An A-Z of terms

Note on jurisdiction: the information on this website refers to England and Wales. Wales has some differences in law and guidance to England, so if unsure, please check with Family Rights Group about Wales. The information here does not apply to Scotland or Northern Ireland.

A-C of glossary terms D-F of glossary terms G-I of glossary terms J-L of glossary terms M-P of glossary terms Q-S of glossary terms T-V of glossary terms W-Z of glossary terms


A - C



ABUSE

See Emotional Abuse, Physical Abuse, Sexual Abuse, Neglect.

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ACCOMMODATION

Accommodation is when a child or young person is cared for by Children’s Services because:

  • there is no-one with parental responsibility for them or
  • they have been lost or abandoned or
  • the person normally caring for them is unable to provide them with suitable accommodation or care (whether this is temporary or permanent), for whatever reason. This is also known as section 20.

However:

  • Children's Services may not provide accommodation for a child if someone with parental responsibility objects and can provide accommodation themselves or arrange for someone else to provide accommodation;
  • A person with parental responsibility can remove a child from accommodation at any time (although there are some exceptions to this). It is essential to take legal advice first before doing this.

Before or immediately after a child is accommodated by Children’s Services, the social worker should draw up a care plan for the child and should get the agreement of their parents or those with parental responsibility or the young person themselves if they are aged 16 or 17 to the plan. If there is no parent/person with parental responsibility and the young person is under 16, they can ask the last person caring for the child if they agree with the child's care plan.

The care plan should set out how the accommodation arrangement can be ended and what the contact arrangements are whilst the child is away from home.

There is no court order when a child is accommodated and Children's Services does not have parental responsibility for them.

If a child is ‘accommodated' it means he or she is being ‘looked after'.

For more information see: advice sheets: 4: Family Support; 13: Contact with children in accommodation and 11: Duties on Children’s Services towards children in the care system.

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ADOPTION

When a child is adopted they become a member of their new adoptive family legally and they stop being legally related to their birth family. Adoption therefore changes a child's legal relationships.

Adoption can only happen if a court orders it. The court has the power to order adoption even if the parents don’t agree, if it considers this is best for the child.

However a child cannot be placed for adoption unless either the parents (who have parental responsibility) have given their formal consent to this (which must be witnessed by an officer of the court) or the court has made a placement order. This is not the same as foster for adoption.

For more information see: advice sheet 23: Adoption

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ADOPTION AGENCY

An adoption agency is either a local authority Children’s Services department or a voluntary adoption agency, which is authorised to do adoption work.

For more information see: advice sheet 23: Adoption

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ADOPTION CONTACT REGISTER

The adoption contact register helps adopted people who are over 18 and their birth relatives to get in touch with each other, if they both want to. These people can put their details on the register and say if they would like to make contact with someone in their birth family. They can also say if they do not want to have contact with such a person. To find out more read here about using the adoption contact register.

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ADOPTION PANEL

An adoption panel must be set up by each adoption agency to advise on some decisions relating to the adoption of children.

Adoption panels have two main jobs:

  • they consider the suitability of people who want to adopt children; and
  • they match a child who has a plan for adoption with suitable people to adopt him/her.

Panels can also offer advice on various related issues, such as contact arrangements and support plans.

Panels make recommendations which the agency must take account of. However, final decisions are made by the agency decision maker – this is usually a senior manager in Children’s Services.

Remember, even if there is a plan for adoption, a child cannot be placed for adoption against the wishes of the parents without a placement order being made by the court.

For more information see: advice sheet 23: Adoption

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ADOPTION ORDER

An adoption order is a court order which makes the child legally part of the adoptive family and legally ends a child’s relationship with their birth family. It is a permanent order, lasting for the child’s lifetime. It cannot be changed once it has been made.

For more information see: advice sheet 23: Adoption

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ADVOCATE

An advocate is someone who is independent of Children’s Services who can help children, young people, parents and other family members to have a voice when social workers are involved with their family. They can:

  • attend meetings with that person
  • write letters or make telephone calls on their behalf to Children’s Services
  • help them put their point of view across and
  • help them understand what is going on.

Children's Services must provide advocacy services for children and young people in some circumstances. They should also have details of other local advocacy services.

There are not many advocacy services for parents but there are some projects which specialise in helping parents with learning disabilities or parents who are experiencing mental illness or domestic abuse to be heard.

Family Rights Group also has a small advocacy project which supports some families involved with Children’s Services about the care and protection of their children. Social workers can purchase this service for parents and other family members to help them participate in meetings. More details about the advocacy project can be found here.

Family Rights Group’s advice line can explain how to look for an advocate or solicitor and give more information about how they work.

For more information see: advice sheet 10: Advocacy for families in local authority decision-making.

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AGENCY DECISION MAKER

The Agency "Decision Maker" (also known as the ADM) is a very senior member of staff within the adoption agency who has the responsibility for running the agency’s adoption service.

The ADM’s responsibilities include deciding whether a child should be adopted. When deciding this, they must look at all the information in the child’s permanence report and also in any other reports about the child’s needs and their family circumstances that have been prepared by the social worker or other professionals.

When making this decision, it is good practice that the ADM lists all the reports and other information that they have taken into account and they should set out their reasons for making their decision. If they don’t, their decision could be challenged by lawyers for the parents or the child.

At present a child cannot be placed for adoption with people who want to adopt him/her unless their parents (who have parental responsibility) formally agree or the court makes a placement order.

If you have heard that Children’s Services are thinking that your child should be adopted or they are thinking of placing them with foster carers who might go on to adopt them (foster for adoption), you should take legal advice urgently.

Find a solicitor specialising in family law here. It is a good idea to choose a solicitor who is knowledgeable and experienced in this area and who is a member of the Law Society's Children Law Accreditation Scheme.

Contact the Family Rights Group advice service here or ring 0808 801 0366 (Opening hours: Monday - Friday 9.30am-3.00pm) excluding Bank Holidays.

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ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION

The law encourages people who are thinking about going to court, or those who are already involved in court proceedings, to try to find solutions to their difficulties without the court having to decide the issue for them. Examples of alternative dispute resolution in children’s cases include family mediation and Family Group Conferences.

Both of these are services run by trained people, who are independent of everyone else in the case and are not on anyone’s side. They try to get everyone to agree a way forward. Sometimes the judge will stop a case (“adjourn”) to give the parties a chance to try alternative dispute resolution, but the judge cannot make them do this if they don’t want to.

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APPROVED FOSTER CARER

An approved foster carer is someone who has been assessed by Children’s Services to become a foster carer and has been approved by a Fostering Panel. They may be approved to care for a specific child or generally to be a foster carer for any child.

Relatives and friends can be assessed and approved as foster carers for a child in their family who is looked after and needs to be placed.

If a child needs to be placed with a relative, friend or other connected person straight away and there is no time to do a full fostering assessment, they may be assessed and approved as a foster carer temporarily, provided some immediate checks being carried out by the social worker. But afterwards, they still need to undergo a full fostering assessment for the child to remain with them long term.

If the child cannot be placed with a relative, friend or connected person, then they can be placed with an unrelated foster carer.

Note: A child who is looked after by Children’s Services cannot be placed with a person who is not an approved foster carer.

For more information see: advice sheet 12: Relatives and friends taking on the care of a vulnerable child in an emergency and advice sheet 22: Family and Friends care: becoming a foster carer.

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ASSESSMENT

This is the name for the detailed assessment of the child and their family’s circumstances, to see if they need any help. It is prepared by a social worker. It looks at the child’s needs, the parents’ ability to meet those needs and the family’s general situation.

An assessment is usually carried out as a part of Child Protection enquiries or before a Child in Need plan is drawn up. It should be done in time to meet the child’s needs and always within 45 working days of the referral.

For more information please see: advice sheet 4: Family support services.

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CAFCASS

CAFCASS stands for the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service. This is an independent court based agency. Through its Family Court Advisors (also sometimes referred to as CAFCASS officers) it advises the family courts in England on what it considers to be in the best interests of the child during family law cases.

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CARE

A child is “in care” when they are under an interim (temporary) or full care order or an emergency protection order.

In these circumstances, the Children’s Services Department named in the order shares parental responsibility for the child with their parents. Children's Services must find out the parents wishes about any decision they make about their child, but they have the final say and can make plans for the child even if the parents don't agree with them.

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CARE ORDER

This is a court order which places a child in the care of Children’s Services. It lasts until the child is 18 unless the court ends it before then.

When there is a care order, Children's Services share parental responsibility for the child with the parents. Children's Services must find out the parents wishes about any decision they make about their child, but they always have the final say and can make plans for the child even if the parents don't agree with them.

For more information see: advice sheet 15: Care proceedings.

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CARE PLAN

A care plan is the written plan that sets out the arrangements for a child who is looked after. Before it is drawn up, the social worker must:

  1. find out the wishes and feelings of the parent, the child and other significant people in the child's life and
  2. carry out an assessment of the child’s needs (following the locoal protocol for assessment) so that services are provided to make sure the child’s identified needs are met, including their:
  • health
  • education
  • emotional and behavioural development
  • identity
  • need for contact with other people in the family

The care plan will also set out

  • where the child will live and why this is good for the child – this is also written down in the child’s placement plan (which sets out the arrangements in the placement, for example what the carer can decide in terms of the child staying overnight with friends etc.)
  • the long term or permanent plans for the child and
  • the name of the Independent Reviewing Officer

Care Plans are reviewed at regular Looked After Child Review Meetings.

For more information see: advice sheet 11: Duties on Children's Services when children are in the care system.

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CARE PROCEEDINGS

Care proceedings is the name for the court process when Children’s Services go to court because they are concerned that a child is not safe. In care proceedings, Children’s Services can ask the court to make an order to protect the child, such as an Emergency Protection Order, an Interim Care Order or a Care Order.

If any of these orders are made, Children's Services share parental responsibility for the child with the parents. Children's Services must find out parents wishes about any decision concerning their child, but they have the final say and can make plans for the child even if the parents don't agree with them.

For more information see: advice sheet 15: Care proceedings.

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CASE MANAGEMENT HEARING (CMH)

This is a court hearing during care proceedings. Court Guidance says it must normally be held between 12 to 18 days of the application being made for a Care Order.

The purpose of the CMH hearing is for the court to look carefully at the care plan, identify key issues, see whether directions given at earlier court hearings have been complied with and what further directions are still needed to prepare the case for the final hearing.

The court may also give directions for the assessment of family members as possible future carers of the child or preparation of expert evidence at this hearing if this has not already happened.

The court will also consider whether there needs to be a hearing to decide whether there should be an interim care order.

For more information see: advice sheet 15: Care proceedings.

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CHILD ARRANGEMENTS ORDER

This is a new order made under s.8 Children Act 1989. There are two types of child arrangements orders (CAOs) that can be made:

  1. An order which says where and with whom a child will live. It used to be called a s.8 'Residence Order'; and
  2. An order which says who the child can spend time with and for how long. This used to be called a s. 8 'Contact Order'.

