Should he have been Section 20

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Should he have been Section 20

Post by OneGoodTurn » Tue Oct 02, 2018 2:40 pm

A boy came into my care in May when he was 15, in the middle of his GCSE's.
My son found him in MacDonald's crying. His father wouldn't reply to texts or calls.
The boy had come to live with his Dad for reasons I don't know 14 months before. He had previously had no relationship with his father. The mother had no contact.
When the police and social services became involved they said he could stay with us, and that we would be private foster carers and that the father would pay for his keep.
The father hasn't - he is a nightmare and caused the boy and us no end of grief.
Now that I am a bit more clued up, does anyone know why the father is allowed to retain full parental control and why the child was never taken into the system under section 20? I have now complained to Children's services - but I have no idea when they will respond.

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Suzie, FRG Adviser
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Re: Should he have been Section 20

Post by Suzie, FRG Adviser » Mon Oct 08, 2018 11:51 am

Dear OneGoodTurn

Welcome to the Family and Friends Carers discussion board and thank you for your post. I am sorry that we were not able to respond to you before now. My name is Suzie, FRG’s online adviser.

You have been caring for a 15 year old boy since May. Prior to this he had been living with his father for over a year and you say has no contact with his mother. You don’t mention any pre-existing connection with the young person. I am sorry to hear about the difficulties and the lack of support that both you and this vulnerable young person are experiencing.

It’s not clear from your post the exact way in which you came to care for this young person and in particular how police and children’s services became involved. This is important in terms of your query about whether the boy’s placement with you should be treated as a voluntary arrangement (or section 20) between the child’s parents and children’s services in which case you would need to be temporarily approved (and then fully approved) as a foster carer and treated as such (including being paid a fostering allowance) and the boy would be a Looked After Child and should be offered the help and support that involves.

It is clear from what you say that neither the young person nor you, as a carer, are being supported either by the children’s father (who remains a parent with parental responsibility /PR if he already has PR, even where there is a section 20 voluntary arrangement in place) or by children's services. Parents do remain financially responsible for their child if they are living with someone under a private arrangement but for different reasons don't always pay. If the child is defined as a looked after child then a carer cannot look to them for support as children's services should be paying a fostering allowance to an approved foster carer.

Children’s services are treating this as a private fostering arrangement – this would place a duty on children’s services to assess and monitor the situation probably under a child in need plan which can include practical assistance but does not have to. Private fostering applies to young people up to the age of 16 (or 18 if the child has a disability). These arrangements are made between the young person’s parent and their carer (not by a social worker) and part of the social worker’s role is to ensure that there is understanding and agreement about this. This does not seem to be the case in your situation?

I think that you have absolutely done the right thing by making a complaint to children’s services and hope that in your complaint you have set out how the arrangement was made and what role a social worker had in making it. You should receive a response to your complaint within 10 working days. The timescales and further options for complaints are set out in this complaints advice sheet.

As the young person is 15 it is particularly important to make sure that the right arrangements are in place for him before he turns 16 so it is good that you have formally raised your concerns with children’s services now.

You may want to ring our Freephone advice helpline 0808 8010366 which is open from Mon to Friday between 9.30 a.m. and 3.00 p.m. to discuss this with an adviser, especially if you are unhappy with the response to your complaint. You are welcome to post again if you prefer; if you do it would be helpful if you said more about exactly how the boy came to live with you and what children's services did or didn't do, as distinguishing a voluntary arrangement under section 20 from a private fostering arrangement can depend on these facts.

Also do you have a copy of the council’s family and friends care policy? If not, you may be able to find a copy here or you can ask children’s services to provide you with one.

I hope this helps.

With best wishes


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Re: Should he have been Section 20

Post by Disgruntled » Mon Oct 26, 2020 1:17 pm

Hello, before I post my question I thought I'd look at some other posts to see if that would help. This case is similar to my own in that Children's Services (CS) asked me to care for a 15 yo boy (a friend of my son's). He was already (since three months) been a CIN and CS (one particular SW) had asked me to have him over various weekends during the preceding three months.

Before you read my - sorry - lengthy speel - my three questions are:
1. What advice would you have in responding to the letter from the complaints team at CS (happy to provide as it doesn't seem standard)
2. Do you have a template for what to say for stage 2 of the process and
3. What is the statement they refer to which the investigator will provide based on our discussions with him? They say it forms the "terms of reference". Is this usual? Why do I have to go through the whole thing again when everything is set out in my complaint letter?
4. Are there any pitfalls I need to look out for?

