Placements in Residential Care
Scope of this chapter
This procedure applies to all placements of looked after children in residential care.
See Decision to Look After Procedure and Care Planning Procedure for procedures relating to the initial decision to look after a child, and the drafting and approval of the care plan and other essential documentation.
Children may also be placed in residential care having acquired Looked After status following a remand to local authority accommodation, see Remands to Local Authority Accommodation or to Youth Detention Accommodation Procedure.
See also Placements in Secure Accommodation on Welfare Grounds, Use of Inherent Jurisdiction to Authorise a Placement Involving a Deprivation of Liberty, which provides information on requirements under: Guidance - Placing Children: Deprivation of Liberty Orders (Ofsted) - guidance for providers, social workers and placement commissioners on placing children, subject to a deprivation of liberty order (DoL), in unregistered settings;
A local authority placing a child should check whether the placement is registered with Ofsted in England or CIW In Wales.
It is a legal requirement that:
- A children's home in England registers with Ofsted;
- A care home service in Wales registers with the CIW.
It is an offence to operate or manage a children's home or care home service placement if you are not registered.
NOTE: from September 2021, looked after children under 16 years of age cannot be accommodated in unregulated independent or semi-independent placements. See Placements in Other Arrangements Procedure.
Please be aware that in Leeds City Council we use localised language of Children Looked After rather than Looked After Children.
Leeds City Council are signed up to NYAS My Things Matter Pledge - we believe that children deserve to move with dignity and respect.
In February 2024, this chapter was updated to include information from Guidance - Placing Children: Deprivation of Liberty Orders - guidance for providers, social workers and placement commissioners on placing children, subject to a deprivation of liberty order (DoL), in unregistered settings and President of the Family Division Practice Guidance: Placements in Unregistered Children's Homes in England or Unregistered Care Home Services in Wales.
At the point that it is determined that a placement may be required, and throughout the subsequent process of identification, planning and placement, the social worker must consult and take account of the views of the following people:
- The child;
- The child's parents, or those with parental responsibility;
- Anyone who is not a parent but has been caring for or looking after the child;
- Other members of the child's family who are significant to the child;
- The child's school or education authority;
- The Youth Justice Service, if the child is known to them;
- Any other relevant person, e.g. nursery, health care professional, Children's Guardian.
The views of these people should be given by them, in writing, or should be recorded by the social worker.
Where a decision has been made that a child requires a residential placement, the child's social worker should request a placement by contacting the Placement Team.
In making this request, the social worker will be asked to provide information about the child, the type of placement sought, the care plan, the date by which the placement is required, the likely length of time for which the placement is required and the expected level of contact between the child and parents. The social worker should also outline any risks associated in making the placement.
The Placement Team will check whether an in-house residential placement is available that appears to be appropriate to meet the child's needs.
If such a placement is available or if there is a possibility of a placement by the required date, the social worker will be advised accordingly.
If no appropriate in-house placements are available and the child requires a placement without delay, the Placement Team will obtain the agreement of the Designated Manager (External Placements) and contact other providers to identify a suitable placement.
Once a resource has been identified, the social worker should contact the relevant registered manager directly to discuss the available placement further.
Wherever possible, the child's social worker should visit potential homes and as required consult with other professionals, prior to a decision about the appropriateness of a placement being made. The placement provider should be able to provide evidence that supports the appropriateness and effectiveness of any therapeutic approach or model of care they intend to use.
The proposed placement will then be presented to the social worker's manager for approval.
If the proposed placement is with an external provider, the Designated Manager (External Placements) must approve the specific terms and conditions of the placement, which must be included in the contract with the provider.
Where the residential placement is outside the local authority area, see also Out of Area Placements Procedure.
N.B. In addition to the above approvals, in order to avoid placements that disrupt a child's education, the Nominated Officer must approve any change of placement affecting a child in Key Stage 4 except in an emergency/ where the placement is terminated because of an immediate risk of serious harm to the child or to protect others from serious injury - see Supporting the Education and Promoting the Achievement of Children with a Social Worker, Looked After and Previously Looked After Children Procedure.
Equally, any placement made outside the local authority area should be able to meet the child's physical and mental health / emotional needs, particularly where ongoing treatment is being undertaken or is assessed as required (see also Health Care Assessments and Plans Procedure, Out of Area Placements).
Once the relevant manager/s approves the placement, the placement planning process can start - see Section 2.3, Placement Planning. An understanding of the provider's therapeutic approach should inform the child's Placement Plan.
