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5.6 Children Living Away from Home (including Children and Families living in Temporary Accommodation)


Contents

  Introduction
  Essential Safeguards
  Children in Foster Care
  Children Placed for Adoption
  Children in Residential Settings
  Children of Families Living in Temporary Accommodation


Introduction

  1. Revelations of the widespread abuse and neglect of children living away from home have done much to raise awareness of the particular vulnerability of children living away from home. Many of these revelations have focused on sexual abuse, but physical and emotional abuse and neglect - including peer abuse, bullying and substance misuse - are equally a threat in institutional settings.
  2. Concern for the safety of children living away from home has to be put in the context of attention to the overall developmental needs of such children, and a concern for the best possible outcomes for their health and development. Every setting in which children live away from home should provide the same basic safeguards against abuse, founded on an approach that promotes their general welfare, protects them from harm of all kinds, and treats them with dignity and respect. These values are reflected in regulations and in the National Minimum Standards for Children's Homes, which contain specific requirements on safeguarding and child protection for each particular regulated setting where children live away from home.
  3. Procedures for safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children apply in every situation, and to all settings, including where children are living away from home. Individual agencies that provide care for children living away from home should have clear and unambiguous procedures to respond to potential matters of concern about children's welfare in line with the procedures in Part 3, Managing Individual Cases where there are concerns about a child's safety or welfare.


Essential Safeguards

  1. There are a number of essential safeguards that should be observed in all settings in which children live away from home, including foster care, residential care, Private Fostering, armed forces bases, healthcare, boarding schools (including residential special schools), prisons, Young Offenders' Institutions, Secure Training Centres and secure units. Where services are not directly provided, essential safeguards should be explicitly addressed in contracts with external providers.
  2. These safeguards should ensure that:
    • Children feel valued and respected and their self-esteem is promoted;
    • There is openness on the part of the institution to the external world and to external scrutiny, including contact with families and the wider community;
    • Staff and foster carers are trained in all aspects of safeguarding children, alert to children's vulnerabilities and risks of harm, and knowledgeable about how to implement safeguarding children procedures;
    • Children who live away from home are listened to, and their views and concerns responded to;
    • Children have ready access to a trusted adult outside the institution - e.g. a family member, the child's social worker, or children's advocate. Children should be made aware of the help they could receive from independent advocacy services, external mentors and ChildLine;
    • Staff recognise the importance of ascertaining the wishes and feelings of children and understand how individual children communicate by verbal or non-verbal means;
    • There are clear procedures for referring safeguarding concerns about a child to Children's Social Care;
    • Complaints procedures are clear, effective, user-friendly and are readily accessible to children and young people, including those with disabilities and those for whom English is not their preferred language. Procedures should address informal as well as formal complaints. Systems that do not promote open communication about 'minor' complaints will not be responsive to major ones, and a pattern of 'minor' complaints may indicate more deeply seated problems in management and culture that need to be addressed;
    • Records of complaints should be kept by providers of children's services - e.g. there should be a complaints register in every children's home that records all representations or complaints, the action taken to address them and the outcomes. Children should genuinely be able to raise concerns and make suggestions for changes and improvements, which should be taken seriously;
    • Bullying is effectively countered;
    • Recruitment and selection procedures are rigorous and create a high threshold of entry to deter abusers;
    • There is effective supervision and support that extends to temporary staff and volunteers;
    • Contractor staff are effectively checked and supervised when on site or in contact with children;
    • Clear procedures and support systems are in place for dealing with expressions of concern by staff and carers about other staff or carers. Organisations should have a code of conduct, instructing staff on their duty to their employer and their professional obligation to raise legitimate concerns about the conduct of colleagues or managers. There should be a guarantee that procedures can be invoked in ways that do not prejudice the 'Whistle-blower's' own position and prospects;
    • There is respect for diversity, and sensitivity to race, culture, religion, gender, age, sexual orientation and disability;
    • Staff and carers are alert to the risks of harm to children in the external environment from people prepared to exploit the additional vulnerability of children living away from home.


Children in Foster Care

  1. Where children are cared for in foster care placements it involves children being in the private domain of carers' own homes. It is important that children have a voice outside the family. Social workers are required to see children in foster care on their own (taking appropriate account of the child's views), and evidence of this should be recorded.
  2. Carers should be provided with full information about the child and his/her family, including details of abuse or possible abuse, both in the interests of the child and of the foster family.
  3. Carers should monitor the whereabouts of the children they care for, their patterns of absence and contacts. Foster carers should follow the recognised procedure of their agency whenever a child placed with them is missing from their home. This will involve notifying the placing authority and where necessary the police of any unauthorised absence by a child.
  4. The procedures in Part 3 of the manual relating to Managing Individual Cases where there are concerns about a Child's Safety or Welfare, apply on the same basis to children in foster care as they do to children who live within their own families. In addition any allegations should be dealt with in line with the Allegations Against Persons who Work with Children (including Carers and Volunteers) Procedure. In these circumstances, Section 47 Enquiries should consider the safety of any other children living in the household, including the foster carers' own children. The local authority in which the child is living has the responsibility to convene a Strategy Discussion, which should include representatives from the responsible local authority that placed the child. At the Strategy Discussion it should be decided which local authority should take responsibility for the next steps.


