Supplementary memorandum submitted by
the Children's Services Development Group (CSDG)
Government amendments to Children and Young Persons
Bill"Provision of accommodation and maintenance for
children who are looked-after by a local authority"
The Government have tabled a new amendment to
replace clauses 7-10 of the Children and Young Persons Bill. This
amendment sets out local authorities' duty to accommodate children
in care. In summary, the new amendment states that:
1. A looked-after child should be placed
either with a parent, someone who is not a parent but has parental
responsibility, or someone who was awarded care of the child under
a Residence Order prior to the Care Order being made.
2. This applies unless it is not "consistent
with the child's welfare", or "reasonably practical".
3. If that is the case, the child should
be accommodated in a placement which is "in their opinion,
the most appropriate placement available".
4. Placements are defined as one of the
following types of accommodation:
A relative, friend or other individual
connected to the child (who has been approved as a local authority
A local authority foster parent (ie
one who is not known to the child).
A children's home (registered under
Part 2 of Care Standards Act 2000).
Another arrangement made as a result
of a review of the child's case.
5. Local authorities must balance a number
of factors when deciding on a placement:
They must give preference to placements
with family or friends.
The placement should be near their
It should not disrupt their education.
It should enable them to live with
a sibling (if the sibling is also in care).
If the child is disabled, the accommodation
provided must be suitable to the child's particular needs.
6. Local authorities are also expected to
make a placement that is within their own areaunless this
is not reasonably practical.
7. Underpinning the entire placementing
decision processlocal authorities are bound by their duties
under Section 22 of the Children Act (1989) to safeguard and promote
the welfare of children in their care.
CSDG has been reassured by statements from Ministers
which emphasise the importance of specialist placements for children
with complex needs. These have included:
Kevin Brennan MP, Parliamentary Under
Secretary of State for Children and Familiesspeaking at
a CSDG Reception (9 October 2007)responded to these concerns
making clear that the Bill would not prevent access to specialist
services for children with complex and acute needs: "I absolutely
agree with you that the needs of each individual child must come
first. We will ensure that out of authority restriction is not
absolute, as we recognise that some young people will have needs
that require them to placed at a distance".
During the Grand Committee (16 January
2008) Lord Adonis stated that there will always be children for
whom an out of area placement is the most appropriate, in particular
"children with needs that can only be met in very specialist
placements or those who may need to be moved away from their home
area for their own protection".
It is clear that the Government's intention
has been to make the wording of the Bill more flexible and adaptable
to the individual needs of each child, and to reflect the concerns
raised by Peers during the Grand Committee. This is, of course,
to be welcomed.
However, although the new wording is an improvement
on the original text of the Bill, it is still open to variable
interpretation at a local level. As such, the Bill still does
not adequately protect the needs of children with complex and
challenging behavioural problems. The "placementing duty"
relies on the individual opinion of social workers to balance
competingand possibly contradictory factorsand to
decide on a placement which they feel is "appropriate".
Ambiguity in the new wording of the Bill may
cause tensions in the placementing process. For example, when
placing a child who has complex needs social workers, and the
Independent Reviewing Officer, will be expected to balance the
individual needs of the child with the requirement to place within
their local area, as far as is reasonably practical. This may
mean that the individual needs of the child are not met because
suitable services are not available within their local authority
area and social workers have to balance conflicting factors when
making a placementing decision.
CSDG is concerned that in difficult or complex
casessuch as for children who have challenging behavioural
problemsthere is a risk that this ambiguity will result
in local authorities placing children in local accommodation that
can not meet their needs, rather specialist placements that could
provide a more appropriate service.
As is always the case when trying to influence
the behaviour of local authorities, central Government can only
provide a framework for local decision makingrather than
explicit and binding instructions. Therefore, much depends on
the guidance that will follow the Bill, and we urge Government
to be as rigorous as possible in ensuring that children with complex
and challenging educational and care needs will be provided with
placements that are able to meet those needs and help them to
achieve the best possible outcomes in terms of both their education
We call on parliamentarians to ensure that the
Children and Young Persons Bill includes a clear guarantee that
children with acute and complex needs will be able to receive
the most appropriate care placementincluding in an out-of-area
specialist setting where necessary.