A Child Arrangements Order saying where and with whom a child should live can also say that the child can live with more than one person and it will say for how long the child is with each person (for example where grandparents and a parent are raising the child either together at the same address or at separate addresses for different parts of the week).

This order gives 'parental responsibility' to the person who the order says the child will live with (if they don't already have it) for as long as the order is in force. If you have this order, (and you are not the child's parent), you can normally make decisions about the child's care and upbringing without having to consult with their parents. However, it is still a good idea to discuss important things with the parents, as it will benefit the child if everyone who has an interest in their upbringing can agree. But note there are some things you cannot decide including:

  • taking the child outside the UK for more than one month;
  • changing the child's surname without the agreement of their parents and anyone else with parental responsibility or the permission of the court;
  • appointing a guardian for the child to raise them after your death; and
  • consenting to the child being placed for adoption or being adopted.

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CHILD ARRANGEMENTS ORDER ALLOWANCE

This is when Children's Services give financial help to someone with a Child Arrangements Order (saying the child should live with them) who is not a parent, or married to one.

They don't have to pay this allowance, it is discretionary. Any payments they do make will be means tested and the rate of a Child Arrangements Order Allowance should be no less than the core child fostering allowance under the same local authority's Fostering Scheme.

These allowances are usually reviewed on a regular basis. The details of how much they pay and the criteria they use to decide who they will help should be set out in your local Children's Services' family and friends care policy.

If you are caring for a child under a Child Arrangements Order and you are not a parent, you could ask Children's Services for a copy of the Family and Friends care policy and what you need to do to get a Child Arrangements Order allowance.

For more information see: advice sheet 18: DIY Child Arrangements Orders – information for family and friends carers and advice sheet 21: Support for relatives and friends who are caring for someone else's child.

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CHILD ASSESSMENT ORDER

This is a court order which allows the social worker to insist on a child being assessed for example by a doctor or some other professional.

A social worker can ask the court for a Child Assessment Order if the social worker thinks the child needs to be assessed and the parent won’t agree. The social worker can only do this if they have good reason to believe that the child is suffering or is likely to suffer “significant harm”.

The Child Assessment Order lasts for seven days and cannot be extended.

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CHILD IN NEED

A child is in need if s/he is under 18 and either

  • s/he needs extra help from Children’s Services to be safe and healthy or to develop properly; or
  • s/he is disabled.

Children’s Services decide if a child is in need by assessing their needs. If they decide the child is in need they will normally draw up a plan setting out what extra help they will provide to the child and their family. This is called a child in need plan. The plan should also say when and how the plan will be reviewed.

For more information please see: advice sheet 4: Family support services.

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CHILD IN NEED ASSESSMENT

A parent or carer who thinks that their child may be in need can ask Children’s Services to carry out a child in need assessment. A social worker will complete an assessment to decide if a child is in need.

If they decide the child is in need the social worker will normally draw up a plan setting out what extra help they will provide to the child and their family and what other agencies will provide. This is called a child in need plan.The plan should also say what outcomes are expected for the child and what is expected of the parent, and also when and how the plan will be reviewed.

For more information see: advice sheet 4: Family support services.

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CHILD IN NEED PLAN

If an assessment finds that a child is not at risk but is in need of social work services, a child in need plan involving other agencies involved with the family should be developed and agreed with the child's parents at a child in need planning meeting.

The plan should set out what is working well within the family as well as any concerns, and be clear about which agencies will provide which services to the child and family. The plan should describe clear outcomes for the child and what is expected of the parents.

If parents are unable to agree to the child in need plan the social worker should be clear about what action the local authority may then take.

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CHILD PROTECTION ENQUIRIES/INVESTIGATIONS

Children’s Services have a legal duty to look into a child's situation if they have information that a child may be at risk of significant harm. This is called a child protection enquiry or investigation. Sometimes it is called a “Section 47 investigation” after the section of the Children Act 1989 which sets out this duty.

The purpose of the enquires is to gather information about the child and their family so that social workers can decide what action, if any, they need to take to keep a child safe and promote their welfare.

For more information and what is involved see: advice sheet 9: Child protection procedures.

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CHILD PROTECTION CONFERENCE

This is a meeting which takes place between local authority Children’s Services, other professionals who are in contact with the child, and family members. It happens within 15 days of the strategy discussion if a child is considered to be at risk of significant harm.

Those at the meeting (conference) discuss the risk to the child and decide what needs to happen, if anything, to make sure they are kept safe. See also Initial Child Protection Conference and Child Protection Review Conference.

For more information see: advice sheet 9: Child protection procedures.

Watch our new website film about child protection conferences here.

Showing a fictionalised case Anne and Terry’s story illustrates what happened when they went to an initial child protection conference. Using professionals in role, and actors as parents the film is realistic and engaging. It will help both parents and practitioners prepare for, and participate in, these important meetings.

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CHILD PROTECTION CONFERENCE CHAIR

The chair of a child protection conference is a senior social worker whose job it is to run the conference. They will be independent of the child’s case and will not be involved in managing the child’s social workeror their manager.

With the help of the people at the conference, the chair decides if the child should have a Child Protection Plan, and if so, what should be on it. This plan sets out the problems the child is having and what must  be done by whom to make sure those problems do not continue and that the child is safe. The details of what will be done and who will do it will be developed by the lead social worker and at later meetings of the core group.

The Chair sets the date for first review meeting and normally chairs that and all other review meetings.

For more information see: advice sheet 9: Child protection procedures.

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CHILD PROTECTION PLAN

A child protection plan is drawn up at the initial child protection conference.It says what support and monitoring will be put in place when a child is considered to be at risk of significant harm because they have suffered, or are likely to suffer physical abuseemotional abuse or sexual abuse or neglected.

When there is a child protection plan, the child will  be given a social worker who should meet regularly with the child and the parents to discuss the child's progress. The child's situation and the plan will be reviewed after three months and then every six months.

For more information see: advice sheet 9: Child protection procedures.

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CHILD PROTECTION REVIEW CONFERENCE

The purpose of the child protection review conference is to look at whether or not there are still serious concerns about the safety of the child and how well the parents can care for them and keep them safe. In other words, the review conference looks at whether the child is still suffering or is likely to suffer significant harm.

The review conference can agree that the child doesn’t need a child protection plan any longer. Or, the conference might decide that the child protection plan needs changing, or that the child should have the same child protection plan.

The first child protection review conference is held three months after the initial Child Protection Conference. After that, review conferences are held every six months. Usually these meetings will be chaired by the same person who chaired the initial conference, and the same professionals will be invited to attend.

For more information see: advice sheet 9: Child protection procedures.

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CHILDREN ACT 1989

This is the main law in England and Wales about keeping children safe and well. It covers help for families, taking children into foster care and residence and contact. Other matters about children, like education, health and adoption, are dealt with in separate laws. It has been changed and added too many times you may want to find out what the current version of the Children Act says although sometimes it can take time for recent changes to be added.

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CHILDREN ACT 2004

This Act says that local authorities and other agencies must cooperate with each other to improve the well-being of children and young people and keep them safe.

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CHILDREN AND FAMILIES ACT 2014

This Act also made changes to the Children Act 1989 and has introduced a number of significant changes to the law in relation to care proceedings, contact with children in care, adoption and brought in fostering for adoption provisions. These are outlined in the relevant advice sheets which you can download from FRG's website.

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CHILDREN AND FAMILY COURT ADVISORY AND SUPPORT SERVICE

See CAFCASS

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CHILDREN AND YOUNG PERSONS ACT 2008

This law made changes to the Children Act 1989 about a range of things including support for children in need and their families and the priorities for deciding where and with whom looked afterchildren will live. It also led to Regulations brought in from April 2011 about how Children’s Services must make and review plans for looked after children.

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CHILDREN'S ADVOCATE

A children’s advocate is an independent person who works with a child to help them make sure they understand what is happening and that their wishes and feeling are heard. This may be by:

  • going with the child to meetings at Children’s Services offices or
  • making sure the child’s point of view is put forward in other ways, like writing letters or making complaints.

In some situations, children have a right to have an advocate, for example, children who are in care or children who wish to make a complaint about Children’s Services.

Although children’s advocates are independent of the social worker they are organised and paid for by Children’s Services. All Children’s Services departments should have a Children’s Rights Officer who is responsible for providing advocacy for children. You can ask them to help you find an advocate for your child.

Sometimes advocacy for children is also available through an outside agency such as

For more information see advice sheet 10:Advocacy for families when social workers make plans for their children.

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CHILDREN'S GUARDIAN

A children’s guardian is an independent and experienced social worker who is an officer of the court. Their job is to make enquiries (when asked to do so by the Judge) about the child’s circumstances and make a recommendation about what is best for the child in the future. Children's Guardians are organised by a service known as CAFCASS.

If there is an application for an Emergency Protection Order or a Care Order or anything related to that, the court will automatically appoint a guardian for the child. If there is an application for another type of order about the care of the child like a Child Arrangements Order or Special Guardianship Order the court may decide to appoint a guardian if the case is complex.

For more information see: advice sheet 15: Care proceedings.

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CHILDREN'S HOME

A children’s home is a group home for Looked After Children. It is managed by professional staff. It may specialise in children or young people with particular needs, for example, behavioural problems.

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CHILDREN'S PANEL SOLICITOR (SEE ALSO LAW SOCIETY'S ACCREDITATION SCHEME)

This is a solicitor who has proved to the solicitor’s professional body that they are specialists in child care law. You can find a specialist child care solicitor in your area here.

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CHILDREN'S SERVICES

Children's Services is the department of the council (local authority) which is responsible for children. It used to be called Social Services.

 

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CHILDREN'S RIGHTS OFFICER

This is the person within Children’s Services who is responsible for making sure a Children’s Advocate is available to help children who are involved with Children’s Services and make sure their rights are protected.

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COMMON ASSESSMENT FRAMEWORK (CAF)

When a child and family would benefit from co-ordinated support from more than one agency, but they do not need a social worker, there should be an inter-agency assessment of the child and family's needs. An assessment tool often used by agencies such as education, health, or housing is the Common Assessment Framework. This is a standard way of looking at a child's needs and is carried out by a 'lead professional' - someone from the agency working most closely with the child.

The Common Assessment Framework is completely voluntary, so a parent and the child must agree for it to be carried out and also who they would like it to be shared with. But if parents don't agree to it being carried out, then the lead professional may decide that the child's needs are greater than previously thought and that they need to make a formal referral to Children's Services.

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COMMUNITY CARE LEGISLATION

This refers to the group of laws that concern caring for adults, such as laws relating to health, disabilities and protecting vulnerable adults.

