Friends and Family Care Policy


Contents

1. Introduction
2. Definition
3. Values, Principles & Information About Support Services
  3.1 Universal Services
  3.2 Targeted Services
  3.3 Specialist Services
4. The Legal Framework
5. Different Situations Where Children May be Living With Family and Friends Carers
  5.1 Informal Family and Friends Arrangements
  5.2 Private Fostering Arrangements
  5.3 Family and Friends Foster Care
  5.4 Residence Orders
  5.5 Special Guardianship Orders
  5.6 Adoption Orders
6. Provision of Financial Support - General Principles
7. Accommodation
8. Supporting Contact With Parents
9. Family Group Conferences
10. Complaints Procedure
 
Appendix A - Caring for Somebody Else’s Child
  Appendix B - The Legal Framework


1. Introduction

This policy document describes Islington Council’s roles and responsibilities in supporting children who are cared for by friends or extended families. It describes the importance of supporting parents in caring for their children by intervening early with preventative services. Early intervention and preventative services are explained in the context of both Universal provision and more Targeted and Specialist services which may be available to children who following assessment have additional or complex needs. (All targeted and specialist services available to children and their parents are also available to family and friends carers).

The legal framework in which children are cared for by family and friends is summarized. This is followed by a description of the different types of informal and formal care arrangements in which children can be looked after by family and friends. The policy concludes with a summary of the possible financial support that may be made available in these arrangements.


2. Definition

Family and friends care covers a wide range of family solutions where birth parents cannot look after their children. These arrangements include informal family solutions to child care such as one off day care or babysitting  through to Private Fostering arrangements, friends and family foster care and the use of Residence Orders, Special Guardianship Orders or adoption by birth relatives. Across the UK, 300, 000 carers are estimated to offer these types of arrangements. However, the priority for children and therefore Children’s Services is to prevent family breakdown and crisis by intervening early through individualised care planning for children and supporting parents to care for their children. This priority shapes Islington Council’s strategy when engaging and supporting vulnerable families. The Council’s policy is also to support carers and find permanent solutions for children whose parents or carers are unable to provide a good enough standard of care for a child without the long term involvement of Islington Children’s Social Care.

In preparing this policy, Islington Children Social Care ("ICSC") has consulted with children and young people, family and friends’ carers and parents.  Islington has applied the Department for Education’s Family and Friends Care: Statutory Guidance for Local Authorities (March 2011). Islington has also considered research notably; Lutman, Hunt and Waterhouse (2009 & 2008) and Hunt (2008 and 2011), in the design of service provision. A summary of findings from these consultations, showing how their views have informed this policy, can be found in Appendix B - The Legal Framework.

The managers with overall responsibility for this policy are Susanna Daus and Gavin Swann, Operational Managers for Children Looked After Placements and Children in Need respectively.

This policy is regularly reviewed and made freely and widely available.


3. Values, Principles and Information About Support Services 

The Local Authority adheres to the key principles as laid out in the Children Act 1989. In particular:

The paramount nature of children's welfare and their best interests will always be at the centre of the work undertaken by local authority workers. With this in mind the Local Authority is committed to the development of prevention and early intervention services.

It is a fundamental principle that children should 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. Where a child might be in local authority care attempts will be made to rehabilitate the child to a parent or within the extended family. If a child cannot live within his or her immediate family, Islington Council will support parents who need assistance to identify potential carers within the child’s network of family (or friends) who are able and willing to care for the child, temporarily or on a permanent basis, where this is in the child’s best interest. 

Islington Council is committed to ensuring that every child achieves their full potential and that intervention by the Council’s Children’s Services leads to improved outcomes for children.

Islington Council also has a Section 17 Policy which outlines the provision and access to Family Support Services.

Early intervention and preventative services for children and families can be found in the following service provision:


3.1 Universal Services 

Islington’s vision is that every family can quickly get the advice and support they need at different stages of their lives.  Many families seek and receive advice and support from family, friends and neighbours. They may need advice from a professional as well now and then, but this will usually be short-term support.  Research suggests parents prefer to get that support from someone they know and trust in their local area; for example; their GP, a professional at school or in the local children’s centre.

All families need support and advice at some stage as their children grow up.  For many families, this will be at times when their lives are changing: a new baby has arrived or their children are going through a change, for example, from primary to secondary school or from child to adulthood. Unexpected events can affect families such as: a parent loses their job, a relationship breaks down, a family member gets sick or unexpected financial pressures mean that they fall into arrears with their rent or mortgage payments or take on a debt that they cannot manage. In these situations children and families may require targeted services.   Examples of universal services include; access to a GP, access to Education and other Local Authority Services.

For further information please contact Islington Council;

Contacting Islington Council

Click here for the General Enquiries E-form

Tel: 020 7527 2000
Minicom: 020 7527 1900
Fax: 020 7527 500
Address: 222 Upper Street London N1 1XR.

Opening Hours:

Contact Centre - for telephone, fax and email:
8am - 6pm Monday
8am - 6pm Tuesday
8:30am - 6pm Wednesday
8am - 6pm Thursday
8am - 6pm Friday

Service Centre - front office counter for visitors in person:
8am - 6pm Monday
8am - 6pm Tuesday
8.30am - 6pm Wednesday
8am - 6pm Thursday
8am - 6pm Friday

Sign-Video Call Centre: 9am - 5pm Monday to Friday (excluding bank and public holidays)

Islington's Family Information Service (FIS) gives free, impartial information, advice and guidance about services for children, young people and families. You can contact the FIS on 020 7527 5959 and find further information at www.islington.gov.uk/fis


3.2 Targeted Services

Islington’s aim is to find families in difficulty early and help them to ‘nip problems in the bud’. Research has shown that getting involved early to encourage social and emotional development can significantly improve outcomes for children by supporting their mental and physical health, educational attainment and employment opportunities. (Allen: 2011). Early Intervention also has implication of other ‘outcome measures’ for example it can also help to prevent criminal behaviour (especially violent behaviour), drug and alcohol misuse, teenage pregnancy and homelessness. Conversely, waiting for problems to take root and reacting late costs the tax payers billions of pounds.

