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Looked after children deserve the best experiences in life, from excellent parenting which promotes good health and educational attainment, to a wide range of opportunities to develop their talents and skills in order to have an enjoyable childhood and successful adult life. Stable placements, good health and support during transition are all essential elements, but children will only achieve their potential through the ambition and high expectations of all those involved in their lives.
When a decision has been made which results in a child or young person becoming looked after, the period which precedes the placement and then a child’s first month in their new home is a particularly important time.
All looked after children and young people will have their needs assessed. Where this has not happened before the child or young person has become looked after, an assessment will be carried out as soon as possible. Good assessments lead to good plans and more successful outcomes for children and young people.
When a child or young person becomes looked after in a planned way, the care plan can be started before the child or young person goes to live with new carers. Where this has not been possible, a care plan will be prepared as soon as possible.
The care plan will contain information about how the child or young person’s needs will be met as well as arrangements for their current and longer term care. Many looked after children and young people return to live with their parents within several months and a good care plan can help to achieve this.
A placement planning meeting should be held before a child or young person goes to live with new carers. Where a meeting can’t take place beforehand, it must happen within a few days of the child or young person moving in with their new carers.
The placement planning meeting is where essential information about the child or young person is shared and where arrangements are made about who can make decisions about various aspects of the day to day care of the child or young person. This can include decisions about who can agree to the child or young person staying at a friend’s house overnight, consent to health care, school trips, parent evenings at school and decisions about who can agree to haircuts. Sorting these things out at an early stage will help the child or young person to feel confident that everyone knows what they are doing and where they stand.
The child or young person, their parents, the carers and the social worker will attend the placement planning meeting.
All looked after children and young people deserve good quality health care including dental and eye care. Every looked after child and young person is offered regular health assessments so that any health needs can be met and so that they can be given advice and guidance on health and personal care. The health assessment will also give the child or young person a chance to discuss any health issues or to ask the doctor any questions.
Parents will be asked to consent to the release of their own health information. This information is important for the doctor carrying out the health assessment so that they can be aware of any significant health history within the family. This information will only be available to the doctor carrying out the health assessment.
Parents often accompany their child to health assessment appointments and this can be arranged by the social worker if it is appropriate.
When a young person is old enough to make their own decisions about their health care, they can decide whether to have a health assessment or health treatment. However, no young person will be made to feel that they have to make health decisions on their own and they will always have access to advice and guidance from professional medical staff to help them make their own informed decisions.
We try to make sure that looked after children and young people are able to continue going to their own school wherever this is possible and especially when young people are in years 10 and 11 at school due to the importance of their exams.
Where it is not possible for a child or young person to stay in their own school, if they need to travel long distances for example, they will be involved in any decision about which new school they should attend. Parents will also be encouraged to give their views about any change in school.
The personal education plan is a record of a child or young person’s education and training and it contains essential information that the school needs to know from the social worker such as who has parental responsibility and who can make decisions about things like school trips. It will also describe what needs to happen in school and at home for the child or young person to reach their potential.
Personal education plans are reviewed every six months, usually at a meeting in school. Parents, carers, the social worker, teacher and the child or young person (where they want to) are involved in the meetings to develop and review the personal education plan.
Every looked after child and young person has their own social worker. The social worker will visit the child or young person where they are living for as long as they remain looked after.
Whenever the social worker visits a child or young person they will usually speak to them on their own and the social worker will want to know that the child or young person is safe and well and that they are being provided with good quality care.
A review is a meeting to discuss the arrangements for where a child or young person lives and to talk about plans and whether they are working.
Every looked after child and young person has an Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) and it is part of this person’s job to run the meeting. Before the meeting, the IRO will offer the child or young person the opportunity to talk in private about the meeting and also the plans that will be discussed.
Usually, the child or young person will attend, depending how old they are. The social worker, carer / parents / family will attend, as well as the IRO who is in charge of the meeting. Often other people, who know the child or young person, like a school teacher, will also be invited to the meeting. The child or young person may ask for an advocate to attend, this is someone who helps them have their say or to say what they think or feel.
The IRO will start the meeting by asking everyone there to say who he or she is. Everyone will have the chance to talk about how things are and if any changes need to be made to the care plan. The IRO will give everyone a chance to speak and have the opportunity to talk about the plans that have been made. When decisions are made, the social worker will discuss these with the child or young person to ensure they understand. The chairperson will take notes during the meeting and a copy of these notes will be sent to everyone who attended.