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COMPLAINTS

When a person is dissatisfied with Children’s Services, for example they disagree with a decision or want to complain that a service they need has not been offered, they can make a formal complaint to their Local Authority. Each Local Authority must have written information about their complaints procedure available.

For more information see: advice sheet 25: Challenging decisions and making complaints.

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COMPLAINTS OFFICER

A Complaints officer works for Children’s Services and investigates complaints. They may also arrange meetings with the person who made the complaint and other people involved with the complaint to try and sort things out informally.

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CONCURRENT PLANNING

This is a planning process used in potential adoption cases. It aims to limit the number of moves for a child.

It is used when social workers think that a child (usually a baby) may not be able to stay with its birth parents or family long term. In this situation, if the child becomes looked after (either with the parents agreement or because the court has made a care order or emergency protection order) they place the child with specially trained foster carers who could look after them long term or even adopt them if they can’t go back home safely within a few months.

These foster carers are supported to care for the baby whilst the birth family are given intensive support and have regular contact with their child. If the parents succeed in improving their parenting, then the baby returns to them. Otherwise, these foster carers apply to adopt the child.

For more information see: advice sheet 23: Adoption.

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CONNECTED PERSON

This is a legal term which means a relative or friend or someone else who is connected with a looked after child. It can include someone who knows the child in another role like a teacher, a childminder or a neighbour.

The law says that, if Children's Services don't think it is safe for a looked after child to be placed with either of their parents, they should give preference to placing the child with a relative, friend or connected person (who is an approved foster carer) over placing them with unconnected foster carers.

 

For more information see: advice sheet 12: Relatives and friends taking on the care of a vulnerable child in an emergency.

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CONTACT

Contact is the word used for keeping in touch with a child who is living away from their parents or other family members. Contact may be face-to-face meetings, telephone calls, letters, texts, cards, sending photos, social media or digital forms of communication such as skype or email etc.

When a child is in care (i.e.: under a care or emergency protection order), Children’s Services must allow them "reasonable contact" with their parent/others with parental responsibility provided it is safe to do so. They should also help them to have contact with other members of the family including their siblings, grandparents etc. Children's Services have to get the court's permission to completely stop a parent from having contact when they are in care.

When a child is accommodated, Children's Services must try to ‘promote’ contact between the child and their parents and other people in the family provided it is safe.

For more information see: advice sheets 14: Contact with children in care and 13: Contact with children accommodated by Children's Services.

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CONTACT ORDER

This is a court order which says who the child should see or keep in touch with. It may include direct direct contact, like visits, but sometimes by it may involve indirect contact, like letters or phone calls. The court can also decide things like where the contact will take place, if it should be supervised, and how often it happens.

A contact order might be made for a parent, a grandparent or a sibling or other relative. It could be for a child living at home, or a child in Care.

If a child is in accommodation and there is a disagreement about how much a child sees a family member, they may apply to the court for a Child Arrangements Order saying who the child will see, although this is unusual.

Also, a contact order made in private law proceedings (legal proceedings between two private individuals where the local authority is not a party) is now called a Child Arrangements Order (saying who the child should see).

For more information see: advice sheets: 13: Contact with children in accommodated by Children's Services and advice sheets 14: Contact with children in care.

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CONTESTED HEARING

This is a court hearing which happens when there is no agreement about what has happened or should happen between the people (parties) involved in the case. Each party then puts their evidence before the court and the judge makes a final decision about what has happened or what will happen in the future.

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CORE GROUP

This is a small group of professionals and family members who meet together after a child protection conference to decide how best to implement the outline child protection plan, drawn up at the child protection conference. Along with the social worker, the core group fills out the details of the plan, what exactly will be done, by whom and by when. It will also make sure that the plan is carried out.

For more information see: advice sheet 9: Child protection procedures.

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COURT ORDER

This is a decision made by the court, which will always be written down. Copies should be given to everyone involved in the case either at court or shortly afterwards. It says what will happen in the case and will say in the order how long it is in force for. If you want to change or end a court order before it is meant to end, you must apply back to the court that made it.

For more information see: advice sheet 15: Care proceedings.

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D - F



DIRECTIONS

These are instructions the court gives to help everyone involved in a court case to prepare their evidence and what they want to say so the Court can make a decision. This normally includes:

  • telling the parties to get their statements and reports ready for the final hearing,
  • instructions about who needs to attend hearings,
  • deadlines for producing evidence,
  • what experts' reports are to be prepared and
  • scheduling court dates.

For more information see: advice sheet 15: Care proceedings.

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DIRECT PAYMENTS

Direct payments (cash) can be paid to the parents of disabled children, to disabled 16 and 17 year olds and to disabled adults. These payments allow them to buy the care services they need directly from the service provider. They are usually only made if there has been an assessment of the persons' needs and a decision by Adult or Children's Services that they need extra support.

For more information see: advice sheet 4: Family Support Services and advice sheet 6: Support for disabled parents (currently being updated).

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DISABILITY LIVING ALLOWANCE (DLA)

This is a benefit paid to people with disabilities (including children) although it is now in the process of being replaced by Personal Independence Payments (PIPs).

There are two parts to DLA. Money is paid to people who need help to

  • look after themselves (care) and/or
  • to get around (mobility).

Carers of children can be paid DLA if their child is disabled and qualifies. You can only make a new application for DLA if it is for a child under 16. Otherwise if the recipient is over 16 (and 64 or under) you can apply for a PIP.

For more information see: advice sheet 21: Support for relatives and friends who are caring for children. Or look on the government’s website here.

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DISABLED CHILD

The law says that a child is disabled if s/he is: “blind, deaf of dumb or suffers from a mental disorder of any kind or is substantially or permanently handicapped by illness, injury or congenital deformity or such other disability as may be prescribed”.

A disabled child is automatically a “child in need” and so a social worker must assess a disabled child’s needs, if asked to do so, to see if they need extra help.

For more information see: advice sheet 4: Family Support Services.

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DISCHARGE

This is when a person asks a court to end a court order earlier than the date given in the order.

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EARLY HELP ASSESSMENT

Children and families may need support from a wide range of local agencies as soon as a problem emerges at any stage in a child's life. Where a child and family would benefit from co-ordinated support from more than one agency (e.g. education, health, housing, police) but they do not need a social worker, there should be an inter-agency early assessment led by a 'lead professional' - someone from the agency working most closely with the child

An early help assessment is completely voluntary, so a parent and the child must agree for it to be carried out and also who they would like it to be shared with. But if parents don't agree to this being carried out, then the lead professional may decide that the child's needs are greater than previously thought and that they need to make a formal referral to Children's Services.

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EDUCATION, HEALTH AND CARE PLANS (EHC PLANS)

From 1st September 2014, Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans were introduced for young people aged 0-25 who have Special Education Needs and Disabilities (SEND). These are prepared by the local authority and are intended to ensure there is co-ordination between the agencies meeting children's different education, health and social care needs.

EHC plans replace Statements of Special Education Needs (Statement of SEN) which were previously used to assess and plan additional support for children with SEND.

EHC plans are not the same as child in need plans – they can both exist at the same time, although the agencies involved should each need to know what each plan says.

To get an EHC plan, the child's needs will first be assessed to see what additional SEND support they need. The EHC plan will then state what the child/young person's special educational needs are, if any; the outcomes being sought for the child; the special educational needs provision the child requires; and any extra health care and social care provision required to assist with meeting the child's SEND.

A SEND assessment of a child's needs can be requested by:

  • the child's parents or carers,
  • the child or young person themselves if they are aged 16-25,
  • their school/early years setting or post-16 institution, and
  • others who know the child/young person, such as foster carers, youth offending teams or a family friend.

When the local authority is deciding whether to carry out an EHC assessment, it has to consult the child's parents/carers or the young person and then tell them if they are carrying out the assessment.

If you are the parent or carer of a child or young person being assessed to see if they have SEND, then the local authority must consult you and the young person and have regard to you and the child's views, wishes and feelings, your aspirations, and the outcomes you wish to seek and the support you need to achieve them throughout the process of assessment and preparing the plan. It is therefore very important that you and your child tell them what you want. They should also keep you informed of what is happening throughout the process.

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ELIGIBILITY CRITERIA

This is a list of categories worked out by Children’s Services which they use to help them decide if someone can receive extra help or support. Both Adult and Children’s Services use eligibility criteria to decide which adults with disabilities and children “in need” they will help.

You can ask Children’s Services to let you have a copy of them as they are available to the public.

For more information see: advice sheet 6: Support for disabled parents (being updated) and advice sheet 4: Family Support Services.

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EMERGENCY PROTECTION ORDER

If Children’s Services believes a child is in urgent need of protection, it can ask the court to make an Emergency Protection Order. An Emergency Protection Order lasts for up to eight days and can be extended by the court once for a further seven days.

An Emergency Protection Order gives Children Services the power to

  • remove a child from home and take them into care
  • prevent a child from returning to the parent’s care, for example to stop a child being taken home from hospital
  • exclude someone else from the child’s home (if the parent who lives there agrees and this is written on the order as an exclusion requirement).
  • see the child without the parent’s permission and
  • make a direction for a medical or psychiatric examination of the child.

In exceptional circumstances, an Emergency Protection Order can be made at a hearing that the parents do not know about (called “without notice”). If this happens, the parent can ask the court to end (“discharge”) the Emergency Protection Order.

They should seek legal advice about it from a specialist childcare solicitor. Find a specialist solicitor here. It is a good idea to choose a solicitor who is knowledgeable and experienced in this area and who is a member of the Law Society's Children Law Accreditation Scheme.

For more information see: advice sheets 9: Child protection procedures and 15: Care proceedings.

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EMOTIONAL ABUSE

There is no one definition of emotional abuse in the law and it can include many things like:

  • continuing and severe ill treatment of a child so that the child’s confidence and self worth is badly hurt
  • constantly putting the child down or making them feel unloved or useless
  • bullying
  • letting a child see or hear someone else being ill treated, for example the child witnessing violence at home
  • expecting too much of a child for their age, or being over protective
  • failing to protect them from abuse by someone else.

Some degree of emotional abuse is involved in all forms of abuse to children but it can also occur alone.

For more information see: advice sheet 9: Child protection procedures.

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ENFORCEABLE RIGHT

This is when a person has a right to something and they can ask the court to make sure they get that benefit. This would normally be something quite specific, like if a child has a certain type of disability, s/he may have an enforceable right to a particular type of help.

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EPO

See Emergency Protection Order.

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EXCLUSION REQUIREMENT

When a court makes an Emergency Protection Order or an Interim Care Order, it can also add an exclusion requirement. This gives the court the power to order the person who the social worker believes is a danger to the child to leave the child's home. This will only be ordered if the person caring for the child also agrees to them leaving and making sure that they stay away.

For more information see: advice sheet 15: Care proceedings.

