1.1.4 Family and Friends Care Policy
FRG Initial Family and Friends Care Assessment: A good practice guide - This resource outlines what a viability assessment for family and friend carers should look like, what social workers should consider and how to undertake international assessments.
AMENDMENTIn April 2019, the above link was added to Looking After Someone Else's Child – GOV.UK.
Children may be brought up by members of their extended families, friends or other people who are connected with them for a variety of reasons and in a variety of different arrangements.
This policy sets out the local authority's approach towards promoting and supporting the needs of such children and covers the assessments which will be carried out to determine the services required and how such services will then be provided.
The manager with overall responsibility for this policy is the Fostering Service Manager.
This policy will be regularly reviewed, and made freely and widely available.
2. Values and Principles
Consideration of children's welfare and best interests will always be at the centre of the work we do.
It is an underlying principle that children should be enabled to live within their families unless this is not consistent with their welfare. We will therefore work to maintain children within their own families, and facilitate services to support any such arrangements, wherever this is consistent with the child's safety and well-being. This principle applies to all children in need, including those who are looked after by the local authority.
Family Group Conferencing (FGC) is one service that should be considered when families are under stress. It is a recommended evidence-based model used to identify and engage wider family members in protecting a child at risk of harm.
An FGC is a family-led, decision-making and planning process whereby the wider family group (including friends) make plans for children and young people who have been identified as being in need of a plan that will ensure their future safety and promote their welfare and ultimately prevent family breakdown.
FGCs have the advantage of giving the whole family the opportunity of making contingency plans, without undermining the parent, including identifying whether there are family members who would wish to raise the child, if the parents cannot.
In Sheffield the FGC Team, consisting of a Team Manager and 7 FGC Coordinators, sits with the Edge of Care Service. Referrals can be taken from any service working with children and families with age range spanning child/ren pre-birth through to 18 years of age. The pathway for referral is direct to the FGC team after which referrals are then endorsed by the Legal Gateway Panel or the Resource, Allocations and Placement Panel.The team predominantly works to prevent family breakdown including adoption, kinship care and foster breakdown, but now offer reunification FGCs where a LAC young person has been positively assessed to return home.
Where a child cannot live within his or her immediate family and the local authority is considering the need to look after the child, we will make strenuous efforts to identify potential carers within the child's network of family or friends who are able and willing to care for the child. This will include assessing non resident parents.
We will provide support for any such arrangements based on the assessed needs of the child, not simply on his or her legal status, and will seek to ensure that family and friends carers are provided with support to ensure that children do not become looked after by the local authority, or do not have to remain looked after longer than is needed.
3. Legal Framework
The local authority has a general duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of Children in Need  living within its area and to promote the upbringing of such children by their families. The way in which we fulfil this duty is by providing a range and level of services appropriate to those children's assessed needs (Section 17, Children Act 1989). This can include financial, practical or other support.It is important to note that the local authority does not have a general duty to assess all arrangements where children are living with their wider family or friends network rather than their parents but it does have a duty where it appears that services may be necessary to safeguard or promote the welfare of a Child in Need.
To clarify the children who may come within the definition of Children in Need, the local authority has drawn up a 'Thresholds to Children's Social Care Services' document, which is available through the Council's website.
Children in Need may live with members of their family or friends in a variety of different legal arrangements, some formal and some informal. Different court orders are available to formalise these arrangements.
Looked after children will always come within the definition of Children in Need, whether they are accommodated under Section 20 of the Children Act 1989 (with parental consent) or in care subject to a Court Order whereby the local authority shares parental responsibility for the child. The local authority has a responsibility wherever possible to make arrangements for a looked after child to live with a member of the family (Section 22 of the Children Act 1989).
A person, who does not have parental responsibility for a particular child but has care of the child, may do what is reasonable in all the circumstances of the case for the purpose of safeguarding or promoting the child's welfare.
Family and friends carers do not have parental responsibility for the child unless the child is subject of a Child Arrangements Order or Special Guardianship Order. Their right to do anything with respect to taking care of the child arise from the voluntary agreement made with the parent/carer who does have parental responsibility.Where family and friends carers wish to progress a Child Arrangements Order or Special Guardianship Order application and they are unable to meet the costs of private law proceedings, then consideration may be given to meeting their legal costs. Open ended offers to meet legal costs should never be given and a range of help can be offered. Where the parent and the new family and friends carer have agreed their plan for the child, then all that may be needed is for the social worker to help complete the relevant court forms. In exceptional cases, the Service Manager's approval may be given to funding the court issue fee or for making a limited capped contribution towards lawyers' costs.