Some parents are more vulnerable to life’s challenges than others.  They may have a baby at a young age and find it difficult to cope with the changes that brings.  They may have longer standing problems: a parent’s illness, disability or mental health problems may mean they have difficulty coping.  These issues can be compounded by use of drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism.  Families’ who are particularly isolated, perhaps because English is not their first language or because they don’t have strong local networks of friendship and support, often struggle. For families with a low income, in which no-one is working or has the formal qualifications that will help them to get a job, these pressures can also be compounded. 

Families who have multiple problems need the same sort of local, trusted support and that support must be delivered in a way that they can make best use of it.  Local services in Islington are designed to provide local support to local communities to improve local outcomes. Children centres offer services to parents as well as children as this improves outcomes for children. Parents can access support to return to work or education, can seek advice about housing or debt problems and can attend local parenting classes and parenting groups. For some children and parents a family support worker will be allocated to coordinate a package of support. For families with school age children Islington’s new Family Outreach Support Service is designed to provide similar support where a dedicated worker guided by a multi-agency team will offer a variety of services (such as benefit, employment and education advice),  to support improvement in children’s outcomes, such as health and education.

Targeted services for families can include part time nursery placements for children aged 2 years of age (or younger depending on need). All children under 5 and their parents are encouraged to attend their local children centre where they will find a range of services and supports.

A wide range of services and support for school aged children and their families can be accessed through one of Islington’s Family Outreach Support Services (FOSS) which have been developed across Islington to support and enhance  outcomes for children and young people and help their parents cope with the pressures of modern life in central London.  Families and friends can access Targeted Youth Support and Family Outreach by contacting the Family Information Service see Islington Children's Social Care Procedures Manual, Family Group Conferencing.


3.3 Specialist Support

The Referral and Advice Service, (Islington Children Social Care) provides information and guidance to families and professionals where concerns exist about the welfare of children. Families can, where appropriate, be directed to local targeted support resources, such as their local children centre or Family Outreach Support Service. If a child or young person has a disability then the integrated Disabled Children’s Service offers a single point of contact and referral for a range of information and advice, positive activities, specialist family support and a social work service where further assessment may be required.

3.3.1 Specialist Support to Children and Families

Where family problems are more serious, children will be assessed by a Social Worker, if the assessment identifies that a child or young person will be unlikely to maintain a reasonable standard of health or development  without the provision of services,  a social worker will be allocated to provide formal support. This support can take many forms. Below are a few examples of the potential support services a family can receive depending on the type of need. Children under 5 years of age may be entitled to an Early Years Priority place within a Children Centre or access to a child minder as these services will improve the life chances of children. The social worker can also access specific services from local children centres such as priority nursery places, parenting supporting, breasting feeding clubs and fathers’ groups again to improve outcomes for children. Other examples of services social workers can access for children and families to improve outcomes included:

  • Access to a specialist family support worker
  • Access to Community Adolescent Mental Health Services
  • Respite and short term breaks to meet assessed needs of children (usually children with severe and complex needs).   
  • Access to services in relation to drug and alcohol misuse, domestic violence and specialist mental health services
  • Access to specialist local support services especially for children and families from diverse ethnic and cultural communities.

The allocated social worker will design, coordinate and review a SMART (Simple, Manageable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely) plan with the child, parents and professional support services to resolve the family’s difficulties as early as possible. The allocated social worker will work openly and in partnership with children and families as well as work with other professional agencies such as Health and Education Services, Police and other agencies to ensure we all work together for the best interests of children and their families.  Parents and carers are also supported by the local authority to return to education or employment. As such, the allocated social worker will ensure parents have access to agencies such as:

  • Islington Working for Parents (020 7527 4486)
  • Family Information Service (0207 527 5959)
  • Adult Community Learning
  • The Referral and Advice Team, Islington Children Social Care, who can be contacted in the following ways:
    • An appointment can be made to see a social worker at 222 Upper Street, London, N1 1XR 0207 527 7400. The nearest transport links are: National Rail: Highbury and Islington; Underground: Highbury and Islington and Angel. Buses 43, 19, 30, 4.
    • You can speak to a social worker by calling the Referral and Advice Service on 0207 527 7400. The opening hours are Monday to Friday 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.
  • If you have an emergency out of office hours then telephone the Emergency Duty Service on: 0207 226 0992.
  • You can also speak to the Whittington Hospital Children’s Social Work team on 0207 288 5260. Textphone and minicom is; 0207 527 7100.
  • You can email us at cscreferrals@islington.gov.uk
     (If you are worried about the immediate safety of a child, call the Police on 999).

All of these support services are also available to family and friends carers.

Islington Disabled Children’s Service is based at Northern Health Centre 58 Holloway Road N7 7LB. You can call 020 3316 1930 for general information and advice, enquire about activities and breaks on 020 7527 8611, contact the central referral team on 020 3316 1882 or where there may be concern that a disabled child is at risk of harm then call Social Work Duty Team on 020 7527 3366 or email disabledchildren.team@islington.gov.uk

3.3.2 Supporting families to resolve their difficulties themselves

Social workers within Islington Children’s Social Care Children will provide children and families with a range of supports and services. Social workers will assist children and families during crisis make the right decisions and they will keep children safe. Social workers will listen to the needs of children and parents and then co-ordinate a multi-agency response in order to improve the outcomes for children.