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FAMILY AND FRIENDS CARE

A friends and family carer is a relative, friend or other connected person who is looking after a child that cannot live with his/her parents. Sometimes they are known as kinship carers.

If the social worker was involved in arranging for the child to live with the family and friends carer, the child is likely to be looked after. If they were not, then it is likely to be a private arrangement. However, in some cases carers apply for Child Arrangements Orders (saying the child should live with them) or Special Guardianship Orders.

The availability of support varies according to the type of legal arrangement. 

For more information see: advice sheet 12: Relatives and friends taking on a vulnerable child in an emergencyadvice sheet 12: Relatives and friends taking on a vulnerable child in an emergency, advice sheet:18 on DIY child arrangements orders and advice sheet 19: on special guardianship orders.

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FAMILY AND FRIENDS CARE POLICY

Every Children’s Services department should have a policy setting out the support they provide to family and friends carers. There should be leaflets and information available to the public about how they can get this support and who to contact for help in their area. The government has also issued a general leaflet about support for family and friends carers.

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FAMILY COURT ADVISOR

A Family Court Advisor is a social worker who helps the court in children’s cases that are not care or emergency protection proceedings.

In some cases, they may be asked by the judge to prepare a report for the court about what would be in the child’s best interests. If parents/carers are in dispute with each other, they will usually meet with both parents/carers and the child in order to prepare a report for the court on what is in the child's best interests.

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FAMILY GROUP CONFERENCE (FGC)

A Family Group Conference is a decision-making meeting in which the wider family makes plans for children who need support and often protection. It is a voluntary process and families cannot be forced to have an FGC.

  • Families are assisted by an independent coordinator to prepare for the meeting.
  • They have the chance to get information from the social worker and other professionals about the child’s needs and what will keep them safe.
  • The whole family then meet on their own to make a plan for their child/ren which takes account of any safety concerns explained by the social worker.

The family should be supported to carry out the plan, unless it would place the child at risk of significant harm.

If you want a FGC, you can ask the social worker to make a referral.

Watch our new website film on what a family group conference is here
.

For more information see: advice sheet 3: What is a family group conference?

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FAMILY SUPPORT SERVICES

This is the name for the help offered by social workers to children in need and their families. These services could include things like day care, home help, parenting skills, family centres or counselling.

All Children’s Services departments must publish information about the help that is available for children in need in their area.

For more information see: advice sheet 4: Family Support Services.

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FGC

See Family Group Conference.

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FINAL HEARING

This is the last hearing in a court case, when the court makes the final decision or order about the application that has been made. But sometimes in care proceedings, courts make a final decision at the Issues Resolution Hearing (IRH) if they feel they have already have enough clear evidence before them to decide what is the best plan for your child in a fair way. Ask your solicitor about this if need be.

For more information see: advice sheet 15: Care proceedings.

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FIRST APPOINTMENT

This is the first hearing in care proceedings. The court will not make a final decision at this hearing, but it will give directions (instructions) about what needs to happen for the case to go forward, like what evidence or reports will be needed so that they can make a final decision.

At this first hearing, the court will also consider the immediate arrangements for the child, like where the child will live and who will have contact with them during the court case. The court may make some interim (temporary) orders about these or other matters.

For more information see: advice sheet 15: Care proceedings.

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FOSTER CARE

When a child is looked after by the local authority, they may be placed with foster carers who look after them. Foster carers have to be assessed and approved by Children's Services to before a looked after child can be placed with them. They do not have parental responsibility for the child. They offer the child a place in their home and have responsibility for the daily care of the child.

Family members and friends can be assessed and approved by the local authority to become foster carers for the child. If you want a family member or friend to care for your child in this way, you should speak to the child's social worker about it straight away.

For more information contact the Family Rights Group advice service here.

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FOSTERING ALLOWANCE

Anyone who is caring for a looked after child as a foster carer should be paid a fostering allowance by the Children’s Services department which placed the child with them. This applies whether they are a professional unrelated foster carer or a family member or friend who is approved as a foster carer for the child (whether on a temporary or long term basis).

The duty to pay a fostering allowance applies from the date the child is first placed with the foster carer. Foster carers are also paid additional amounts for the child's birthday, holidays and religious festivals.

Family and friends carers should not be paid less than unrelated foster carers, including any additional payments.

For more information see: advice sheets 12: Relatives and friends taking on the care of a vulnerable childs and 21: Support for friends and relatives who are caring for someone else's child.

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FOSTERING ASSESSMENT

Before anyone can become a foster carer, they must be assessed and approved by Children's Services. Children’s Services must place looked after children with approved foster carers in order for the placement to be lawful. 

There are three types of approval as a foster carer:

  1. Temporary approval: This is known as a regulation 24 placement. This is available for relatives, friends or other connected persons. The social worker must find out key information about the relative/friend or other connected person and their household before (or immediately after) the placement in order to give temporary approval. The approval, once given, will last for 16 weeks, although it can be extended to 24 weeks in exceptional circumstances. During that time the relative/friend or other connected person must be fully assessed and approved as a foster carer for the placement to continue beyond that time. If they are not approved within that time period the child must be moved to another placement.
  2. Temporary approval of approved adopters to foster a child for whom adoption is being considered: This is called a fostering for adoption placement. In order to consider making a fostering for adoption placement, Children's Services must:
    • be considering adoption for the child;
    • have decided that this is the most appropriate placement for the child having established that there is no suitable placement within the child's family network;
    • have considered whether the placement will safeguard and promote the child's welfare, be in their best interests and meets their needs set out in the care plan; and
    • have assessed and approved the prospective adopters suitability to care for the child as a foster parent.
  3. Full fostering assessment and approval: This is a detailed process made up of four main parts which include criminal records checks, health checks, references and the carer's family's circumstances including their home environment and their ability to meet a child's needs. This is the process that applies both to unconnected foster carers and relatives friends and connected persons who wish to care for a child long term. Family and friends carers will usually be assessed on how they can care for and protect a specific child.

    When the full fostering assessment is finished the information gathered will be presented to a fostering panel for a recommendation about approval. If the proposed carer is not approved you can challenge this by writing to the local authority or asking for a review by the Independent Review mechanism.

For more information see: advice sheet 22: Family and Friends care: becoming a foster carer.

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FOSTERING FOR ADOPTION

Foster for adoption is a new practice which has been introduced to enable young children (and especially babies) to be placed with people who have been approved as prospective adopters and also as temporary foster carers. The child is placed with them on a temporary fostering basis even though their long term future has not necessarily been decided by a court. The idea is that they will bond as early as possible with people who may go on to adopt them. It is used when adoption is being considered for looked after children because they are unlikely to be raised by their parents or relatives in the long term.

If:

  • your child is a baby (or very young), AND
  • they are looked after in the care system (either with your agreement or the agreement of their other parent/someone else with parental responsibility or under an emergency protection order or a care order) AND
  • the social worker thinks you and your relatives won't be able to care for them long term,

the social worker must explore alternative plans for your baby's long term care. This may include your baby being adopted if the court agrees this is the best plan for them.

If the social worker is considering adoption for your baby, they are under a duty to consider placing your child with approved foster carers who are also approved as prospective adopters. If the court decides your child cannot stay in your family long term, these carers might go on to apply to adopt them if the court decides that adoption is in your child's best interests. It can be very difficult to argue that your baby should return to your family once she has settled with 'foster for adoption' foster carers.

If it has been mentioned in your case it is essential that you get a solicitor straight away and that, if you have not already done so, you find out if there is anyone in your family who might be suitable to care for your child. If there is, tell the social worker and your solicitor immediately.

Find a solicitor specialising in family law here. It is a good idea to choose a solicitor who is knowledgeable and experienced in this area and who is a member of the Solicitors Regulation Authority Children Panel

You can also get free, confidential advice from Family Rights Group advice line.

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FOSTERING LINKWORKER (ALSO KNOWN AS SUPERVISING SOCIAL WORKER)

This is a social worker from the Fostering and Adoption team or fostering agency. They work with foster carers to ensure that they receive the right support and monitoring to care for any child who is placed with them.

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FOSTERING PANEL

A fostering panel is made up of people who have not been involved in the fostering assessment.

They will include:

  • Independent Panel Members, which includes people with experience and expertise in foster care, education, health, disability and family placement social work and
  • Members with social work experience including in in-family placement.

The purpose of the panel is to make recommendations about whether a person should be approved to foster a specific child or any child who is looked after.

People who want to become foster carers are usually invited to attend part of the panel meeting where their assessment is being discussed.

When a social worker completes a full fostering assessment of someone who wants to be a foster carer, they write a report on that person. This report must be presented to a Fostering Panel who can make any of the following recommendations:

  • To approve the foster carer
  • To approve the foster carer but with certain conditions (noted during the assessment)
  • To ask the social worker to return to the panel at a later date with additional information
  • Not to approve the foster carer.

The final decision about approval rests with a Children’s Services decision maker who will consider the panel’s recommendation.

If a person's application to be a foster carer is refused by Children's Services, they can apply for a review of the decision through the Independent Review Mechanism.

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G - I



GENERAL REGISTER OFFICE

The General Register Office is responsible for:

  • birth records, including adoption certificates;
  • managing the adoption contact register which puts adopted adults in touch with birth relatives if they both want this;
  • providing information regarding the courts and adoption agencies involved in adoptions.

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GUARDIAN

See children’s guardian.

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ICO

See Interim Care Order.

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INDEPENDENT REVIEW MECHANISM (IRM)

This is a panel which is independent of Children’s Services, which looks into decisions made by Children’s Services when people who want to be foster carers have been assessed and then refused.

To apply for a review through the IRM, you should write to the contract manager of the Independent Review Mechanism. You can email your application to irm@baaf.org.uk , fax it to 0845 450 3957, or write to Contract Manager, Independent Review Mechanism (IRM), Unit 4,

Pavilion Business Park, Royds Hall Road, Wortley, Leeds LS12 6AJ.

If the IRM panel think a carer should have been approved instead of refused, they can make a fresh recommendation to Children’s Services. Children’s Services will still make the final decision.

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INDEPENDENT REVIEWING OFFICER (IRO)

Every child who is looked after by Children’s Services must have an Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO). Their main job is to:

Before a Looked After Child Review Meeting the IRO must:

  • speak to the child in private and make sure the child knows of their right to have an advocate;
  • speak to the parents and make sure their views are represented at the review, even if they don’t attend;
  • speak to all other important adults in the child’s life, including professionals, even if they don’t all go to the review;
  • make sure all-important reports are available before the meeting (the IRO can postpone the meeting for up to 20 days to get the reports).

After the Looked After Child Review Meeting the IRO must:

  • make sure there is a written record of decisions and recommendations distributed within 5 working days and a full record of the review distributed within 20 working days;
  • make sure the person responsible for carrying out decisions made at the review is identified, and does their job;
  • make sure that if agreed decisions aren’t carried out then, a senior officer in Children’s Services is told. The IRO should try to negotiate with the senior officer to make sure things are properly sorted out for the child;
  • keep in touch with what is happening to the child in their placement between reviews.