The social worker may then arrange visits to the proposed placement, with the child (if old enough) and parents (if appropriate).
NOTE: from September 2021, looked after children under 16 years of age cannot be accommodated in unregulated independent or semi-independent placements.
Before the child is placed, the child's social worker will liaise with the relevant registered manager to provide details of the child's immediate child care needs and to arrange a Placement Planning Meeting - see Placement Planning and Disruption Meetings Procedure. The meeting will usually be held in the child's new placement.
Participants will include:
- The parent;
- The child (if appropriate);
- The key residential staff;
- Any other relevant professionals, e.g. a representative from the child's school;
- Anyone else considered appropriate or who will have a role in the placement.
The purpose of the Placement Planning Meeting is to finalise the Placement Plan (recorded on the placement information record) and the details of the child's needs in the placement including the daily routine, and discuss the Care Plan. The Placement Plan provides clarity for the child and carer about; how day to day parenting tasks will be shared between the carer and the responsible authority – including clarity about financial arrangements, e.g. (contact); the circumstances leading to the child becoming looked after; what the long term plan is for the child and its timeframe and what the objectives are for the placement being offered and how those reflect the Care Plan.
This will involve a discussion of the child's needs, including their personal history, religious persuasion, cultural and linguistic background and racial origin, their health and education needs and how these are to be met. It will also include the arrangements for registering the child with local health professionals (GP, dentist and optician). The Responsible Authority is required to draw up a Placement Plan before the child is placed, or if not practicable, within 5 working days from the start of the placement.
For children placed in residential care, the Placement Plan should cover the following issues in addition to those for all placements set out in the Decision to Look After and Care Planning Procedure:
- The type of accommodation to be provided and the address;
- Where the authority has, or is notified of, Child Protection concerns relating to the child, or the child has gone missing from the placement or from any previous placement, the day to day arrangements put in place by the appropriate person (placement provider) to keep the child safe;
- Any behaviours which have been of concern to previous carers and which may have contributed to previous breakdown of a placement and how the Placement Provider will seek to manage and respond to these;
- The child's personal history, religious persuasion, cultural and linguistic background and racial origin;
- Where the child is accommodated, the respective responsibilities of the Local Authority and parents/anyone with parental responsibility; any delegation of responsibility by parents/anyone with Parental Responsibility to the Local Authority for the child's day-to-day care; the expected duration of the arrangements and the steps to bring the arrangements to an end, including arrangements for the child to return to live with parents/anyone with Parental Responsibility; where the child is aged 16 or over and agrees to being provided with accommodation under Section 20 Children Act 1989, that fact;
- Delegated Authority issues the circumstances in which it is necessary to obtain in advance the Local Authority's approval for the child to take part in school trips or overnight stays, etc;
- The Local Authority's arrangements for the financial support of the child during the placement;
- Information concerning the child's health and education, contact arrangements, visits by the responsible authority and any arrangements for visits by an independent visitor. The content of the child's Health Plan and PEP;
- The child's religion and culture and the manner in which these are reflected in their daily life and any help the child may need to keep these links;
- Arrangements for contact between children, birth parents and siblings and specified other friends and relatives.
The meeting also provides an opportunity to ensure that the registered manager has a copy of any relevant court order and that full information is shared about any behaviour management issues.
Wherever possible, the Placement Planning Meeting should be used to plan any introductions to the placement, for example whether arrangements should be made for the child, parents and the social worker to visit the home and/or whether it may be appropriate to have an introductory overnight stay. If this is not possible, arrangements may be made for residential staff to visit the child and parents; or for information about the home to be sent to the child and/or the parents, for example about routines in the home, bedtimes, meals, visitors, pocket money, school, privacy and the overall expectations in relation to the child's behaviour within the home.
If it is not possible to hold a Placement Planning Meeting before the placement, because of the urgency of the placement, it must take place in order that the Placement Plan is prepared within 5 working days of the start of the placement.
The child's social worker will complete and arrange for the circulation of the Care Plan and Placement Plan/Placement Information Record to the child, parents and residential staff.
At the time of the placement, the residential staff must also be given any additional information about details of the child's day to day needs which may not be covered by the Placement Information Record but are important to ensure that the home is in the best possible position to help the child settle in the new placement, for example any particular fears at night-time or other emotional needs.
The child's social worker must provide the child with written information about the looked after service, including information on using the authority's Complaints Procedure and information about how to access an Advocate.
