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Government publishes its response to Looked-after children-improving permanence consultation

Outcome of the consultation now available

The Government's response to its consultation Looked-after children-improving permanence (which ran from 30 September 2013 to 29 November 2013) has been published. Click here for details

The Government had sought comments on its proposals to:

• strengthen the team around looked-after children
• improve the status and stability of long-term foster care and
• strengthen the requirements for returning children home from care

These were developed following extensive discussions with two expert groups: one on long-term foster care and another on returning home from care. These expert groups included representatives from national organisations, academics, local authority managers, social work professionals and foster carers.

Annexe A of the response document (page 46) contains a tabular summary of the responses to the consultation and the Government's response to that input.

There is an overall commitment by the government to take forward the majority of the proposals set out in the consultation. 

Key elements of the Government's response include the following:

1.  Regulations will require that delegated authority be discussed at every review  meeting.

2.  So far as reasonably practicable, the wishes and feelings of carers should be  taken into account as part of the review process.

3  Care planning guidance ("CPG") is to be strengthened to make it clear that foster  carers and registered managers should be invited to review meetings (where  held).

4.  CPG to be amended to make it clear that permanence for children can be achieved  through long-term foster care

5.  CPG to be amended so that where long term foster placement is  identified as the  right permanence option it's made clear that this could  be with foster carers or with  those sought for and matched with specific children.

6.  A legal definition of long term foster care will be introduced

7.  The nature of long term foster care arrangement must be clearly communicated to  foster carers (method and format of this will be for Local Authorities to determine

8.  CPG to make it clear that while the review process should continue every 6 months, a  review meeting may only need to happen once per annum

9.  CPG will emphasise the importance of recording where changes to the care plan  are  proposed, communicating those to relevant parties, and  ensuring that actions  from previous reviews have been undertaken.

10  Guidance will specify factors to be taken into account re frequency of review  meetings

11.  Regulations to be amended so that the expectation to undertake an assessment to  inform a decision to return a child home from care is made explicit.

12. In cases where someone with parental responsibility removes a  voluntarily  accommodated child, Guidance will explicitly require the Local  Authority to satisfy  itself that the environment to which the child has returned will safeguard and  promote the child's welfare.

13.  A decision to return a voluntarily accommodated child home is to be signed off  by a  nominated officer but not where the return home is unplanned (due to removal by  parents or the decision by an older child to go home) or where the child has been  looked after for only very short  periods

14.  There will be no formal requirement for Local Authorities to visit former  looked-after children. The government concluded that existing guidance  provides a  framework for ongoing assessment, planning and review of outcomes

15.  Consideration will be given to how the expectation that Local Authorities  should provide ongoing support to children and their families following a  return home can be made more explicit in Guidance.

There is also a commitment to continue to work with the expert group on how best to implement the changes and encourage the dissemination of good practice.

For the full document click here