For a detailed summary of the meaning and implications of different legal situations, the rights of carers and parents, and the nature of decisions which family and friends carers will be able to make in relation to the child, please see Annex A: Caring for Somebody Else's Child - Options. Section 4, Different Situations whereby Children may be Living with Family and Friends Carers, which sets out the local authority's powers and duties in relation to the various options.
In relation to financial support, the local authority may provide carers of children in need with such support on a regular or one-off basis, under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989. This may include discretionary funding based upon a financial means test. However, the status of the placement will determine the nature and amount of the financial support and who can authorise its payment. The legal status of the child may have a bearing on the levels of financial support which may be available to carers, however. There are different legislative provisions which apply to financial support for children living with family or friends in looked after/adoption/special guardianship/Child Arrangements Order arrangements. The following sections of this policy set out the financial support that we may provide to family and friends who are caring for children in these different contexts.
 A Child in Need is defined in Section 17(10) of the Children Act 1989 as a child who is disabled or who is unlikely to achieve or maintain a reasonable standard of health or development without the provision of services by the local authority.
4. Different Situations whereby Children may be Living with Family and Friends Carers
4.1 Informal family and friends care arrangements
Where a child cannot be cared for within his or her immediate family, the family may make their own arrangements to care for the child within the family and friends network.
The local authority does not have a duty to assess any such informal family and friends care arrangements, unless it appears to the authority that services may be necessary to safeguard or promote the welfare of a Child in Need. In such cases, the local authority has a responsibility under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989 to assess the child's needs and provide services to meet any assessed needs of the child. Following assessment, a Child in Need Plan will be drawn up and a package of support will be identified. This can comprise of a variety of different types of services and support, including financial support.
If the assessment indicates that the child is at risk of significant harm and the parent and/or carer will not cooperate in making alternative arrangements for the child, then the Senior Fieldwork Manager should initiate a strategy discussion and determine the need for a Section 47 enquiry.
The responsibility for the provision of financial support for family and friends care arrangements rests with parents, and parents should resolve the financial arrangements prior to their child going to live with the family and friends carers. Parents should also ensure that the family and friends carers are provided with all relevant belongings and equipment that the child may need.
Where family and friends carers are working, they should notify HM Revenue and Customs and establish if they can claim for Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit. If the carers are already in receipt of payment, they should request a new assessment.
Where family and friends carers are in receipt of income support, the carers must be advised to seek appropriate benefits for the child and they should inform the Department for Work and Pensions that a child has joined their family. For benefits to be transferred easily from parent to family and friends carer, the parent will need to notify the Child Benefit Agency of the change in living arrangements. All other benefits for the child relate to who holds child benefit.
All family and friends carers should be advised to see a benefits advisor for a financial assessment and to ensure they are in receipt of all available benefits. If the social worker provides supporting evidence of the situation, the benefits payments may be provided without significant delay.
Where the parent is not funding the child or there is a delay in the financial arrangements being secured between parent and carer, particularly when the child first goes to live with family and friends carers and the family and friends carer requests financial support, then consideration may need to be given to providing financial assistance or resources as an interim measure until benefits are fully established.
Financial support will only be provided if the assessment concludes that the child would have to be accommodated by the local authority unless a one off payment or short term payment is made.
Section 17 (6) of the Children Act 1989 states the services provided by the local authority may include assistance in kind and or, in exceptional circumstances in cash. It may be that other kinds of support, guidance or services might obviate the need for financial payments and should always be considered first. Section 17 expenditure will only be authorised under this policy with regard to a Child in Need who:
- Has been assessed as meeting the eligibility criteria for a service from Children's social care;
- Has a child in need plan in place. The payment must be a direct response to an objective identified in the plan with a clearly defined outcome and an agreed timescale.
A regular time limited payment requires the approval of the Service Manager. Such payments will be reviewed at the end of the assessment period, when it is anticipated that the parents and family and friends carers will have established the financial arrangements and all relevant benefits/tax credits have been applied for and progressed.