Children Placed for Adoption

  1. There is a particular vulnerability about children who are placed for adoption but not yet adopted in that they are almost, but not quite in the category of no longer Looked After, and there is a risk that safeguarding concerns in respect of the prospective adoption may be missed. It is very common for these children to be placed at a significant distance from their home authority, making intense monitoring of the placement more challenging.
  2. Where an allegation of abuse or neglect is made in respect of a child placed for adoption or in respect of a prospective or approved adopter, the following actions must be taken:
    • Where a child is placed with prospective adopters, a prompt referral must be made to the placing authority and/or local authority where the child is placed (if different) if any allegation of abuse or neglect is received, in order for it to be investigated under that authority's procedures;
    • Where Section 47 Enquiries are made in respect of a child by the local authority where they are placed, full co-operation must be given by any other authority with information about that child;
    • Where the child is not placed with prospective adopters, there must be a prompt referral to the local authority where the main office of the Adoption Agency concerned is based, in respect of any allegation of abuse or neglect relating to the prospective adopters;
    • The Regulatory Authority must be notified of the instigation and outcome of any Section 47 Enquiry;
    • Consideration must be given as to the implications of the outcome of any allegation, and any necessary measures taken in order to protect children placed with prospective adopters in line with the Allegations Against Persons who Work with Children Procedure (including Carers and Volunteers);
    • Adoption agencies must ensure that appropriate individuals working for the purposes of the agency, prospective adopters and children placed by the agency have access to any necessary information to enable them to contact local authority where a child is placed, plus the Regulatory Authority in respect of any concern about child welfare or safety relating to an adoptive placement.


Children in Residential Settings

  1. All residential settings where children and young people are placed, including children's homes and residential schools, whether provided by a private, charitable or faith based organisation, or a local authority, must adhere to the Children's Homes Regulations 2001 and all other relevant regulations and to the relevant Quality Standards.
  2. Clear records must be kept and reviews and inspections must take place in accordance with Quality Standards and regulations.
  3. All such establishments must have in place complaints procedures for children and young people, visiting and contact arrangements with social workers and Independent Visitors (for looked after children), as well as parents, advocacy services.
  4. Social workers have a legal duty to see children in residential care who are looked after, and evidence of this should be recorded on the child's records.
  5. Where there is reasonable cause to believe that a child in a residential setting has suffered or is at risk of suffering Significant Harm, a referral must be made to Children's Social Care in accordance with the Referral Procedure. The concerns may range from bullying or abuse by other children to allegations against staff - see Bullying Procedure, Peer Abuse Procedure and, where the concerns relate to a member or members of staff and/or the care the child is receiving in the residential setting, the Allegations Against Persons who Work with Children (including Carers and Volunteers) Procedure will apply and a Strategy Meeting will be held.
  6. When the concerns relate to a looked after child placed in residential care outside the area of the responsible local authority - see Transfer Across Local Authority Boundaries Procedure.
  7. Where the concern arises in relation to a looked after child's placement, the local authority for the area where the child is placed also has responsibility to ensure that other local authorities who also have placed children in the same residential setting are aware of the concern or allegation and that consideration is given to protection of other children in the placement. They should also inform the Regulatory Authority.


Children of Families Living in Temporary Accommodation

  1. Placement in temporary accommodation, often at a distance from previous support networks or involving frequent moves, can lead to individuals and families falling through the net and becoming disengaged from health, education, social care and welfare support systems. Some families who have experienced homelessness and are placed in temporary accommodation by local authorities under the main homeless duty can have very transient lifestyles. It is important that effective systems are in place to ensure that the children from homeless families receive services from health and education as well as any other specific types of services because these families move regularly and maybe at risk of becoming disengaged from services.
  2. Where there are concerns about a child or children the procedures in Part 3 of the manual relating to Managing Individual Cases where there are Concerns about a Child's Safety or Welfare should be followed.
  3. If any professional is made aware that the temporary accommodation being provided for a child is unsuitable they should follow their agencies internal procedures in respect of notifying the local authority housing department of the need to take action.

End