing such development. In addition Registered Social Landlords are not enthusiastic about such developments as they can affect re-letting prospects. There is also no penalty that the Local Authority can impose, if a carer relinquishes the tenancy or the care of the child/children.

Where there is a case however, terms of indemnity have to carefully composed by Borough Solicitors and legal representatives for the Housing provider. In such instances the matter should be routinely referred to Cabinet given the financial risks involved.

Such cases may be considered where the risks are reduced by the carer applying to adopt of become a Special Guardian for a child in their care.