The social worker should ensure that any Children's Guide and other information about the placement that is available for the child is also obtained and given to them.
In all cases, the child should be accompanied to the placement by the social worker and helped to settle in. Suitable luggage should be used and a child's belongings should never be transported in bin-bags or other inappropriate containers (see NYAS, My Things Matter Report).
Where an emergency placement is unavoidable local authorities should always make available information that is vital to allow the Home to care safely for the child – e.g. medical information, Child Protection matters and information about any known serious behavioural issues which may place a child at risk of harm to themself or others.
The placement plan must be agreed and signed by the nominated officer. Where this is a placement at a distance this should be agreed by the Children's Services Director.
The child's social worker will update the child's electronic record with the details of the placement.
Where the placement is within an external provider, the Placement Team will notify the finance section so as to trigger payments as appropriate.
Notification of the placement will also be sent by the child's social worker to the Designated Nurse for Children Looked After, the relevant person in the education service, the local Children's Services (if the placement is in the area of a different local authority) and the child's GP.
The child's social worker will notify all family members consulted and involved in the decision-making process of the placement.
The child's social worker must also notify the allocated independent reviewing officer or, if it is the first placement, the Independent Review Unit of the placement. This notification will trigger the appointment of an Independent Reviewing Officer, if it is the first placement, and the setting up of arrangements for a Looked After Review.
These notifications must be made in writing, advising of the placement decision and the name and address of the children's home where the child is to be placed.
The notifications should be before the start of the placement or within 5 working days.
The child's social worker should also notify - preferably in writing but it may be verbally - all those involved in the day-to-day arrangements for the child, including school and any health professional or Youth Justice worker actively involved with the child.
It will be necessary for the home or the child's social worker to ensure the child is registered with a GP, Dentist and Optician, either retaining practices known to them (which is preferable) or in the area where they are placed.
In relation to a first Looked After placement it will also be necessary for the social worker to liaise with the Designated Nurse for LAC to arrange a Health Care Assessment - see Health Care Assessments and Plans Procedure. The social worker must arrange for the completion of a personal education plan (PEP) - see Supporting the Education and Promoting the Achievement of Children with a Social Worker, Looked After and Previously Looked After Children Procedure.
For any new placement, every effort should be made to enable the child to remain at the same school unless there are reasons which would be detrimental to their well-being. In order to avoid placements that disrupt a child's education, the Nominated Officer must approve any change of placement affecting a child in Key Stage 4 except in an emergency/ where the placement is terminated because of an immediate risk of serious harm to the child or to protect others from serious injury.
In the case of out of area placements, including placements at a distance, written notification must be given to the area authority of the arrangements for the placement before the placement is made or, if the placement is made in an emergency, within five working days of the start of the placement unless it is not reasonably practicable to do so.
The notification must include:
- Details of the assessment of the child's needs and the reasons why the placement is the most suitable for responding to these; and
- A copy of the child's care plan (unless already provided in the case of a Placement at a Distance).
The child's social worker must visit the child in the placement within 1 week of the placement and then at a minimum every 6 weeks; see Social Worker Visits to Looked After Children Procedure.
Where there are concerns in relation to the progress of the placement, consideration should be given to seeking additional resources to assist the placement.
Where there are any changes to the child's placement and/or legal status during the placement, the child's social worker must update the child's electronic records.
A looked after review should be convened where:
- The child is, or has been, persistently absent from the placement;
- The placement provider, parents or area authority are concerned that the child is at risk of harm; or
- The child so requests, unless the Independent Reviewing Officer considers that the review is not justified.
See also Looked After Reviews Procedure.
The child's social worker must notify the Placement Team when a placement ends and arrange to inform the relevant finance officer so that any payments to the provider will cease. The social worker will also inform those notified when the placement was made of the ending of the placement.
Note: Where the placement is a commissioned resource from an independent or private provider, the social worker must ensure that the Placement and Finance Officers are informed immediately so that formal contractual notice can be given.
Where the placement ends in an unplanned way, consideration should be given to holding a Disruption Meeting - see Placement Planning and Disruption Meetings Procedure.
Legislation, Statutory and Government Non-Statutory, Guidance
Guidance - Placing Children: Deprivation of Liberty Orders - guidance for providers, social workers and placement commissioners on placing children, subject to a deprivation of liberty order (DoL) in unregistered settings.
Last Updated: February 9, 2024