If things are going seriously wrong for the child, they can ask CAFCASS to make a court application if this is needed to enforce the child's rights.

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INDIRECT CONTACT

This means keeping in touch with a child without seeing them in person. It could mean phone calls, letters, texts, cards or the sending of photos etc.

For more information see: advice sheet 11: Duties on Children's Services when children are in the care system.

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INITIAL CHILD PROTECTION CONFERENCE (ICPC)

This is a meeting which takes place between social workers, other professionals and family members when a child is considered to be at risk of significant harm because they have suffered physical abuse, emotional abusesexual abuse or neglected. The conference meets to discuss the risk to the child and decide whether the child needs a child protection plan to protect him or her from harm in the future.

For more information please see: advice sheet 9: Child protection procedures.

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INTERIM CARE ORDER

An interim care order (ICO) is a temporary order made by the court which says that the child should be looked after in the care system for a temporary period. It means that the court has good reasonsto believe a child has been seriously harmed or is likely to be seriously harmed, and that an Interim Care Order is the best thing for the child until there is a final hearing. It is usually made at the beginning of care proceedings to give Children’s Services temporary powers and it usually lasts until the case is finally decided. It can be ended before that if the court decides that it is no longer justified.

Under this order, Children’s Services share parental responsibility for the child with the parents. This means that they must find out parents wishes about any decision concerning their child, but Children's Services always have the final say and can make plans for the child even if the parents don’t agree with them.

For more information see: advice sheet 15: Care proceedings.

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INTERIM CARE PLAN

This is a temporary care plan, put in place while a full care plan is being made.

For more information see: advice sheet 15: Care proceedings.

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INTERIM COURT ORDER

This is a temporary decision by the court. It stays in force until it is discharged (ended) or replaced by another order for example a permanent order.

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INTERIM CHILD ARRANGEMENTS ORDER (SAYING WHO THE CHILD SHOULD LIVE WITH)

This is a temporary Child Arrangements Order made by a court, which says where a child will live or who the child will see until a permanent order is made. Any person who gets an interim Child Arrangements Order (saying who the child should live with) has parental responsibility for that child for as long as the order lasts. They share this parental responsibility with anyone else who has parental responsibility for the child such as their parents.

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INTERIM SUPERVISION ORDER

This is a temporary order made by a court saying that the child should be monitored by Children’s Services wherever they are living, until a permanent order is made, but it does not give Children’s Services parental responsibility.

For more information see: advice sheet 15: Care proceedings.

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IRO

See Independent Reviewing Officer.

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ISSUES RESOLUTION HEARING (IRH)

This is a court hearing, held after the Case Management Hearing and should take place before the case is finally at 26 weeks. The court decides exactly when. At the IRH the court looks at:

- what is agreed or decided so far;
- what still needs to be decided and
- whether any more evidence is needed.

The court considers whether a final hearing is needed at all or whether a final decision can be made in a fair way at the IRH.

For more information see: advice sheet 15: Care proceedings.

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J - L



JUDICIAL REVIEW

This is a legal procedure in which a court decides whether an action, or a failure to do something which should have been done, by a government body (like a local authority), was lawful.

If, for example, a parent thinks that Children’s Services has not followed some of their legal duties towards their child, they might be able to challenge the decision in court in a Judicial Review, although it is unusual.

For more information see: advice sheet 25: Challenging decisions and making complaints.

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KINSHIP CARER

A kinship carer is a relative or friend who is looking after a child that cannot live with his/her parents. Sometimes they are known as Family and Friends carers. If the social worker was involved in placing the child with the relative or friend, the child is likely to be looked after. If they were not, then it is likely to be a private arrangement.

For more information see advice sheets:
11: Duties on Children's Services when children are in the care system
12: Relatives and friends taking on the care of a vulnerable child in an emergency

21: Support for relatives and friends who are caring for someone else's child.

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LAC

See Looked After Child

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LAC REVIEW

See Looked After Child Review Meeting.

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LEAD PROFESSIONAL

Sometimes professionals from several different agencies are involved in a child’s life, for example Children’s Services, Health, Education. Usually in those situations, one person is named as the lead professional.

The lead professional can come from any of the different agencies working with the child, depending on the child’s needs. It’s their job to be the main contact person for the child and their family and to coordinate all the help the family is getting under the Common Assessment Framework.

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LEAVE OF THE COURT

This means the ‘permission’ of the court. Sometimes people who are not parents of the child, like family and friends carers, want the court to make an order so the child can live with them or see them. However they cannot apply for the order unless the court gives them permission first to start off the application.

For more information see advice sheets:
18 DIY Child Arrangements Orders: information for family and friends carers and
19: DIY Special Guardianship Orders: information for family and friends carers

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LEGAL AID

If you get legal aid it means you get free legal advice or representation by a solicitor.

All parents and other people with parental responsibility automatically get legal aid to cover the costs of having a solicitor in care proceedings and to help them negotiate with Children's Services if they have received a letter before proceedings.

Legal aid is also available in some other situations (for example if a relative wants to apply for an order to care for a child when there has been child abuse) as an alternative to them going into care, but it will be means tested, there are strict criteria to say what counts as child abuse and the person wanting legal aid will also have to prove to the legal aid agency they have a good case.

For more information please see here

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LETTER BEFORE PROCEEDINGS

This letter should be sent to parents and others with parental responsibility by Children's Services when they have held a legal planning meeting and they think that they are likely to apply to court for a care order to remove the child from home, but have decided to give the parents/others with parental responsibility a last chance to sort out the problems they think are impacting on the child safety and welfare.

The letter before proceedings should explain to the parents/others with parental responsibility that court proceedings are likely but that they are being given a last chance to improve their parenting to avoid their child being removed. It should also:

  • set out the concerns about the child's safety
  • set out what they need to change or improve in their parenting to avoid the child being removed from their care
  • set out what help they will continue to be given to keep the child safe
  • invite them to a pre-proceedings meeting to discuss the improvements they need to make and
  • give them information about how they can get free legal advice and representation.

If you receive a letter before proceedings, it is really important that you see a solicitor specialising in children's law immediately. Children's Services should send you details of local specialist solicitors. You should give your solicitor a copy of the letter you have received – this will mean you do not have to pay the costs of them helping you negotiate with Children's Services. 

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LOCAL AUTHORITY CHILDREN'S SERVICES

See Children’s Services.

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LOCAL GOVERNMENT OMBUDSMAN

This is an independent person appointed by Parliament to investigate complaints made against council departments, including Children’s Services.

A person may only complain to the Local Government Ombudsman after they have been through the Local Authority complaints procedure.

For more information see: advice sheet 25: Challenging decisions and making complaints.

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LOCAL PROTOCOLS FOR ASSESSMENT

Each local authority in discussion with their partner agencies and with the agreement of the LSCB should publish a local protocol for assessment which sets out clear arrangements for how cases will be managed once a child is referred to Children's Services for help or protection. This protocol should explain how the different assessments of different family members (eg an education, health and care plan, or an assessment by Adult services) will inform each other. Details of what each local protocol for assessment should include is in Working Together 2015 page 27.

It is a good idea to access a copy of the assessment protocol in your area if social workers are involved with your child.

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LOCAL SAFEGUARDING CHILDREN'S BOARD

This is the local body which is responsible for coordinating the services which protect vulnerable children who are at risk of harm in every area. It is made up of people from Children’s Services, and other agencies such as education, health and the police. It sets local rules and policies and makes sure they are put into place and work well.

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LOOKED AFTER CHILD

This means any child who is being cared for by Children's Services or who is remanded by a youth court. There are three main types of looked after children:-

  • those who are in care (i.e. they are removed from home under a court order, for example a Care Order or Emergency Protection Order);
  • those who are accommodated (i.e. they are in the care system with the agreement of their parents/others with parental responsibility (see children in accommodation); and
  • those who are on remand because they are awaiting trial for a criminal offence

When a child is looked after (and not on remand) they may be placed:

  • with the other parent/other person with parental responsibility, provided they are suitable, but if there is no sutiable parent then in the most appropriate placement. When deciding which is the most appropriate placement, preference should be given to placing them
  • with a relative, friend or other connected person who is approved as a foster carer. Otherwise they will be placed
  • in foster care or a residential unit.

However, if they are on remand, they will be placed in Youth Detention Accommodation (secure training centre, secure children's home or youth offender institution) or in local authority accommodation (for example with a foster carer).

For more information see: advice sheet 11: Duties on Children's Services when children are in the care system.

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LOOKED AFTER CHILDREN (LAC) REVIEW MEETING

When a child is looked after, their situation is regularly reviewed at LAC reviews meetings. The purpose of these meetings is to:

  • look at the child’s care plan,
  • make sure that the right arrangements are in place for the child whilst they are looked after,
  • discuss any changes since the last review, and
  • consider whether decisions made at the last review were acted on.

It is the time for parents to raise any issues or concerns, for example about where the child lives, contact, education or health matters.

The first LAC review meeting must be held within four weeks of the child being looked after. The second is held within the next three months and the third and later reviews are held every 6 months. Reviews should also be held in the following circumstances:

  • when there is going to be a significant change to the care plan,
  • when a child goes into or leaves custody;
  • when there is a plan for a looked after child to leave care before the age of 18;
  • if there is a plan to move a child from a place where they have been settled for some time.

LAC review meetings are chaired by an Independent Reviewing Officer.They are normally attended by:

  • parents/others with parental responsibility for the child,
  • the social worker,
  • the child,
  • the foster carer and
  • the foster carer’s supervising social worker
  • other professionals may be there too, but it shouldn’t be so many that it overwhelms the child.

For more information see: advice sheet 11: Duties on Children's Services when children are in the care system.

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LETTER OF ISSUE

If Children's Services decides it is not in the child's best interests to wait any longer for their parents/others with parental responsibility to sort out their difficulties and that the child should be removed from their care straight away, the social worker may apply to court for an order saying that the child should be removed from home.

In these circumstances, the social worker should send the parents/others with parental responsibility a 'letter of issue', informing them that legal proceedings are being started and that they should see a solicitor specialising in children's law immediately. The parents/others with parental responsibility will not have to pay the solicitors costs if they give the solicitor this letter of issue.

To find out more about what happens when care proceedings are started, see: advice sheet 15: Care and related proceedings.

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M - P



MANCHESTER JUDGEMENT

This high court judgement made it clear that family and friends carers, caring for a looked after child who was placed with them by Children’s Services, have a right to be paid a fostering allowance at the same approved  rates as unrelated foster carers who work for Children’s Services. They should receive this payment from the date the child is placed with them and should also receive other support to care for the child.

Another Judgement called the Tower Hamlets Judgement and Statutory Family and Friends Care Guidance have also confirmed the same point.