Children’s Social Care will facilitate or provide family group conferences as this is an established way of supporting extended families to find family led solutions. With this in mind, the involvement of fathers and the paternal family is emphasised and followed up. Evidenced based parenting programmes such as Triple P, Mellow Parenting and Strengthening Families and Caring Dads are available for parents or friends and family carers and can be accessed following an assessment of need.

The local authority can also undertake and make referrals for more specialist assessments of children and parents’/carers’ difficulties

See Islington Children's Social Care Procedures Manual, Family Group Conferencing.

3.3.3 Supporting families out of poverty

Islington Council will assist parents and carers to claim all benefits they are entitled to. Children Social Care will ensure, where poverty is a factor, that families are referred to the Income Maximisation Team. The Income Maximisation team will help ensure that all parents and carers access their full benefit entitlements, as well as guide carers to the Benefits Agency, which provides finance to families who are caring for a child. The range of benefits currently available includes child benefit, eligibility for Disability Living Allowance (DLA), inclusion of the child in housing benefit, council tax benefit, child tax credit or working families’ tax credit (planned benefit changes are likely from 2012). Parents and carers can find support to manage these changes by contacting their local job centre or by contacting Islington Working for Parents on iwfp@islington.gov.uk or 0207 527 4486.

3.3.4 Supporting families with severe drug, alcohol misuse and mental health problems

Islington Children Social Care can offer specialist interventions and more intensive interventions, depending on assessed needs. For example; for older children where behaviour is causing serious concern, the Adolescent Multi Agency Service provides intensive help to children and their parents or carers. To support young people and their families to address issues of adolescent drug and alcohol misuse the Islington Young People’s Drug and Alcohol Service has been established.

The Community Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) offer a comprehensive service across universal settings, such as at children centres and local schools as well as providing Islington Children Social Care with direct support to families.

The Family Drug and Alcohol Court ("FDAC") is a specialist court service dealing with applications for care orders or supervision orders in situations where children have suffered, or are at risk of suffering, significant harm linked to their parents’ substance abuse.  It is important to note that FDAC is a recent project and it only has capacity to assist in a small proportion of these cases due to resource limitations.

3.3.5 Islington’s strategic direction

Islington Council is committed to the principle of fairness. Fairness by eliminating Child Poverty, fairness in equality of opportunity for children to improve their outcomes, by providing a tiered approach to family support, (to prevent children needing to become looked after where families have multiple problems), through the inclusion of fathers and the paternal extended family in the care of children and for children and families who have diverse needs who are entitled to equal treatment. Click here to find out more about our Equality and Diversity Policies.

The Council’s Children and Young Peoples’ Plan prioritises the needs of Looked After and vulnerable children. If children do become looked after, Islington prioritises permanency through family and friends care, where possible. This is achieved through individualised care plans which may be supported through residence orders, special guardianship, or adoption by family and friends.   The different arrangements, in which children can be cared for by extended family and friends, and the types of support that Islington Children Social Care may provide are described in sections 4 and 5.

Comprehensive needs assessments, performance evaluation and placement profiling all monitor whether the Council’s services are meeting the needs of children, parents and family and friends carers. Council members provide leadership through the Corporate Parenting Board which monitors the Children’s plans and champions looked after children. Islington Safeguarding Children Board takes an overview and has endorsed Islington Council’ s protocol for family and friends’ care and the involvement of children’s fathers.


4. Legal Framework


4.1. Children in Need

All local authorities have a general duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of Children in Need* within their area and, so far as is consistent with that duty, to promote the upbringing of such children by their families by providing a range of services appropriate to those children’s needs (section 17 Children Act 1989). (See Section 3 above for a guide to these available support services). This can include financial, practical or other support.

*A Child in Need is defined 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.(See Appendix B, Legal Framework, for further information about Children in Need under the Children Act 1989). 

Some children, who are not living with their parents, but with family or friends carers, will be children in need.  It is important to note that local authorities do not have a duty to assess"informal" arrangements where children are living with their wider family or friends network, rather than their parents, unless it appears to the authority that services may be necessary to safeguard or promote the welfare of a child in need within their area or it is a private fostering arrangement. The difference between informal/private and formal arrangements is outlined below.

Children should not have to become looked after solely because of financial issues (see paragraph 2.19 of the Statutory Guidance). The local authority may provide services to a friends and family carer to prevent the need for a child to become looked after, if it is the most appropriate way to safeguard and promote the child’s welfare.

4.2 Provision of Accommodation to Looked After Children

Sometimes, children who cannot live with their parents will become "looked after" by the local authority. Looked After Children will often be placed with a family and friends carer. Below is a summary of when children will be looked after by the local authority, and what the local authority must do in respect of exploring options for placing such children with family or friends carers.

A child will be "looked after" by the local authority if:

  1. they are accommodated by the local authority under section 20 Children Act 1989 (they are a child in need and appear to require accommodation for specific reasons); or
  2. if they are subject to a "care order" made by the court, granting the local authority shared parental responsibility for the child.

For further information about : a) the criteria for providing accommodation to a child under section 20 Children Act 1989, and b) the threshold criteria for making a care order in respect of a child, see Appendix B, The Legal Framework.