4.2 Private fostering arrangements
A privately fostered child is a child under 16 (or 18 if disabled) who is cared for by an adult who is not a parent or close relative, where the child is to be cared for in that home for 28 days or more. Close relative is defined as 'a grandparent, brother, sister, uncle or aunt (whether of the full blood or half blood or by marriage or civil partnership) or step-parent.' It does not include a child who is Looked After by a local authority. In a private fostering arrangement, the parent still holds parental responsibility and agrees the arrangement with the private foster carer.
The local authority has a duty to assess and monitor the welfare of all privately fostered children and the way in which they carry out these duties is set out in the Children (Private Arrangements for Fostering) Regulations 2005. However, the local authority may also become involved with a child in a private fostering arrangement where the child comes within the definition of a Child in Need. In such cases, the local authority has a responsibility to provide services to meet the assessed needs of the child under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989. Following assessment, a Child in Need Plan will be drawn up and a package of support will be identified. As in 4.1 above, this can comprise a variety of different types of services and support, including financial support.
See Private Fostering Procedure for further information about private fostering.
4.3 Family and friends foster carers – 'Connected Persons'
Where a child is looked after by the local authority, we have a responsibility wherever possible to make arrangements for the child to live with a member of the family who is approved as a foster carer (Section 22 of the Children Act 1989). Consideration must be given to ensuring that the placement is near the child's home, does not disrupt their education or training, that they are placed with siblings if there are siblings that the local authority are also providing accommodation for, and if the child is disabled, that the accommodation is suitable for their needs.
More information can be found in The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations - Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Case Review.
The child can be placed with the family members prior to such approval, subject to an assessment of the placement, for up to 16 weeks. This temporary approval can only be extended in exceptional circumstances. In this context the carer is referred to as a Connected Person and the process of obtaining approval for the placement is set out in the Placements with Connected Persons Procedure. Where temporary approval is given to such a placement under the procedure, the carers will receive financial support on a regular basis.
If a child is placed before the full approval of the carer as a local authority foster carer, there is a possibility that the connected person may not be approved at the end of the assessment process. The risk of a child being moved from a placement in which s/he has become settled must be minimised by careful consideration of the appropriateness of a placement before full approval. In some circumstances it may be preferable to use a short term placement with an alternative foster carer which includes appropriate contact between the child and the prospective carer pending the completion of the full foster carer approval process.
Whilst a child is placed with family and friends carers prior to approval as Regulation 24 foster carers, the fostering allowance, appropriate to the child's age will be paid. They will also be eligible for an allowance to cover equipment, holiday and birthday allowances for the child, where applicable. The child's Social Worker will complete the Spending Authorisation Form (SAF) which will need to be signed by the Fostering Service Manager.
In addition the child will have a placement plan which sets out the specific arrangements surrounding the child and the carers including the expectations of the foster carers and the support they can expect to receive to enable them to fulfil their responsibilities for the child.
The assessment and approval process for family and friends who apply to be foster carers for a specific Looked After child will be the same as for any other foster carer except that the timescales for the assessment are different where a child is already in the placement as indicated above. In all other respects the process is the same as for any other potential foster carers and is set out in the Assessment and Approvals of Foster Carers Procedure. A brochure is available to potential foster carers about the process and they will be given the name and contact details of the social worker from the Fostering Service allocated to carry out the assessment.
Following approval as a foster carer for the child, the family and friends foster carer will receive the skills level payment, in addition to the fostering allowance (minus Child Benefit payments). Payments will be made from the date that the approval was agreed by the Agency Decision Maker.
Support to foster carers may include:
- Training programmes to assist with managing challenging behaviour (after approval);
- Referral to welfare benefits advice;
- Referral to Children's Education and Health Project Services - e.g. speech therapy;
- Referral to CAMHS - Child Adolescent Mental Health Services;
- Access to 'Out of hours' advice in case of emergencies;
- Support for the carers regarding safe internet use;
- Ongoing support from their supervising social worker and the child's social worker (support from the assessing Social Worker pre-approval).
Once approved as foster carers, they will be allocated a supervising social worker from the fostering service to provide them with support and supervision; and they will receive fostering allowances for as long as they care for the child as a foster carer.
While the child remains a looked after child, as a foster carer, they will be expected to cooperate with all the processes that are in place to ensure that the child receives appropriate care and support, for example, contributing to reviews of the child's Care Plan, cooperating with the child's social worker and promoting the child's education and health needs.