See: advice sheet 12: Relatives and friends taking on the care of a vulnerable child in an emergency.

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MARAC

See Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference

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MASH

See Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub

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MEDIATION

This is a service which helps people who disagree about aspects of a child's care or arrangements to find solutions to the problem, without having to go to court.

A family mediator is a trained professional who helps family members negotiate. They do this by keeping the discussion focussed on the issues which are not agreed and on the child's needs, rather than those of the adults. The mediator is neutral and therefore does not take sides.

It is the people taking part in the mediation rather than the mediator who make plans for the child. Sometimes this involves the mediator seeing the child to ask their views on particular questions to help inform the adults' discussions.

In many cases, mediation can be very successful in helping find solutions that work for the child and the adults involved, for example in agreeing the arrangements about who the child should see and where they should live. However, agreements reached at mediation are not legally enforceable without further legal steps being taken.

The law has recently changed so that in most cases it is now a requirement that any person wanting to apply to court for a private law order about caring for or seeing children has to meet with a mediator for a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) to find out about whether mediation would be suitable in their case before they can start their case in court. But there are some circumstances where this does not apply, for example where there is evidence of domestic violence or child abuse or the application is urgent.

For more information see FRG advice sheet 18: DIY Child Arrangements orders for Family and friends Carers

To find a mediator contact: The Family Mediation council

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MIAM

See Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting

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MEDIATION INFORMATION AND ASSESSMENT MEETING

People who want to apply to court for a Child Arrangements Order first have to meet with a mediator to discuss whether mediation may be a suitable way of resolving their case. This meeting is called a mediation, information and assessment meeting or 'MIAM'. The mediator must sign either the person's application form or a separate form to say whether mediation has or has not gone ahead in that case.

But there are some situations where it is not necessary to attend mediation before making a court application. The main ones are:

  • Where there is evidence of domestic violence - the applicant must show evidence that they or the child who is the subject of the application have been a victim of domestic violence with the other party being the cause of it;
  • There are child protection concerns - the applicant must prove to the court that the child who is the subject of the application (or another child living in the same household), is the subject of a child protection investigation being carried out by Children's Services or is the subject of a child protection plan.
  • The application is urgent – the applicant must be able to show that the delay caused in attending a MIAM would cause
  •    - a risk of harm to a child; or
  •    - a risk of unlawful removal of a child from the United Kingdom, or
  •    - a risk of unlawful retention of a child who is currently outside England and Wales;
  • Previous attendance at a MIAM – i.e. that the applicant has attended a MIAM about the same child in the last 4 months.

Information on how to find a family mediator may be obtained from: The Family Mediation council

For more information see FRG advice sheet 18: DIY Child Arrangements orders for Family and friends Carers

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MULTI-AGENCY RISK ASSESSMENT CONFERENCE (MARAC)

A multi-agency risk assessment conference (MARAC) is a meeting for professionals only. It involves a number of agencies, such as the Police, Housing, Children's Services and Health and is held regularly in the local area.

The purpose of a MARAC is to share information about high risk domestic abuse victims – those at risk of murder or serious harm - so that a risk focused and co-ordinated safety plan is made to support adult and child victims. The professionals present at the meeting will agree the actions that will be taken, and by whom, to reduce the risk of future violence. Everything that is discussed in the meeting is confidential and will only be shared with other agencies in exceptional circumstances.

Whenever possible, if your situation is discussed at a MARAC, your views can be represented at the conference by your Independent Domestic Violence Advisor (IDVA).

 

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MULTI-AGENCY SAFEGUARDING HUB (MASH)

Many local authorities have set up multi-agency safeguarding models where a hub of key agencies (which can include children's services, police, health, education, probation and youth offending) are co-located or have an agreed protocol in place to promote better information-sharing, decision-making and communication in relation to concerns about children. The aim is that referrals are responded to in a coordinated, appropriate and timely way. This should also mean that early intervention can be offered to prevent crises or risks increasing.

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NEGLECT

Neglect is the continuing failure to meet a child’s basic physical and psychological needs. It can be caused by a wide range of things, including for example:

  • a mother misusing drugs during her pregnancy; or once the child is born,
  • failure to provide a child with
    • Adequate food, clothing or shelter
    • Protection from physical and emotional harm or danger
    • Adequate supervision
    • Access to adequate medical care
    • Protection from neglect by another person

For more information see: advice sheet 9: Child protection procedures.

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NO ORDER PRINCIPLE 

This is a key principle in family law that says that the court should only make an order about a child if this would be better for the child than not making an order.

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OMBUDSMAN

See Local Government Ombudsman.

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ON REMAND

See Remand.

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OUTLINE CHILD PROTECTION PLAN

An outline child protection plan is a plan of support and services put in place at a child protection case conference when a child is considered to be at risk of significant harm. A more detailed plan is made later at core group meetings.

The outline plan should:

  • Identify likely sources of harm to the child and ways in which the child can be protected from that harm;
  • Set out specific things about how the child will be protected and how they will be cared for;
  • Make clear who is responsible for what and the time scales.

For more information see: advice sheet 9: Child protection procedures.

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PARALLEL PLANNING (ALSO KNOWN AS TWIN-TRACK OR CONTINGENCY PLANNING)

This describes how several plans may be made at the same time during the early stages of a child becoming looked after. It means that a number of different possible long-term placements are being considered at once. For example, to see whether it’s possible for the child to return home to their parents, but at the same time having a back-up plan for the child to live elsewhere, like with a family member or foster carer if that is not possible. That way if the child can’t return home, time isn’t wasted starting assessments of new carers all over again.

This process can also include considering long-term foster placements or even adoption, should the other plans be unsuccessful. Children’s Services would need to have a care order or placement order to go ahead with these. However if they are considering adoption, they could place a child with foster carers who are also approved as prospective adopters - see fostering for adoption.

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PARENTAL RESPONSIBILITY (PR)

Parental responsibility is defined in law as “all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority, which by law a parent has in relation to the child and the administration of his/her property.”

In practical terms, it means the responsibility to care for a child and the right to make important decisions about the child, for example agreeing to medical/dental treatment. .

Any person caring for a child, for example a family and friends carer can make all the day to day decisions about the child to make sure they are well looked after, but  they should speak to someone who has parental responsibility when it comes to important decisions about the child.

The following people have parental responsibility for a child:

  • All birth mothers
  • Married fathers
  • Unmarried fathers with a parental responsibility agreement (forms are available from local courts) or a parental responsibility order from the court
  • Unmarried fathers named on the child's birth certificate (after 1 December 2003)
  • Female partner’s of mother’s who have a child by assisted reproduction, (so long as they both formally consented to her being a parent with the licensed treatment provider), and they either:
    • Are in a civil partnership;
    • or don’t enter a civil partnership, but the partner is named on the birth certificate, or obtains it by parental responsibility agreement with the mother or by a court order.
    • Step-parents (including civil partners) if they have made an authorised agreement with both parents with parental responsibility or
    • Anyone who has a Residence Order or a Child Arrangements Order (saying the child should live with them).
    • Anyone who has been appointed as guardian of the child by a parent with parental responsibility who has died (and there is no surviving parent with parental responsibility)
    • Anyone who has a Special Guardianship order for the child
    • The local authority if they have a Care Order or Emergency Protection Order for the child
    • Adoptive parents
    • Prospective adopters when the child is placed with them

You cannot give parental responsibility to anyone else, although you can arrange for other people to meet your parental responsibilities, for example, if your child is being looked after by relatives or while your child is at school.

Also, if you want to take a child abroad you need the agreement of everyone with parental responsibility.

An unmarried father who does not have parental responsibility will still be a "parent" under the Children Act. He is therefore entitled to be involved in decisions made about his child by the local authority and the courts. However, he will not be considered as a ‘parent’ when it comes to making decisions about adoption of his child, so if you are a father in this situation it is essential that you see a solicitor specialising in child care lawas soon as possible. To find our more about the rights of fathers see our FAQs for fathers.

For more information see: advice sheet 2: Parental Responsibility.

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PARTIES TO PROCEEDINGS

‘Parties’ are the people who are involved in legal cases before the courts. So in children’s cases the parties could be:

  • Children’s Services the child represented by their Guardian and the parents; or
  • if the disagreement is just between the two parents, for example over where the child lives, the parties would be the mother and the father.

Other people can join a court case as a party too, for example grandparents who wish to care for their grandchild. This means they could join in the case, but they would need to ask the courts permission to be allowed to do this.

Parties are allowed in the court room and are allowed copies of all the paperwork, such as reports and other documents. Information will only be kept away from a party if telling them something could put another person at risk and the court gives specific permission.

For more information see: advice sheet 15: Care proceedings.

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PERMANENCE PLAN

This describes a plan for a child which is intended to last until the child becomes an adult at 18. It can be achieved through:

  • a plan to return to the parents; or
  • a placement with relatives or friends, whether they are long term foster carers for the child, or they have a Child Arrangements Order or a Special Guardianship Order; or
  • A placement with unrelated foster carers in foster care; or
  • Adoption when a child is legally adopted into another family. This can only happen if clear procedures are followed and the court makes an adoption order.

A permanence plan should be developed at the second looked after child review.

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PERSONAL INDEPENDENCE PAYMENTS (PIP)

This is replacing Disability living Allowance. It helps those aged 16 to 64 with some of the extra costs caused by their long-term ill-health or a disability. The rate depends on how their condition affects them, not the condition itself.

In order to get a PIP, the claimant's needs are assessed to work out the level of help they need. They are regularly re-assessed to make sure they are getting the right support.

Click here for more information

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PHYSICAL ABUSE

This means any kind of physical harm, including for example by hitting, shaking, throwing or burning a child.

For more information see: advice sheet 9: Child protection procedures.

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PLACED FOR ADOPTION

This describes part of the process of adoption. Before an adoption order can be made, the child must live with the prospective adopters for 10 weeks.  If an adoption agency is involved, for example because the child is looked after beforehand, the child can only be placed with the prospective adopters if either:

  • the parents (who have parental responsibility) have given their formal agreement or
  • the court makes a placement order giving the adoption agency permission to place the child for adoption against the parents' wishes.

For more information see: advice sheet 23: Adoption.

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PLACEMENT

This is the name for where a child lives while in care or is placed for adoption.

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PLACEMENT ORDER

A placement order is a court order that allows Children's Services to place a child for adoption even if the parents don't agree. Children’s Services usually apply for a placement order during (or after) care proceedings if there is a plan for the child to be adopted and the parents (who have parental responsibility) don’t agree.

For more information see: advice sheet 23: Adoption.

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PLACEMENT PLAN

This is a plan prepared by Children's Services for a child who is looked after. It sets out where and with whom the child will live; financial arrangements for the placement; any specific arrangements about the placement including the arrangements for the child to keep in touch with their parents, siblings and other members of the family; and also what the foster carer can decide about how the child is cared for including, for example, school trips, overnight stays, medical and dental treatment, education, leisure and home life, faith and religious observance and use of social media.