The local authority has certain duties to Looked After children.   This includes a duty to make arrangements for a looked after child to live with their parents (or other persons with parental responsibility) but only where doing so would be consistent with the child’s welfare and would be reasonably practicable.  For a child subject to a care order to be placed back with their parents, certain requirements must be fulfilled, which are set out in the Care Planning Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010 ("the Placement Regulations").

Where the local authority is unable to support a looked after child live with their parent, or other person with parental responsibility, then it must place the child in the most appropriate placement available with a preference given to placing the child with a person who is a relative, friend or other person connected with the child, and who is also a local authority approved foster carer.

For a detailed summary of meaning and implications of different legal situations including:

  • the rights of carers,
  • the rights of parents
  • and the nature of decisions which family and friends carers will be able to make in relation to the child, please see Appendix C ‘Caring for Somebody’s Child.
  • for further information about the legal duties in respect of placing looked after children with family or friends, see Appendix B, The Legal Framework.

Section 5 below, explains the different situations where children may be living with friends and family carers, the legal status of such situations and eligibility for financial support from the local authority.


5. Different Situations Where Children May Be Living With Family and Friends Carers

For the purpose of this policy, the definition of a family and friends carer is: "a relative, friend or other person with a prior connection with somebody elses’ child who is caring for that child full time" (which is the same definition given in the Statutory Guidance at paragraph 1.7).  There are broadly two categories of family care:

  1. Private arrangements, which include, for example, informal arrangements or private fostering arrangements, where the family have arranged for the child’s care; and
  2. Arrangements where the child is looked after by the Local Authority


5.1 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 informal arrangements to care for the child within the family and friends network. An "Informal arrangement" refers to a private family arrangement where a child is living with a family and friends’ carer who does not have parental responsibility for the child. (Please see 5.2. Private Fostering below, as this may be applicable if the child is being cared for by a friend of the family for longer than 28 days). References to "informal arrangements" in this policy and guidance do not include private fostering arrangements (explained below) or arrangements where the child is looked after by the Local Authority, placed for adoption, or subject to a Residence or a Special Guardianship Order.  The legislation which governs those specific arrangements does not apply to an informal arrangement. However children living in informal family and friends care arrangements may receive priority for targeted services to support better outcomes.

The local authority does not have a duty to assess 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 within their area. 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.  Following assessment, if any needs are identified, a Child in Need Plan will be drawn up and a package of support will be identified to meet those needs and to improve the child’s outcomes.  This can comprise a variety of different types of services and support as identified in Section 3.3.


5.2 Private Fostering Arrangements

A privately fostered child is a child who is aged under the age of 16 (under 18 if the child is disabled) and who is cared for, and provided with accommodation by someone other than:

  1. their parent;
  2. a person who is not a parent but who has parental responsibility for them; or
  3. a relative of the child.

A relative, for the purpose of the legal definition of a privately fostered child, is a brother, sister, aunt, uncle, grandparent or step-parent.  Any caring arrangement with such a relative will not be a private fostering arrangement. However, a child can be privately fostered by a more distant relative, such as a cousin or great aunt, and by family friends.

A child is not privately fostered unless the carer has accommodated, or intends to accommodate, the child for 28 days or more.  Examples of private fostering arrangements are varied and can include:

  • Children with parents overseas
  • Children/young people living with host families for a variety of reasons i.e. attending language schools, undergoing medical treatment
  • Unaccompanied asylum seeking and refugee children
  • Trafficked children
  • Local children living apart from their parents: i.e. adolescents estranged from their families

Local authorities must satisfy themselves that the welfare of children who are privately fostered within their area is being satisfactorily safeguarded and promoted.  In doing so, when notified of private fostering arrangements, local authorities must do certain things including visiting the premises where the child is accommodated and speaking to the child and private foster carer. Those proposing to enter into a private fostering arrangement must notify the local authority at least six weeks before the arrangement is due to commence (or immediately if commencing sooner than six weeks). Those already involved in a private fostering arrangement must notify the local authority immediately.

When a child is subject to a private fostering arrangement they are allocated a social worker and are regularly visited to ensure the suitability of the private fostering arrangement. Private foster carers are entitled to training by the Local Authority in managing behaviour and support to access benefit entitlements. The social worker will also ensure the family are receiving support and services from the voluntary sector and universal services such as Health, Education and Housing. Depending on the circumstances, a child who is privately fostered may be assessed as a child in need and provided with support under section 17 Children Act 1989, as with children who are subject to informal arrangements, as above.


5.3 Family and Friends Foster Care

Where a child is looked after by the Local Authority, the Local Authority has a responsibility wherever possible to make arrangements for the child to live with a member of the family or friend, who is approved as a foster parent. The Local Authority will, where possible, safe and practicable attempt to rehabilitate the child to a parent, (see Section 3.2 above, and Appendix B, The Legal Framework).

5.3.1 Approval of Family and Friends Carers as Local Authority Foster Parents

Before any placement of a looked after child can be made with a family or friends foster carer, they must be approved as a foster carer under the Fostering Services (England) Regulations 2011 ("the Fostering Regulations").  Immediate placements can be made on a temporary basis under Regulation 24 of the Care Planning, Placement and Review (England) Regulations 2010 ("the Placement Regulations"), with the approval of the Local Authority’s nominated officer.  A temporary placement can be made in this way for a maximum of 16 weeks whilst a careful assessment is made by social workers of the arrangement and the suitability of the prospective foster carers to look after the particular child or siblings.  In certain exceptional circumstances, that temporary approval can be extended for up to 8 weeks. Temporary approvals of family and friends foster carers are further explained in Appendix B, The Legal Framework.