4.4 Child Arrangements Order
A Child Arrangements Order is a Court Order which sets out the arrangements as to when and with whom a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact.
These orders replace the previous Contact Orders and Residence Orders.
A Child Arrangements Order may give parental responsibility to the person in whose favour it is made. Parental responsibility is shared with the parents.
Child Arrangements Orders may be made in private family proceedings in which the local authority is not a party nor involved in any way in the arrangements. However, a Child Arrangements Order in favour of a relative or foster carer (who was a 'Connected Person') with whom a child is placed may be an appropriate outcome as part of a permanence plan for a Child in Need or a 'Looked After' child.
The local authority may pay Child Arrangements Order Allowances to relatives or friends, unless they are a spouse or civil partner of a parent, with whom a child is living under a Child Arrangements Order. This is set out in paragraph 15 of Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989, however this is discretionary.
4.5 Special Guardianship Order
Special Guardianship offers a further option for children needing permanent care outside their birth family. It can offer greater security without absolute severance from the birth family as in adoption.
Relatives may apply for a Special Guardianship Order after caring for the child for one year. As Special Guardians, they will have parental responsibility for the child which, while it is still shared with the parents, can be exercised with greater autonomy on day-to-day matters than where there is a Child Arrangements Order.
Special Guardianship Orders may be made in private family proceedings and the local authority may not be a party to any such arrangements. However, a Special Guardianship Order in favour of a relative or foster carer (who was a 'Connected Person') with whom a child is living may be an appropriate outcome as part of a permanence plan for a Child in Need or a 'Looked After' child.
Where the child was Looked After immediately prior to the making of the Special Guardianship Order, the local authority has a responsibility to assess the support needs of the child, parents and Special Guardians, including the need for financial support. Where an assessment determines the need for ongoing support then this may be provided through the Families, Carers and Adopters Team (FACT). The young person may be entitled to leaving care support services.
4.6 Adoption Order
Adoption is the process by which all parental rights and responsibilities for a child are permanently transferred to an adoptive parent by a court. As a result the child legally becomes part of the adoptive family.
An Adoption Order in favour of a relative or foster carer (who was a 'Connected Person') with whom a child is living may be an appropriate outcome as part of a permanence plan for a Child in Need or a 'Looked After' child.
Local authorities must make arrangements, as part of their adoption service, for the provision of a range of adoption support services. They then have to undertake assessments of the need for adoption support services at the request of the adopted child, adoptive parents and their families, as well as birth relatives. The support required is then set out in an Adoption Support Plan and this may include financial support.
4.7 Adoption Order Allowance
An Adoption Order in favour of a relative or foster carer (who was a 'Connected Person') with whom a child is living may be an appropriate outcome as part of a permanence plan for a Child in Need or a 'Looked After' child.
Local authorities must arrange, as part of their adoption service, for the provision of a range of Adoption support services. An assessment of the need for adoption support services is carried out at the request of the adopted child, adoptive parents and their families, as well as birth relatives.
The support required is then set out in an Adoption Support Plan and this may include financial support. In Sheffield, FACT lead on adoption support services.Support may include a means tested Adoption Allowance. As for CAO and SGO Allowances, Adoption Allowances are subject to a means test.
5. Provision of Financial Support - General Principles
There are three categories of payment, which may be considered. One or more of these may be applicable, depending on the particular circumstances of the case:
- Subsistence crisis (one-off) payments
These should be used to overcome a crisis, following the best assessment that can be achieved in the circumstances;
These are for such items as clothing, furniture, or bedding. The social worker must be satisfied that the carers' financial position justifies the payment through a financial assessment. Assistance may be given subject to conditions, including repayment in certain situations. However, in most situations, it will be inappropriate for the service to seek to recover money provided under these circumstances;
- Weekly living contribution
It is possible for the local authority to make regular payments where family members or friends care for a child whether or not the child is not Looked After. Where regular payments are to be made, carers should be assisted to maximise their Income/Benefits as regular payments may adversely affect an individual's claim to income support.
In all cases where regular financial support is agreed, a written agreement will be drawn up detailing the level and duration of the financial support that is to be provided, and the mechanism for review.
The following criteria will be applied to all such payments:
- The purpose of the payments must be to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child;
- As part of the assessment, a view should be taken as to whether the carers need financial support based on their reasonable requirements in taking on the care of the child;
- There are no other legitimate sources of finance;
- Payments will be paid to the carer, not the parents;
- The payment would not place any person in a fraudulent position.