I have taken advice from you before which was invaluable. The boy came to me in Oct 2018 and turned 16 six weeks later. The mother (known to me) repeatedly said how much she hated the child and wanted "him gone". One morning she messaged to say CS said he could no longer stay with her. They asked her if there was a friend or family member who might have him, upon which she sent a despairing text, asking if either I or another friend could help. In her words: she had no choice. I agreed and she replied asking for my phone number so CS could phone me to confirm. This they did. This was a Friday. Over the course of the next three days (Friday/Monday/Tuesday) I had calls from the SW and safeguarding teacher (following a meeting at school) stating that I would have to be approved as a kinship foster carer, have training etc etc. The teacher phoned me separately to say how pleased he was that the boy wouldn't be leaving the school. The other options available to the child - according to the SW - was an already approved foster carer (could be many miles away) and a children's home (again, could be many miles away). He chose to be with me and my family. Monday - the SW went to Mum with the s.20 - she was out with the younger children (even though it was a school day). Tuesday - the SW went to Mum with the s.20 but she said she wouldn't sign as she didn't want her two younger children to be taken away. CS had already removed him on the Friday as according to them they had a meeting the previous week saying he was unsafe staying with her.

If only I knew then what I know now! He settled in - CS making arrangements for his belongings to be collected and the SW visited and checked his room. This will all sound so familiar to you and many others I'm sure. Once he was settled they threw in the bombshell that it would be a "private arrangement". We (friends too) called you asking for advice. It seemed to be a regular thing that CS do. We couldn't send him home to be abused! We did not agree to this and, not knowing much about any of this, started reading up. I shall precise as there is too much to say.

Dec 2018
With the template provided I put in an official complaint to CS. Reply received and talks (mediation I guess) began on the boy signing an s.20 but things just dragged on. He received an s.20 and saw a solicitor (they paid for an hour) and the solicitor advised against signing and suggested she would review a new one which never materialised. However, there was various correspondence and "in the spirit " of moving on with things withdrew my complaint (Spring 2019). They refused to answer many of my emails.

There began all sorts of correspondence and meetings, all the time CS still saying he was a CIN, not a LAC and therefore we would receive no support, financial or otherwise.

I even had a few foster meetings in the winter of 2018 but received a letter in January 2019 stating the fostering was to stopped. No reason!

Conscious of the year deadline in which to complain I put in the same complaint (Oct 2019) 364 days after he "came to stay". Again, they batted back with nonsense saying the arrangement had nothing to do with them. I begged to differ. On the letter from them it did not mention anything about stage 2 of the complaint process. It said if I wasn't happy then I could go to the Ombudsman (Omb).

In December 2019 I called the Omb and asked what to do. How could I get any further if they refused to answer and the Omb could only intervene after stage 3 of the complaints process. The Omb called CS and the Omb called me back to say I had a bona fide case and that CS should move to Stage 2; CS refused to do so. The Omb investigated and wrote a statement recommending that CS complete stage 2 of the complaint process. They still wouldn't conform and several more weeks passed and the Omb went to a senior Omb who gave them one more week. Half an hour before that week was up CS (complaints department) wrote to me saying stage 2 underway and independent investigator and independent officer (IO) had been appointed and asked me to confirm various things. Now you've got this far I'm actually going to write the questions at the very top.

He moved to stay with a friend at the beginning of the pandemic and stayed for several months. We fought ever since he came to us for an advocate for him, yet it was only when he left that he got one and, I'm led to believe, has now signed an s.20 and has accommodation paid, other money up to 21, and possibly 25 if he wants.

Thank you for any help you can provide.

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Suzie, FRG Adviser
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Re: Should he have been Section 20

Post by Suzie, FRG Adviser » Mon Dec 07, 2020 9:21 pm

Dear Disgruntled,

Thank you very much for taking the time to post and I apologise for the delay in getting back to you.

To clarify, you have been caring for your son’s friend from October 2018 until March this year. He was 15 when he came to live with you. From the information you have provided it appears very clear that he was placed with you by social services and as such should have been treated as a Looked After Child. You should have received support that comes with it, for both him and yourself. This would also mean that he would now be entitled to leaving care support as an “eligible child”. From your post it seems that he might now be receiving support as a care leaver although I am not sure.

You mention that you had a few “foster meetings”, do you mean that you were being assessed as a foster carer and this assessment was then stopped? What support was offered after this time?

With regards to your complaint with the local authority it may be useful for you to have a look at our advice sheet regarding complaints , if you have not already, as it does give advice on other steps you can consider taking as well as the complaint process, I note that you have contacted the Ombudsman already.

As you will see from the advice sheet, stage 2 is a formal investigation and as you have mentioned in your post the local authority will appoint two officers to investigate your complaint, write their report regarding this and make recommendations as to how this should be dealt with by the local authority. For this reason we don’t have any template letters for this stage complaint.

I’m not sure what area you are based in but I would recommend exploring the Local Authority’s website for details of their family and friends policy and it may be useful for you to contact Just for Kids law for support but they do predominantly work with young people within London.
I hope this has been helpful and gone some way to answer your questions. If you need any more help or advice, please contact our advice line on 0800 801 0366, the line is open Monday-Friday 9.30-3pm.

Best Wishes,

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