In the Placement Regulations, the carer is referred to as a ‘Connected Person’. The process of obtaining approval for the placement is set out in the Local Authority’s Placement 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.

The case must be considered at the Children’s Placement Panel within 2 weeks of the placement or in advance if this is not an emergency.

A Family Plus social worker will work closely with the family and friends carer to undertake an assessment of their circumstances.  This will include discussions with all prospective family and friends carers about any criminal convictions.  All prospective friends and family foster carers must give permission for checks to be undertaken, Criminal Records Bureau checks made and a Foster Care Agreement entered into, agreeing to the Council’s foster care terms. The placement will be considered by the Fostering Panel in terms of its suitability for the child and a decision will be made by the service's Decision Maker. The service's Decision Maker makes the final decision about approval of foster carers, taking into account the recommendations of the fostering panel and the needs of the child.

The full 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. An information leaflet will be available to potential foster carers about the process and they will be given the name and contact details of the social worker from the Family plus team of the Fostering Service allocated to carry out the assessment. Click here to view the Statement of Purpose for the fostering service.

Once approved, friends and family foster carers must be notified in writing of this fact and of any terms of the approval.  The approved family and friends foster carer will have to enter into a foster care agreement.  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.

If the service's Decision Maker does not approve the carer as a local authority foster parent, after the full assessment process, the friends and family carer may either:

  1. accept the decision;
  2. appeal to the service's Decision Maker;  or
  3. apply for a review to the Independent Review Mechanism, which is set up by the Secretary of State and run by the British Association for Adoption and Fostering ("BAAF")

Where a family and friends carer seeks a review of a negative decision and a child has already been temporarily placed with them, the local authority may extend the temporary placement until the outcome of the review is known.  Before deciding whether to extend the temporary placement in this way, the local authority must first:

  1. consider whether placement is still the most appropriate placement available,
  2. seek the views of the local authority’s fostering panel, and
  3.  inform the Independent Reviewing Officer

Any decision to extend temporary approval must be approved by the Local Authority’s nominated officer.

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 to fulfil their responsibilities for the child.

5.3.2 Support and Advice for Family and Friends Foster Carers

All foster children will be visited by their social worker every 28 days within the first year but intervals may be longer if this is agreed by a manager.  There is a statutory requirement that foster children will be visited by the social worker within the first week of their placement and a minimum of every six weeks within the first year.  Where children have been placed with a family and friend carer under temporary approval, the social worker must visit once a week until the child’s first Statutory review meeting is held and then a minimum visit of every month after that.

Friends and family foster carers will receive specialist supervision and support from the Family Plus team and the child will have their own social worker. Friends and family foster carers are invited to their own special support group which offers mutual support and guidance and helps them to complete their specialist Training, Support and Development Standards portfolio within 18 months of their first fostering approval.

Family and friends foster carers are invited to the same training as non related foster carers and invited to all fostering events. Friends and family carers are encouraged to attend training on positive behaviour management such as Strengthening families, Triple P or Fostering Changes to help them to meet the children’s needs. If friends and family foster carers live far away from Islington, arrangements will be made for them to attend training in their local area.

The Fostering National Minimum Standards 2011, set out some Child Focused Standards (Standards 1-12). These set out how children should be cared for. These standards place some expectations on foster carers, and fostering services are expected to support and supervise foster carers to meet those standards.

The requirements under the Fostering Regulations apply to all family and friends foster carers such as; maintaining record keeping, disclosing medical records, keeping the child healthy and safe, attending children’s and carers review meetings, completing their own Training, Support and Development Standards portfolio and ensuring that CRB disclosures for all household members have been undertaken.

 Carers will be visited regularly by social workers for the child and the fostering service including unannounced visits. Specialist help for children will be given through the Health and Virtual school teams, through Personal Education and Personal Health Plans and the carer may not make their own decisions for example changing a child’s school as this may be subject to further regulations.

While the child remains a looked after child, as a foster child, the foster carers 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 and attending statutory reviews of the child’s care plan, cooperating with the child’s social worker and Independent Reviewing Officer and promoting the child’s education and health needs.

Friends and family foster carers in social housing may also be entitled to be further assessed for larger properties.

It may be that steps are taken to make a family and friends foster care arrangement permanent, via a residence order, special guardianship order or adoption.  These types of legal order are explained below.

Where a family and friends carer of a child was looked after wishes to make a temporary arrangement permanent and is not eligible for public funded legal advice and representation, he or she may apply to ICSC for assistance with the costs of legal advice and representation, in accordance with Islington’s Financial Support in Caring for Children Policy.  Family and Friend’s carers of a child who was not looked after but would have been had the carer not stepped in quickly to care for the child may also apply under the exceptional circumstances provision in that policy.


5.4 Residence Orders

A Residence Order is a Court Order which gives parental responsibility to the person in whose favour it is made, usually lasting until the child is 18. It is made under section 8 of the Children Act 1989 and is defined as an order that settles the arrangements to be made as to where the child will live.  It enables the person in whose favour the residence order is made to share parental responsibility with the child’s parent(s).  Relatives may apply for a residence order after caring for the child for one year, or if they have obtained the leave of the court.  See Appendix B, The Legal Framework, for a summary of when a person may apply for a residence order.

Residence 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 residence order in favour of a friend or family foster carer with whom a looked after child is placed may be an appropriate outcome as part of a permanence plan.

Residence Orders are also a way to provide someone who is not a legal parent of a child with parental responsibility, for example:

  • One parent’s unmarried new partner ("joint residence order"),
  • One parent’s former partner, who is not a legal parent of the child, but with whom the child spends regular time (shared residence order),
  • The biological father of a child who is co-parenting with a lesbian couple in circumstances where he is not legally the father (or the mother’s partner if she is not legally the other parent).