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PLANNING MEETINGS

Planning meetings are held either before or immediately after a child is looked after by Children’s Services to work out the arrangements for the child. These arrangements include where the child will live, who they will see or keep in touch with in their family and how the health, education and other needs are going to be met. They are recorded in the child’s care plan which will be reviewed at regular intervals at Looked After Children Review meetings.

For more information see: advice sheet 11: Powers and duties of the local authority towards children in the care system.

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POLICE PROTECTION

The police may remove a child to a safe place for up to 72 hours if they are called to a home and are worried about a child’s immediate safety, for example if a young child has been left alone.

Sometimes social workers ask the police to use these powers if they are worried that a child is in immediate danger and they do not have time to apply to court for an emergency protection order (EPO) to keep the child safe.

However, it is recommended that social workers should try to apply for an EPO rather than asking the police to use these powers.

If a child is removed by the police, they will ask Children’s Services to look after the child during that time. If social workers don’t think it is safe for the child to return home after 72 hours, they can only continue to keep the child away from home if the court makes an EPO or the parents or others with parental responsibility agree to their child being accommodated.

For more information see: advice sheets 9: Child protection procedures and 15: Care proceedings.

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PR

See Parental Responsibility.

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PRE-PROCEEDINGS MEETING

If Children's Services send you a letter before proceedings they should invite you to attend a pre-proceedings meeting. This meeting is a last opportunity for you to discuss with Children's Services what they still want you to do to be able to care safely for your child to avoid your child being removed from your care. You will normally be given a further 6 weeks after the meeting to make necessary changes to keep your child safe. If you don't make these changes within the time period they tell you, Children's Services will normally apply to court for an order to remove your child.

It is very important that you attend this meeting and that you ask a solicitor specialising in children's law to go to the meeting with you and to prepare what you want to say beforehand. You should also discuss with your wider family how they can help you keep your child safe, before you go to the pre-proceedings meeting. You can then tell the social worker at the meeting how your family can help . You can also ask the social worker to arrange a family group conference so that your family can come together to make a safe plan, including identifying who could care for your child, if you cannot.

You should also let the social worker know that you will come to the meeting.

For more information see: advice sheets 9: Child protection procedures and 15: Care and related proceedings.

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PRIVATE ARRANGEMENT

Sometimes when there is a problem in the parents’ home, a grandparent or other relative agrees to care for the child. If this is done by agreement with the parents, and not at the direction of a social worker, this is a “private arrangement” sometimes also known as a “family arrangement”. In that situation, Children’s Services have not taken on any legal or financial responsibility for the arrangement.

However, this is often an area in dispute. Sometimes social workers are very involved in making plans for a child to live with relatives as they think it is not safe for the child to stay with their parents, but they then say it is a private arrangement and that they do not have to give the carer any financial or other help. If this happens to you, you should take advice from a solicitor or Family Rights Group about what you can do to challenge this.

For more information see: advice sheets 12: Relatives and freinds taking on the care of a vulnerable child in an emergency and 21: Support for relatives and friends who are caring for someone else's child.

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PRIVATE FOSTER CARER (PRIVATE FOSTERING)

A private foster carer is someone who is not a relative or a foster carer working for Children’s Services who is (or plans to be) caring for a child under the age of 16 (or under 18 if disabled) for more than 28 days and the arrangement was made privately, not through social workers.

relative in this context is a step parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle or older sibling whether full or half blood, marriage or civil partnership.

When a child is privately fostered, the parent and the private foster carer must tell Children’s Services about the arrangement as soon as possible. Once they have been notified, a social worker will visit private foster carer’s home where the child is staying within 7 days. They will speak to the carer and the child and make sure the child is safe and well cared for. The social worker must carry on visiting the child at regular intervals for as long as the child is privately fostered.

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PROSPECTIVE ADOPTERS

These are people who want to adopt a child who have been approved as adopters by the adoption agency.

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PSYCHOLOGICAL ASSESSMENT (ADULT)

A psychologist is a professional with expert knowledge of the human mind, feelings and behaviour.

Sometimes, when you and your child are involved with Children’s Services, you may be asked to have a psychological assessment. This may be recommended as part of a child protection plan or it may be ordered in court proceedings.

You should always be asked if you agree to an assessment. But, it is important to be aware that if it has been ordered by a court, you will normally be expected to cooperate with the assessment and if you don’t, the court will want to know why. This is something you can discuss with your solicitor if you have one.

When the psychologist sees you, they may ask you about things like:

  • how you are now and what has happened to you in the past, including when you were a child;
  • whether you are able to change things that affect the way you care for your child;
  • whether, with the right support or treatment, you could look after your child better; and
  • whether you would be able to make changes to the way you care for your child within a timescale which is suitable for your child’s development.

After the psychologist has seen you, they will normally prepare a report about you for the child protection conference or the court. You should be able to see the report and be given time to think about (and respond to) any recommendations the psychologist makes in the report.

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PUBLIC FUNDING

See Legal Aid.

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PUBLIC LAW OUTLINE (PLO)

This is the system which guides the courts on how to manage care proceedings.

Related guidance elsewhere says that social workers must work with the family to try to find solutions to the problems before proceedings start (unless there is an emergency).

The PLO says that the court must check that this family work has been done at the first hearing. It must also check to see if there are any family or friends carers who could care for the child (if the child is unlikely to stay with their parnets). The PLO also says how the court should manage the case and the timescales which should be followed up to the final hearing.

A new PLO is in force from April 2014. It is called Practice Direction 12A. Under this new guidance for courts:

  • care proceedings should normally take no longer than 26 weeks; and parents and family members must formally apply for any further assessment of their ability to care for the child and any expert evidence they need to support that by the case management hearing at the latest (see above) or they are in danger of being refused.

 

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Q - S



REGULATION 24 PLACEMENT

This is a law which allows Children’s Services to place a child with a family member or friend in an emergency situation for up to 16 weeks (without doing a full fostering assessment) provided they have carried out certain basic checks about that person’s home circumstances and their ability to care for and protect the child. This should allow Children’s Services to be satisfied that the placement will keep the child safe and well.

See: advice sheet 12: Relatives and friends taking on the care of a vulnerable child in an emergency.

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REGULATION 25A PLACEMENT

This is a law that allows Children’s Services to place a specific named child in a temporary fostering arrangement, with a person who is not approved as a foster carer but who is approved generally as an adopter. (See fostering for adoption).

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RELATIVE

This has a specific meaning in family law. It means a relative, who is a step parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle or sibling (whether full or half blood or by marriage or civil partnership).

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REMAND

When a young person is charged with a criminal offence and is awaiting trial, they can either be given bail by the court, or they can be held on remand.

For a child (aged 10-17) remand means that the court orders them to stay in Youth Detention Accommodation (a young offenders institution, secure children's home or secure training centre ) or in local authority accommodation until their trial date.

All young people held on remand are looked after children.

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RESIDENCE ORDER

A Residence Order is a legal order which says who a child should live with and gives that person parental responsibility for the child. It does not take away parental responsibility from the child's parents. A residence order can last until the age of 18, or can be ended earlier by the court. The law has changed so that courts cannot make residence orders any more. They are now replaced by Child Arrangements Orders. But if you already have a residence order for a child, it is still valid and will continue unless the court makes a new order.

For more information please see: advice sheet 18: DIY Child Arrangements Orders: information for family and friends carers.

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RESIDENCE ORDER ALLOWANCE

Children’s Services may give financial help to someone with a Residence Order (who is not a parent, or married to one) by paying them a Residence Order Allowance, but they don't have to and it is means tested. The rates of Residence Order Allowances should be no less than the core child allowance under the same local authority's Fostering Scheme.

However, now that residence orders have been replaced by Child Arrangements Order (saying who the child should live with), Children's Services can now pay a Child Arrangements Order allowance instead of a Residence Order Allowance. The basis on which it is paid will be the same as for Residence orders.

 

For more information see: advice sheets 18: DIY Child Arrangements Orders – information for family and friends carers and 21: Support for relatives and friends who are caring for children.

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RESIDENTIAL CARE

This means a place where a Looked After child may live such as a children’s home or other group living arrangement. A residential setting is managed by professional staff and may specialise in children with particular needs, such as physical disability or behavioural problems.

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RESPITE CARE

Respite care is most often provided to children with disabilities but Children’s Services can also provide respite accommodation to any child in need who may benefit from this.

When Children’s Services provide respite care to a child they must produce a written care plan for the child and review these arrangements.

For more information see: advice sheet 4: Family Support Services.

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REVIEW CHILD PROTECTION CONFERENCE

The purpose of the child protection review conference is to look at whether or not there are still serious concerns about the safety of the child and how well the parents can care for and protect him or her. In other words this meeting decides whether the child is still suffering or is likely to suffer significant harm.

The review conference can agree that the child doesn’t need a child protection plan any longer. Or, the conference might decide that the child protection plan needs changing, or that the child should stay on the same child protection plan.

The first child protection review conference is held three months after the initial Child Protection Conference. After that, review conferences are held every six months.

Usually these meetings will be chaired by the same person who chaired the initial child protection conference. The same professionals will also be invited to attend.

For more information see: advice sheet 9: Child protection procedures.

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SECTION 17

This is the part of the law (section 17 of the Children Act 1989) that says Children’s Services should provide helpt to children in need (and their families) tosafeguard and promote their welfare. Children’s Services do this by offering family support services.

For more information see: advice sheet 4: Family Support Services.

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SECTION 20

This is the part of the law (Section 20 of the Children act 1989) that says Children’s Services should look after a child when there is no-one with parental responsibility for the child or when the person caring for the child is prevented from caring for them, for whatever reason. This is also called voluntary Accommodation.

For detailed information see: advice sheet 4: Family Support Services.

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SECTION 47

This is the part of the law (section 47 of the Children Act 1989) that says Children’s Services must  enquiries when they suspect a child may be at risk of harm. This is also sometimes called a Child Protection Investigation.

For detailed information see: advice sheet 9: Child protection procedures.

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SECURE ACCOMMODATION

Children’s Services can place a child over 13 in secure accommodation if he/she:

  • has a history of running away, or is likely to, and is likely to suffer significant harm; OR
  • if secure accommodation isn’t used, he/she is likely to injure him/her self or others.

The initial placement can only be for up to 72 hours. To remain there any longer Children’s Services must make an application to court. The young person has the right to be legally represented at this hearing.

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SEXUAL ABUSE

Sexual abuse can mean many different things. Broadly speaking, it means getting a child involved in sexual activities, whether or not violence is used and whether or not the child is aware of what is happening. The sexual activity does not need to be physical. It could involve for example watching sexual images, encouraging a child to behave in a sexual way or grooming a child for future sexual abuse.

