Children's Social Care (Industrial Report) - UK - May 2014
“Children’s social care continues to be challenged by a number of high profile revelations in the courts, increasing media attention and pressure on politicians and local authorities to analyse arrangements. Independent provision of services is being significantly increased, but the need for further profound changes in the structure of provision has been acknowledged by the government.”
– Terry Leggett, Senior Analyst
This report addresses the following key questions facing children’s social care:
- How will expenditure evolve over the next five years?
- What effects will the 2013 government investigation into children’s homes have on the market?
- What impact will the Children and Families Act 2014 have on the market and industry?
- Is the trend from children’s homes towards foster care sustainable?
- In which sectors will independent provision of services continue to gain market share?
Every local authority (LA) must protect and promote the welfare of children in need in its area. To do this, they must work with families to provide support services that will enable children to be brought up in their own families. In Northern Ireland, Health and Social Care Trusts (HSCT's) have a duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of children in need in their area.
Children in need are defined in law as children who are aged under 18 and:
- Need local authority services to achieve or maintain a reasonable standard of health or development
- Need local authority services to prevent significant or further harm to health or development
- Are disabled
The local authority must keep a register of children with disabilities in its area, but does not have to keep a register of all children in need.
In England, from 1 April 2011, local authorities must provide breaks from caring (respite care) for the parents of disabled children.
A child is being ‘looked after’ by the local authority when the local authority arranges for the child to live somewhere other than at home. There are two ways in which a child can be looked after by the local authority: the first is called ‘being accommodated’, the other is where the child is the subject of a court order.
When a child is being accommodated by the local authority this is a voluntary arrangement between the local authority and the family. This means that parents maintain all rights and responsibilities for the child, not the local authority. A parent can therefore remove their child from the accommodation at any time.
If a local authority has a duty to accommodate a child in need, the children's services department must accommodate the child itself. It cannot refuse to do so and refer the child to the housing department as a homeless person instead.
The child might live in a foster home or a children’s home. The foster home could be the home of relatives or friends of the family.
When a court has made an order in relation to the child, known as a care order, the local authority will take on responsibility for the child and make arrangements for where the child should live. In Northern Ireland, the local authority has the right to overrule the parent if it considers it necessary to safeguard or promote the child's welfare.
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