More than one person can be granted a residence order and these are called Joint Residence Orders.


5.5 Special Guardianship Order

Special Guardianship orders are made under section 14A of the Children Act 1989. As with residence orders, a Special Guardianship Order grants parental responsibility to the person in whose favour the order is made ("the Special Guardian"). The key difference is that while parental responsibility is shared with those other people who also have parental responsibility; the Special Guardian can exercise parental responsibility to the exclusion of those other people.  This means that the Special Guardian’s parental responsibility will "trump" the parental responsibility of others. Other differences between a Special Guardianship order and a residence order are:

  • A Special Guardian can, with leave of the court or with the written consent of every other person with parental responsibility, change the child’s surname;
  • A Special Guardian can take a child out of the country for a period of less than three months.

The order lasts until the child is 18, unless the court discharges it earlier. A Special Guardian can be a guardian or a relative, family friend or previous foster carer for the child who is aged 18 or over. The circumstances in which people are able to apply for Special Guardianship Orders is set out in Appendix B, The Legal Framework.

Special Guardianship offers a further option for children needing permanent care outside their birth family. It can offer greater security and permanence, without the degree of severance from the birth family as in adoption. Special Guardianship Orders may be made in private family proceedings and the local authority may not be a party to any such legal proceedings. However, a Special Guardianship Order in favour of a relative or foster carer  with whom a child is living or with whom the local authority recommends a child should live may be an appropriate outcome as part of a permanence plan for a looked after child.

Where the child was looked after by the local authority 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. Islington may offer financial support to Special Guardians in circumstances where the child was looked after immediately before being cared for under the Special Guardianship Order, or in other specific circumstances, see Section 6.3, below.


5.6 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, with full inheritance rights.

Also see the Adoption Service’s Statement of Purpose.

Islington Adoption Service provides a range of adoption support services.  The Adoption Service will also 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.


6. Provision of Financial Support


6.1. Informal Arrangements and Private Fostering

Parents will retain the responsibility for maintaining their children placed with informal friends and family carers, or under private fostering arrangements.  Sometimes those carers may experience financial difficulties as a result of taking on the care of somebody else’s child(ren).  Informal family and friend carers can find out about their entitlements to state benefits and other allowances by contacting the Income Maximisation Team (020 7527 8600).

The local authority has a discretion under section 17 of the Children Act 1989 to provide financial support to an informal family or friends carer, if the child has been assessed as a Child in Need.  Depending on the circumstances of each case, the local authority may provide a one-off payment to deal with a crisis, a payment in relation to some setting up costs (such as furniture, clothing or bedding) or more regular (e.g. weekly) contributions.  If regular contributions are made by the Local Authority, they are expected to be time-limited, save for exceptional circumstances.  Where regular payments are made, family and friend carers should be assisted to maximise their Income/Benefit 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 reason for providing the financial support and the level and duration for which it is to be paid, 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 a child identified as being in need, to meet an assessed need.
  • Before giving any assistance or imposing any conditions, a local authority shall have regard to  the means  of the child concerned and either of his parents
  • 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
  • Such payments must not replace other sources of income such as welfare benefits or maintenance payments that are reasonably recoverable from a parent (except in emergencies for example pending an application for welfare benefits or an application for enforcement of a  maintenance agreement with or order against the child’s parent(s)).
  • Payments will be paid to the carer, not the parents
  • The payment would not place any person in a fraudulent position
  • The payment will be in line with DSS rates for income support

There will be a written agreement drawn up detailing the level and duration of support and the mechanism for reviewing that support.  Friends and family who are caring for children subject to private arrangements may apply for financial assistance by contacting the child’s social worker or the Children in Need service if there is no allocated social worker.

For further information about discretionary section 17 payments, see Islington’s Section 17 Policy.


6.2 Fostering Allowances

Friends and family foster carers may not claim benefits in respect of a looked after child that they are caring for, but will be eligible for fostering allowances. Maintenance allowances are paid by Islington’s Fostering Service, which exceed the Government’s national minimum allowances.  The council may help with setting up costs such as, for example, if the prospective carers do not have a bed for the child. If friends and family carers attend the same comprehensive skills based training courses as non related foster carers and comply with all the same terms, including the introductory Skills to Foster course, they may be entitled to higher placement and training allowances.  Family and friends foster carers can access information about fostering allowances in the Money Matters and Insurance chapter of this handbook.


6.3 Permanent Arrangements for Children Under Residence Orders, Special Guardianship and Adoption orders

As with other family and friends care arrangements where the child is a Child in Need, the local authority may consider one-off payments under section 17 Children Act 1989 to meet a particular cost e.g. setting up costs if there is no bed. The local authority may also exercise its discretion to assist the carer in making an application to court to formalise the caring arrangements in certain circumstances (see Section 3, Allowances in the Money Matters and Insurance chapter.)

Residence Order Allowances

The local authority has a discretion to pay residence order allowances.  The local authority will generally only consider paying residence order allowances where the child was, immediately before the making for the residence order, looked after by the local authority.

 In exceptional circumstances, the local authority may consider paying a residence order allowance where the caring arrangement leading to the making of the residence order was an alternative to the child becoming looked after (for example, where a residence order is made at an interim stage in care proceedings). Payments may not be made to parents with residence orders.  Requests for a residence order allowances in these or any other exceptional circumstances may only be determined by the Director of Child Protection, and will be in line with DSS rates.

