Frequently asked questions on s20 / voluntary accommodation
You do not have to agree to your child being looked after by particular carers if you don’t think it meets your child’s needs. But sometimes it will be difficult to come to an agreement that you think is absolutely perfect.
If you are not happy about how your child is being cared for try to think about exactly what it is that you are worried about and explain that to your child’s social worker. Maybe a meeting between you, the carer and the social worker could clear things up.
If your child is in a residential placement, such as a children’s home, then it might help if a staff member, or manager of the residential unit was at the meeting.
If you think your child would be better living somewhere else, such as with a different foster carer or a relative or friend, you can ask to discuss this with the social worker.
You could also think about whether your child could return home and what support you may need for that or whether someone else in the family could look after them.
If your child is a baby or is very young, and the social worker has mentioned any possible plan for your child to be placed in a foster for adoption placement, it is very important that you get legal advice from a Children’s Panel Solicitor or Family Rights Group’s advice service immediately.
Your child’s social worker must visit them during the first week in their new home and after that, at least once every six weeks throughout the time they are looked after. If it is a permanent placement, (which means that your child is going to be living there long term, until they are old enough to live independently) the social worker will visit less often, but they should still see them at least every three months.
The social worker must see your child alone and if they have any concerns about the care being provided they must report this to their manager and the Independent Reviewing Officer.
Discuss your worries with your child’s social worker and the Independent Reviewing Officer as soon as possible or at the next review. Be clear about what your concerns are, and why you don’t think that part of the care plan is right for your child.
You can ask for the plan to be changed or for any assessments of your child to be updated. You can also make a complaint.
When your child is looked after and there is no court order it is important that you agree with the care plan or that someone else with parental responsibility does. If there is no one with parental responsibility, the care plan can be agreed with the last person caring for your child before he or she went into care. The care plan can also be agreed by your child directly if they are 16 or over.
But if there is no agreement to the plan, the social worker cannot insist on the care plan or that your child remain looked after. For this, the social worker would need a court order. If they are insisting, it is important you get further advice from a solicitor or Family Rights Group’s advice service.
You should discuss this with your child’s social worker, and see if you can agree what changes could be made that would help your child. You can also ask that your child be given an advocate (usually through the children’s rights service).
You should be invited to attend all Looked After Child review meetings unless you being there will not be good for your child. If so it may be possible for you to go to part of the meeting. But if you are told you can’t go:
- you should be given the reason for this in writing. If you are not happy about the reasons, you can talk to the Independent Reviewing Officer’s manager or make a complaint.
- your views should still be listened to even if you are not there – you can tell your child’s social worker what you think should happen, and talk to the Independent Reviewing Officer, or give your views to the meeting in writing. The Independent Reviewing Officer should discuss this with you,
If you are not at the meeting you should be told about the decisions made at the meeting and what will happen after it.
I have not been given a copy of decisions made at my child’s Looked After Child review meeting, should I be able to see them?
You have a right to a copy of the revised care plan and your child’s Independent Reviewing Officer should make sure you are involved in the review process. The Independent Reviewing Officer may decide not to give you the full record of the review if they think that this would not be good for your child. If this happens, you should ask the Independent Reviewing Officer to explain the situation. If you are not happy with the reasons given you could make a complaint if necessary.
First, you need to look to see whether the amount of contact you are having is written down in the care plan which you should have been given. If, for example, the care plan says you are to have weekly contact, that’s what you should be having. If you are not having what is in the care plan, first talk to your child’s social worker. If that doesn’t solve the problem, speak to the Independent Reviewing Officer.
If the contact arrangements in the care plan are not clear or you are no longer happy with them, then you need to discuss the arrangements with the social worker. Ask them if the arrangements can be changed or to explain in writing why contact is being limited. Make sure you explain why you would like more contact, and say how you feel it will help your child.
If you can’t agree contact arrangements with the social worker, you should ask to speak to their manager about this, and/or talk to the Independent Reviewing Officer.
It is also possible for a court to order contact with a child who is looked after by agreement, but this is unusual because it is expected that if the arrangement is voluntary, parents and the local authority will be able to agree on things.
You could also make a complaint. Remember if you have agreed for your child to go into care and you are really not happy with the arrangements, you can think about removing your child from the placement although it is essential that you get independent advice before doing so. You can call our advice line or you could consult a a Children’s Panel solicitor.
It’s usually best to think about why your child doesn’t want to see you and see if you can change anything to make things better. You can also talk to the social worker about what support they can offer, for example, maybe they could talk to your child, to find out what the problem is, and try to solve it. Maybe your child would benefit from some counselling about how your child is feeling. Maybe there is something about contact arrangements your child doesn’t like. Or maybe you just need to give your child some time, and for now you could just write letters to your child, and make it clear that you would like to see them but that you will wait until they are ready.
If you think the social worker has mishandled the situation and it is not correct that your child is saying they don’t want to see you then you can ask to discuss this with a manager or the Independent Reviewing Officer or consider making a complaint.
As well as arranging for your child to see their parents, your child’s social worker must try to arrange contact (unless it’s not practical or in the child’s best interests) with anyone else who has parental responsibility, as well as brothers and sisters, grandparents and other relatives, friends, and anyone else connected to your child. These details should be set out in the care plan. They can also speak to the social worker to ask for contact to be arranged.
The information in the following Frequently Asked Questions also applies to the child’s relatives and friends.
Your child’s social worker may be able to help with expenses, such as transport, meals and activities, if they think that the visits won’t otherwise happen without causing a lot of financial difficulty.
If the social worker doesn’t give you help with contact costs, you could make a complaint but it is usually best to try to negotiate with the social worker and the Independent Reviewing Officer first, explaining why help is necessary.
The contact arrangements are really inconvenient for me and the social worker won’t change them. What should I do?
Start by talking to your child’s social worker or a manager or the Independent Reviewing Officer. Ask the social worker why you need to be supervised when you see your child. Perhaps you could suggest that someone else in your family supervises the contact? Remember that you have voluntarily agreed to have your child looked after, so the arrangements for you to see your child should be agreed as well. If they are not, you could make a complaint or get legal advice by contacting our advice service or you could see a solicitor.
If your child is 16 or 17 you cannot remove them from wherever they are accommodated if they wish to remain there.
If your child is 16 or over, you may also want to read about what support they may be able to get once they leave care.
For more information see: advice sheet:16 Support for young people leaving the care system.
My parents have a Child Arrangements Order (or a Residence Order or Special Guardianship Order) for my daughter even though she is now looked after. Will this stop me from bringing her home?
If there is a Residence Order, Child Arrangements Order or Special Guardianship order on your child, you may not remove your child from wherever they are being looked after unless the person with the Order agrees. So you would have to ask them if they agree to you taking your daughter home and then they would need to tell the social worker.
If you are concerned about anything relating to a crime, contact the police. If it is not a criminal matter, but you still think your child is not safe, you can contact a social worker in Children’s Services and ask them to look into the situation and remove your child if necessary. If the social worker doesn’t do anything, you can make a complaint.