For more information see: advice sheet 9: Child protection procedures.

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SGO


See: Special Guardianship Order.

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SHORT BREAKS

A child is looked after on a short break arrangement when:

  • the child has a series of placements,
  • no single placement lasts more than 17 days and
  • the total time they are looked after in any 12 month period is 75 days.

Care plans should still be drawn up for them but they are reviewed less frequently than plans for other looked after children who are not on short breaks.

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SIGNIFICANT HARM

The Children Act 1989 introduced the phrase "significant harm" to describe the amount of harm that a child must be suffering before Children’s Services become involved in family life against the family's wishes. For example, Children’s Services must:

  • carry out child protection enquiries if they suspect a child is suffering or is likely to suffer significant harm, and
  • take steps to protect a child whom they have reasonable cause to believe is suffering, likely to suffer, or has suffered significant harm - either in agreement with the family or through the court.

"Harm " means "ill-treatment or the impairment of health or development". It includes physical abusesexual abuse, damage to mental or emotional well-being (emotional abuse), and neglect. It can include a child seeing or hearing another person being ill-treated.

There is no definition of "significant" but the law requires local authorities and the courts to compare your child's health and development with a similar child to establish whether the harm is significant.

For more information please see: advice sheets 9: Child protection procedures and 15: Care proceedings.

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SOCIAL WORKER

A social worker (sometimes called a key worker) is a qualified and registered professional. A children’s social worker’s job is to make sure children are safe and well cared for. Most are employed by Children’s Services but some are employed by other agencies or may be self-employed independent social workers.

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SOCIAL WORK COURT TEMPLATE

The template can be used by Children's Services to make an application to court for a supervision order or a care order. It sets out the common concerns for all children in the family as well as setting out the distinct needs of each child. The template may also include the social work chronology or this may be set out separately. It is a legal document and its main purpose is to present Children's Services' evidence clearly and analytically to assist the court in making decisions for the child.

The template is expected to be used by all local authorities by summer 2015.

When using the template the social worker must apply the welfare checklist and must provide an analysis of harm, of the impact on each child of what has been happening to them including any factors which lessen the risk of harm. The social worker should explain their analysis of the parents' parenting capability and wider family and friends' caring ability. The social worker must also evaluate all realistic placement options, listing all the advantages and disadvantages of each option, with clear reasons for the social worker's proposed long-term plan for the child

 

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SOLICITOR

A solicitor (sometimes called a lawyer) is a qualified professional who is regulated by the professional body called the Law Society.

In some circumstances (for example for parents in care proceedings) are paid for by legal aid.

If Children’s Services go to court to seek a legal order for your child it is a good idea to choose a solicitor who is knowledgeable and experienced in this area and who is a member of the Law Society's Accreditation Scheme.

You can find a family solicitor in your area here.

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SOUTHWARK RULING

In this case (Southwark LBC –v- D [2007]) the Court of Appeal said that if Children’s Services are involved in placing a child with a family or friends carer, then, unless they specifically agree something different with the carer at the time of the placement, the child will usually be treated as a being looked after child. This means that the carer must be assessed, approved, paid and supported in the same way as any unrelated foster carers who work for Children’s Services. Other later cases have confirmed the same point.

See: advice sheets 12: Immediate placement of looked after children with relatives or friends and 21: Support for relatives and friends who are caring for children.

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SPECIAL GUARDIAN

A special guardian is someone who has a Special Guardianship Order for a child. This order may be made by the court when a child is living permanently with someone other than their parents (such as relatives or long term foster carers).

A Special Guardian has parental responsibility for the child. They don’t have to consult the parents or anyone else with parental responsibility about most decisions for the child. But there are some things they cannot do or decide without the permission of the parents/others with parental responsibility or the court, such as

  • they cannot change a child’s surname
  • they cannot take the child abroad for more than 3 months and
  • they cannot agree to the child being placed for adoption.

For more information see: advice sheet 19: DIY Special Guardianship – information for family and friends carers.

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SPECIAL GUARDIANSHIP ALLOWANCE

When someone is granted a Special Guardianship Order, Children’s Services can give that person financial help by paying them a Special Guardianship Allowance, but they don’t have to. Any payments they agree to make will be means tested and are usually reviewed on a regular basis.

If a Special Guardian was previously a foster carer and received a fostering allowance for the child, they may get a higher rate of special guardianship allowance for the first two years.

For more information see: advice sheets 21: Support for relatives and friends who are caring for children. and 19: DIY Special Guardianship – information for family and friends carers.

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SPECIAL GUARDIANSHIP ORDER (SGO)

A Special Guardianship Order is a legal order which says that a child will live with someone who is not their parent on a long-term basis. In theory, the order can be ended before the child is 18 but this would be unusual. Parents cannot apply to end the order without the permission of the court and they would only get this permission if they could show that there had been a significant change of circumstances since the original order was made.

A Special Guardianship Order also gives the special guardian parental responsibility for the child. They don’t have to consult the parents or anyone else with parental responsibility about most decisions for the child. But there are some things they cannot do or decide without the permission of the parents/others with parental responsibility or the court, such as

  • they cannot change a child’s surname
  • they cannot take the child abroad for more than 3 months and
  • they cannot agree to the child being placed for adoption.

This order does not remove parental responsibility from the child's birth parents, but they are very few decisions that they can make whilst the special guardianship order exists.

Unlike in adoption cases, the child remains legally a member of the birth family under a special guardianship order.

For more information see: advice sheets 19: DIY Special Guardianship and 20: Special Guardianship – what does it mean for birth parents.

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STRATEGY DISCUSSION

This is a discussion which takes place between Children’s Services, the police and possibly other child care agencies at the beginning of child protection enquiries.The purpose of the discussion is to decide:

  • whether and how the child protection enquiries should be carried out; and
  • whether any immediate steps need to be taken to keep the child safe while the child protection investigation is underway, for example, if someone should be asked not to have contact with the child for the time being.

Parents are not normally invited to strategy meetings but should be informed as soon as possible afterwards of what is likely to happen.

For more information please see: advice sheet 9: Child protection procedures.

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SUPERVISED CONTACT

Sometimes a court or a social worker thinks it is best for a child if someone else is present when a child’s has contact with someone (perhaps a parent they don’t live with). This is to make sure the person having contact doesn’t do anything that might harm or upset the child.

If the court or the social worker says contact should be supervised, then the child and parents may be told where to meet, for example in a contact centre, and how long they can spend with their child, being supervised by staff etc.

When professionals supervise contact, they often make written observations of the contact and these may be used as evidence in court.

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SUPERVISION ORDER

A court can ask Children’s Services to “supervise” how the parent cares for their child under a supervision order. A social worker will agree a contract or supervision plan with the parent, which will set out what is expected of the parent and the help the social worker will give.

This order does not give Children’s Services parental responsibility for the child so basic decisions about how the child is raised can be made by the parents/other with parental responsibility but they may still want to discuss things with the supervising social worker to make sure they are happy with the plan.

A Supervision Order lasts for up to one year, and can be extended at most for two more years.

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SUPPORTER

This may be a friend or someone in your community who you take with you to meetings with social workers (and other professionals) to help you remember what you want to say and to remind you of what was said afterwards. It is important that this person stays calm and focussed on helping you to work with Children's Services to keep your child safe. It could be damaging to your case if they were to become angry and shout so do discuss this with them beforehand.

 

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T - V



TEAM AROUND THE CHILD (TAC)

This is a way of working with children and families which usually follows the early help assessment or  Common Assessment Framework (CAF) process.

The lead professional will bring together people from different agencies who are involved with the child and family to develop a plan of action/support that will help with whatever difficulties the child and family may have.

Each TAC will be different and will come together to meet the particular needs of the particular child/family. By working very cooperatively with the family and with good information sharing, the TAC tries to make sure the family get the right help.

In some areas the team around the child is called the Team around the Family.

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TEAM AROUND THE FAMILY (TAF)

This is a way of working with children and families which usually follows the early help assessment or Common Assessment Framework(CAF) process.

The lead professional will bring together people from different agencies who are involved with the child and family to develop a plan of action/support that will help with whatever difficulties the child and family may have.

Each TAF will be different and will come together to meet the particular needs of the particular child/family. By working very cooperatively with the family and with good information sharing, the TAF tries to make sure the family get the right help.

In some areas the Team around the Family is called the Team around the Child.

 

 

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THRESHOLD CRITERIA

A court can only make certain orders about a child, like caresupervision or adoption orders, if it is satisfied that, when Children’s Servicesfirst got involved in protecting the child, s/he was suffering or was likely to suffer significant harm, and that the harm was due to the parents’ care not being what is normally expected of a parent.

Once the court decides this is true, it goes on to decide if it’s best for the child to make an order.

For more information see: advice sheet 15: Care proceedings.

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THRESHOLD DOCUMENT

This is a document which every Local Safeguarding Children Board should publish. It sets out the process for early help assessments and the early help services available in a local area. It also makes clear the criteria, including the level of need, for referrals to Children’s Services and for services to be provided to children in need and to children who may be at risk of or are suffering significant harm or who need to be looked after by Children’s Services either with parental consent or under a care order. It should also include information about what processes should be followed when children and young people are at risk of or suffering sexual exploitation.

If there is a youth secure unit in a particular area, the threshold document should also take account of the needs of the young people in that establishment.

 

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TWIN TRACK PLANNING

See parallel planning.

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VOLUNTARY ACCOMMODATION

See Accommodation and section 20.

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W - Z



WELFARE CHECKLIST

When a court makes a decision about a child, for example, about where the child should live or with whom the child should have contact, it must consider the “welfare checklist”. This is a list of things about the child which help the court to focus on the best interests of the child. It means the court must think about:

  • the child’s wishes and feelings
  • the child’s physical, emotional and/or education needs
  • the child’s age, sex and background
  • the likely effect of the proposed change on the child
  • the risk of harm to the child
  • how capable the child’s parent is of meeting his or her needs.

This checklist also includes a presumption that, unless the contrary is shown, each parent being involved in the life of the child will further the child's welfare, although each case will turn on its own facts.

There is a slightly different checklist that applies in adoption cases.

 

For more information see: advice sheet 15: Care proceedings.

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YOUNG CARER

A young carer is a person under the age of 18 who has significant caring responsibilities for another person. They might look after, for example, a younger sibling or a family member with a disability.

A young person should not have to take too much responsibility for caring for others without help. They should be entitled to help and support for example:

  • if they are considered to be a child in need they can get help from Children’s Services;
  • they may be able to get help from a local support group for young carers; and/or
  • if they are caring for a disabled parent then a “whole family” assessment should be completed by Adult and Children’s Services working together so as to work out the package to help the whole family.

For more information see: advice sheets 4: Family Support Services and advice sheet 6: Support for disabled parents in a parenting role (being updated).

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