Carers will be subject to a financial assessment in determining whether a residence order allowance will be paid, and, if so, what level of allowance will be paid.  

All allowances will be reviewed annually.

Special Guardians and Adoptive Parents

The Local Authority is able to provide financial support to some Special Guardians, depending on eligibility, in accordance with the Special Guardianship Regulations 2005 and the Local Authority’s special guardianship policy (see Islington Children's Social Care Procedures Manual, Applications for Special Guardianship Orders). The latter sets out the circumstances in which a Special Guardian (or prospective special guardian) would be eligible for an assessment of need for financial support.  If the Special Guardian meets these criteria, a financial assessment is conducted.

Adoptive parents may be provided with financial support in certain circumstances under the Adoption Support Services Regulations 2005 subject to an assessment.

 In both cases, support may be regular or one-off payments.

Maximum Special Guardianship and adoption payments are equivalent to the fostering core allowance.  All permanent allowances are reviewed annually and will be adjusted according to the carer’s changes in income.

Special guardianship allowances cease when the young person:

  1. ceases to have a home with the Special Guardian; or
  2. ceases full-time education or training and commences employment; or
  3. qualifies for income support or jobseeker’s allowance in their own right; or
  4. attains the age of 18 (there is a discretion to continue the support if the young person continues in full-time education until the end of the course or training they are undertaking.

Further information is available in a document entitled Financial support in Caring for children,


7. Accommodation

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.  Details of services and entitlements regarding Housing provision available via Islington Council can be located on the councils website.


8. Supporting Contact With Parents

Where a child in need in its area is not looked after, but is living away from home, Islington Council is required to take such steps that are reasonably practicable 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’ (Schedule 2, paragraph 10 Children Act 1989). 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.  Further information and services about arranging contact between, children, their parents and friends and family can be found on www.islington.gov.uk/fis or 0207 527 5959.

Where a child is cared for by the Local Authority under a care order the Local Authority must allow the child reasonable contact with their parents (section 34 Children Act 1989) unless the court authorises it to refuse contact, and for all looked after children it must endeavour to promote contact between the child and their family unless it is not practicable or consistent with the child’s welfare (Schedule 2, paragraph 15 Children Act 1989). 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 the Contact with Parents and Siblings Procedure in the Islington Children's Social Care Procedures Manual.


9. Family Group Conferences

Family Group Conferences are meetings held between professionals and family members, which aim to achieve the best outcomes for children. They promote the involvement of the wider family to achieve a resolution of difficulties for Children in Need, and may help to identify short-term and/or permanent solutions for children within the family network.

We will offer a Family Group Conference or other form of family meeting at an early stage. If a child becomes Looked After, perhaps following an emergency, without a Family Group Conference having been held, then (where appropriate) we will arrange one as soon as possible. See Islington Children's Social Care Procedures Manual, Family Group Conferencing.


10. 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.

See the following chapters of this handbook:


Appendix A - Caring for Somebody Else’s Child

Click here to view Appendix A.


Appendix B – The Legal Framework


1. Children in Need 

Under section 17(1) of the Children Act 1989, local authorities have a general duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of children in need in their area and, so far as is consistent with that duty, to promote the upbringing of such children by their families, by providing a range of services appropriate to those children’s needs.  This can include financial, practical or other support to children and also their families.

Schedule 2 of the Children Act 1989, is entitled "Local Authority Support to Children and Families".  Part 1 of Schedule 2 sets out specific duties and powers to enable local authorities to discharge their general duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of children in need in their area.  Some of the specific duties under Schedule 2 are covered in Islington’s Section 17 Policy (check).

A "child in need" is defined in section 17(10) Children Act 1989, as follows:

  1. "he is unlikely to achieve or maintain, or to have the opportunity of achieving or maintaining, a reasonable standard of health or development without the provision for him of services by a local authority under this Part;
  2. his health or development is likely to be significantly impaired, or further impaired, without the provision for him of such services; or
  3. he is disabled,

and "family", in relation to such a child, includes any person who has parental responsibility for the child and any other person with whom he has been living."


2. Looked After Children

2.1. Definition of a Looked After Child

Under s22(1) of the Children Act 1989, a child will be looked after by the local authority if they are:

  1. accommodated by a local authority under section 20 of the Children Act 1989; or
  2. under a care order

2.2 Looked After Children who are accommodated under section 20 Children Act 1989

Under section 20(1) of the Children Act 1989, local authorities are under a duty to provide accommodation for a child in need within their area who appears to them to require accommodation as a result of:

  1. "there being no person with parental responsibility for the child;
  2. their being lost or having been abandoned;
  3. the person who has been caring for him being prevented (whether or not permanently, and for whatever reason) from providing them with suitable accommodation or care."

Before a local authority provides a child with accommodation under section 20, it must, so far as is reasonably practicable and consistent with the child’s welfare, ascertain and give due consideration to the child’s wishes and feelings regarding the provision of accommodation (section 20(6)). The local authority cannot provide a child with accommodation under section 20 if:

  1. a person with parental responsibility for the child is willing and able to provide them with accommodation, or arrange for accommodation to be provided to them; and
  2. that person objects to the local authority providing accommodation.

However, if a child is 16 and agrees to be provided with accommodation, a local authority can do so under section 20.

2.3 Care Orders

The local authority may apply to the court for a care order if a child is suffering, or is likely to suffer significant harm, which is attributable to:

  1. the care given to the child, or likely to be given to them if a care order was not made, not being what it would be reasonable to expect a parent to give to him; or
  2. the child’s being beyond parental control (section 31 Children Act 1989).