The authority works with landlords to ensure that, whenever possible, family and friends carers living in social housing are given appropriate priority to move to more suitable accommodation if this will prevent the need for a child to become looked after.
7. Supporting Contact with Parents
The authority is under a duty to promote contact for all Children in Need, although this differs depending on whether or not the child is Looked After.
Where the child is not Looked After, we are required to promote contact between the child and his/her family 'where it is necessary to do so in order to safeguard and promote his or her welfare'. As part of the support arrangements, it may be identified that specific assistance is required to ensure that any such contact can be managed safely. If necessary, information will be made available to family and friends carers about local contact centres and family mediation services, and how to make use of their services.
Information can be found on the Sheffield City Council website.
- The council has a duty to promote contact between a child who is living away from home and their immediate family where it promotes their welfare;
- Contact with their immediate families is generally a positive experience for children who are not living with their parents however; contact for children living with family and friends carers can often be a source of considerable anxiety and conflict.
Family dynamics and relationships may be fundamentally changed, particularly for grandparents and others who are becoming "second time round" carers and children may not understand why relatives are bringing them up, whilst parents may resent the fact that, their children do not live with them;
- In most cases, the contact arrangements will be provided by the carers. In some circumstances, the Children and Families Service will support the child or young person to arrive at a contact meeting. There is an expectation that the family members will make their own arrangements for attending the contact;
- If a child or young person is receiving a service from a local multi-agency support team then they may be able to help with contact arrangements;
- Where there are safeguarding concerns, there may be a need for the involvement of children's social care services to support safe contact arrangements;
- Contact may be limited through a court order and family and friends carers may have difficulty in enforcing, or may not understand the necessity of, these limitations on contact with their own children or other close relatives.
A Child Arrangements Order (replacing previous Contact Orders) is a court order requiring the person who the child lives with, to allow them to visit or stay with the person named in the order, or for that person and child to have contact with each other. The following people may apply for a Child Arrangements Order relating to contact:
- Any parent (whether or not they have Parental Responsibility for the child), guardian or special guardian of the child;
- Any person named, in a Child Arrangements Order that is in force with respect to the child, as a person with whom the child is to live;
- Any party to a marriage (whether or not subsisting) in relation to whom the child is a child of the family - this allows step-parents (including those in a civil partnership) and former step-parents who fulfil this criteria to apply as of right;
- Any person with whom the child has lived for a period of at least three years - this period need not be continuous but must not have begun more than five years before, or ended more than three months before, the making of the application; or
- Any person:
- Who has the consent of each of the persons named in a Child Arrangements Order as a person with whom the child is to live;
- In any case where there is an existing order for care in force, has the consent of each person in whose favour the order was made;
- In any case where the child is in the care of a local authority, who has the consent of that authority;
- In whose favour a Child Arrangements Order has been made in relation to the 'contact' aspects and who has been awarded Parental Responsibility by the court (i.e. they would be able to apply for a Child Arrangements Order in relation to the 'residence' aspects);
- In any other case, has the consent of everyone with parental responsibility for the child.
- A local authority foster parent is entitled to apply for a Child Arrangements Order relating to whom the child is to live, and/or when the child is to live with any person, if the child has lived with them for a period of at least one year immediately preceding the application;
- A relative of a child is entitled to apply for a Child Arrangements Order relating to whom the child is to live, and/or when the child is to live with any person, if the child has lived with the relative for a period of at least one year immediately preceding the application. (A relative is a child's grandparent, brother, sister, uncle or aunt (by full or half blood), or by marriage or civil partnership);
- Any person who has obtained the leave of the court.
See also Child Arrangements Order Policy.
Where a child is Looked After, we are required to endeavour to promote contact between the child and his or her family 'unless it is not practicable or consistent with the child's welfare'. The overall objective of the contact arrangements will be included in the child's Care Plan and the specific arrangements will be set out in the child's Placement Plan - see Contact with Parents and Siblings Procedure.
8. Complaints Procedure
Where a family or friends carer is not satisfied with the level of support provided to enable them to care for the child, then they have access to the local authority's complaints process. Our aim would be to resolve any such dissatisfaction without the need for a formal investigation but where an informal resolution is not possible, then a formal investigation will be arranged.
The timescales and process are set out in the Complaints and Representations Procedure - to follow.