In care proceedings, the court can make an "interim care order" (to cover the situation while the proceedings are finalised) if there are reasonable grounds for believing that a child is suffering, or is likely to suffer significant harm, which is attributable to:

  1. a) the care given to the child, or likely to be given to them if a care order was not made, not being what it would be reasonable to expect a parent to give to him; or
  2. b) the child’s being beyond parental control (section 38 Children Act 1989).

If a care order is made, the local authority will share parental responsibility for the child with those who already have parental responsibility.

2.4 Duties to Place Looked After Children With Their Family Where Possible 

Local authorities have certain duties to looked after children, particularly those set out under sections 22-22D of the Children Act 1989. This includes a duty to make arrangements for a looked after child to live with:

  1. their parents;
  2. a person who is not a parent but who has parental responsibility; or
  3. in a case where a residence order was in force prior to the making of a care order, the person in whose favour the residence order was made

but only where doing so would be consistent with the child’s welfare and would be reasonably practicable (s22C(1)-(4) Children Act 1989).

For a child subject to a care order to be placed back with their parents, certain requirements must be fulfilled, which are set out in the Care Planning Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010.

Where a local authority is unable to place a looked after child with their parent, or other person with parental responsibility or residence order, then it must place the child in the most appropriate placement available.  In deciding which placement is most appropriate, the local authority must give a preference to placing the child with a person who is a relative, friend or other person connected with the child, and who is also a local authority approved foster carer (section 22C(5)-(7) Children Act 1989).


3. Temporary Approval of Family and Friends Carers 

Regulation 24 of the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review Regulations (England) 2010 ("the Placement Regulations") gives local authorities the power to temporarily approve family and friends carers as foster carers, so that children can be immediately placed.  Local authorities must be satisfied that the most appropriate placement for the child is with that carer and that it is necessary for the child to be placed with that carer while their suitability to be a local authority foster parent has been assessed.

Before making a temporary placement under Regulation 24, the local authority must assess the suitability of the connected person to care for C, including the suitability of -

  1. the proposed accommodation, and
  2. all other persons aged 18 and over who are members of the household in which it is proposed that C will live (Regulation 24(1)(a)).In doing so, the local authority must take into account a number of factors (listed in Schedule 4 of the Placement Regulations), including:
    • the quality of the existing relationship between the child and the carer and whether that carer has the capacity to care for the child
    • The child’s wishes and feelings about the placement
    • There should be a visit to the carer’s home to confirm whether the environment is suitable for the child
    • The quality of the relationships between the members of the household, family history and impact of the proposed caring arrangements on the members of the household
    • Details of the carers’ health and any history of substance misuse and/or domestic violence
    • Details of any criminal offences for which the carer has been convicted or cautioned
    • Details of the carer’s past and present employment and source of income
    • The neighbourhood in which the carers’ home is located and what resources are available in the community to help support the carer and the child.

In addition, the local authority must also do the following before making a temporary placement:

  • consider whether, in all the circumstances and taking into account the services to be provided by the authority, the proposed arrangements will safeguard and promote the child’s welfare and meet the child’s needs set out in the care plan (Regulation 24(1)(b)), and
  • make immediate arrangements for the suitability of the carer to be a local authority foster parent to be assessed in accordance with Fostering Regulations 2011  before the temporary approval expires.

Temporary approval of a family and friend carer under Regulation 24 lasts for a maximum period of 16 weeks.  It can be extended in the following circumstances (under Regulation 25(1)):

  1. If it is likely that the full assessment process to approve the carer as a local authority foster parent is unlikely to finish before the temporary approval expires, for a maximum further period of 8 weeks.
  2. If, having undergone the full assessment process, the carer is not approved and seeks a review of the decision by the independent review mechanism, until the outcome of the review is known.

Before deciding whether to extend the temporary approval the local authority must first:

  1. consider whether placement is still the most appropriate placement available,
  2. seek the views of the fostering panel, and
  3. inform the Independent Reviewing Officer (Regulation 25(4)).

A decision to extend temporary approval must be approved by the local authority’s nominated officer (Regulation 25(5)).

If the period of temporary approval and of any extension expires and the carer has not been approved as a local authority foster parent then the local authority must terminate the placement after first making other arrangements for the child’s accommodation (Regulation 25(6)).


4. When Can a Family and Friends Carer Apply for a Residence Order?

Under section 10 of the Children Act 1989, a family and friends carer of a child can apply for a residence order in the following circumstances:

  • With the leave of the court, irrespective of the amount of time the child has resided with the carer;
  • If the carer is a relative and the child has resided with them for a period of at least one year immediately prior to the application;
  • If the carer is an approved local authority foster carer and the child has resided with them for a period of at least one year immediately prior to the application;
  • If the carer is not a relative or local authority foster parent but the child has resided with them for a period of at least three years;
  • If the local authority consents, where the child is under a care order
  • With the consent of each person who has parental responsibility for the child


5. When Can a Family and Friends Carer Apply For a Special Guardianship Orders?

Under section 14A of the Children Act 1989, a family and friends carer of a child can apply for a Special Guardianship Order in the following circumstances:

  • With the leave of the court;
  • If they are the guardian of the child;
  • If they have a residence order with respect to the child;
  • If the local authority consents, where the child is under a care order
  • If the carer is a relative and the child has resided with them for a period of at least one year immediately prior to the application;
  • If the carer is an approved local authority foster carer and the child has resided with them for a period of at least one year immediately prior to the application;
  • If the carer is not a relative or local authority foster parent but the child has resided with them for a period of at least three years;
  • With the consent of each person who has parental responsibility for the child;