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7.1.3 Child's Journey through the Care System


This Chapter summarises the steps/actions that must be taken in relation to children looked after from the point of referral to Leaving Care. Where appropriate, chapter references are provided; alternatively users may click on Keywords for additional guidance.


This Chapter should be read in conjunction with Care Planning Procedure.


Decision on outcome of referral within one working day

Information received that child may be a Child in Need of services.

See Receiving Contacts and Referrals Procedure.

Statutory Assessment

Within 45 working days

Child seen by social worker. Assessment identifies one of following:

  1. Child in Need;
  2. Possible Significant Harm; leading to Strategy Discussion and Section 47 Enquiry;
  3. Child not in need, sign post to other agencies (including for Team Around the Child) and/or NFA.

If the child is suffering or likely to suffer Significant Harm, there may be a need to take steps to protect the child, including obtaining an Emergency Protection Order.

As part of the Statutory Assessment, where it is identified the child has suffered or is likely to suffer Significant Harm, Strategy Discussion, Section 47 Enquiry and possible Initial Child Protection Conference - may lead to Child Protection Plan.

See Statutory Assessments (Child and Family Assessments) Procedure.

Conclusion reached that parent(s) are not meeting child's needs.
Consider additional support to maintain placement at home.

Hold Planning/Threshold of Care Meeting

Seek legal advice and, where appropriate, take account of pre-proceedings requirements of Public Law Outline

Referral for services to maintain child within the home.

Where appropriate refer to Care Proceedings Panel in relation to pre-proceedings requirements of Public Law Outline.

Consider other Family Options

Consider supporting arrangements for child to live with other family members, with support if necessary, which would avoid need for child to be Looked After. See Family and Friends Policy - To Follow.

Conclusion reached that child should be Looked After.
Seek parents' agreement Where possible, parents' agreement sought to child's admission to Looked After Service.
Seek legal advice and take account of requirements of Public Law Outline Seek legal advice if necessary and decide whether child should be Accommodated or via Care Proceedings, in which case refer case to Care Proceedings Panel and have regard to the requirements of the Public Law Outline.
Consider Looked After Placement Options

Consider Looked After placement with Connected Person, with support if necessary. If suitable Connected Person available and placement likely to last for more than 16 weeks, assessment as foster carer required.

See Placements with Connected Persons Procedure.

If no Connected Person available or suitable to care for child, consider other placement options.

Draft Child Plan

Child Plan drafted in outline, identifying purpose of admission to Looked After Service, how the local authority will exercise its responsibilities for the child including type of placement and contact with parents.


Seek approval for Child Plan and placement

Seek approval to Child Plan and placement via Placement Matters Meeting. In emergency, seek approval within 72 hours of the child's placement. Child Plan to be completed within 10 working days of the child's first placement.

See Care Planning Procedure.

Initiate Court action

Where Court action considered necessary, Care Proceedings initiated or other appropriate Court application initiated, evidence prepared and hearing date arranged.

For Secure Accommodation, the Designated Manager (Secure Placements) can authorise up to 72 hours in Secure Accommodation without a Court Order. 

See Placements in Secure Accommodation on Welfare Grounds Procedure.

Placement Planning Meeting within 72 hours of placement

Placement Planning Meeting to be held prior to placement wherever possible or within 72 hours of placement if made in an emergency.

First Court hearing

Unless parents consent to child being Accommodated, Court hearing will occur before placement unless child on Police Protection or, for a Secure Accommodation placement, 72 hours placement has been authorised by the Designated Manager (Secure Placements).

Emergency Protection Order or Interim Care Order obtained.

Place child and complete Placement Plan (on Placement Information Record) before or on day of child's placement

Placement Information Record completed before or on the day of the placement - as far as it can be - and if not completed in full, added to as soon as possible thereafter and at the latest within 5 working days of the placement.

Notifications of Placement

Health and Education notified that the placement has taken place.

See Care Planning Procedure.

Promote Family Contact

Detailed contact arrangements made and included within the child's Placement Plan, in the context of the Child Plan.

See Contact With Parents/Adults and Siblings Procedure.

Social Worker Visits to Looked After Children Procedure and Social Visits (Including Overnight Stays) Procedure.

Arrange first LAC Review

Arrange first LAC Review within 20 working days of placement

Independent Chairs/Quality Assurance Unit - To Follow notified within one working day of child’s admission to Looked After service. Independent Reviewing Officer designated and date for the first LAC Review arranged.

See Looked After Child Reviews Procedure.

Social worker visits

The first visit should occur within 1 week of the child’s placement

Social worker visits to child made within one week of placement and then weekly for first 6 weeks if child placed with relative or friend, or otherwise at minimum of six weekly intervals in first year for the purposes of monitoring and supporting the placement.

See Social Worker Visits to Looked After Children Procedure.

Arrange Health Assessment

Draft Health Action Plan

Social Worker initiates arrangement for the child to undertake a Health Assessment.

The Health Assessment should contribute to the child’s Health Action Plan, which forms part of the Child Plan with detail in the Placement Plan and should be completed in time for the first Looked After Review.

Depending on the age of the child, further Health Assessments must be conducted at between 6 and 12-month intervals.

See Health Care Assessments and Plans Procedure.

Complete Personal Education Plan (PEP) within 10 working days to be presented to first LAC Review

Social Worker to liaise with child's school and the education service and formulate a Personal Education Plan (PEP) as part of the Child Plan (i.e. within 10 working days).

See Education of Looked After and Previously Looked After Children Procedure.

 Implement Child Plan

As required by Child Plan, strategies implemented, further assessments organised (with Court's permission if within Care Proceedings) and time-scales set to explore possibility of rehabilitation and/or other permanency options including need for Parallel Plan.

Assess carers, where placement is with relative or friend.

Within 16 weeks of the placement starting

Assessment of Relative/Friend as foster carer presented to Fostering Panel within 16 weeks.

See Placements with Connected Persons Procedure.

Convene first LAC Review.

Within 20 working days of the Placement

Progress in implementing aims of Child Plan considered at first LAC Review, agenda to include setting time-scales for achieving permanence for child.

See Looked After Child Review Procedure.

Interim/Final Court Hearing

Detailed Care Plan with recommendations for Court Order approved by Designated Manager (Care Proceedings) and presented to Court.

Rehabilitation Plan Implemented

Rehabilitation plan implemented wherever appropriate. Where Interim Care Order or Care Order in force, Placements with a Child in Care with Parents Procedure followed.

Where rehabilitation successfully takes place, subsequent LAC Review consider need for Care Order to continue. 

Where no Care Order, child discharged from Looked After Service with Child in Need Plan of support and monitoring.

Permanence Plan agreed by second LAC Review

If child remains looked after beyond the first LAC Review, as soon as possible, and by second LAC Review, Child Plan must incorporate a Permanence Plan to be implemented for child.

See Permanence Policy Procedure.

Placement Planning Meetings Procedure.

Also Looked After Child Reviews Procedure.

Where plan is for rehabilitation, Placements with a Child in Care with Parents Procedure followed.

Where plan is for Adoption, Adoption Procedures followed - see Placement for Adoption Procedure - To Follow.

Where plan is for placement within extended family, either as preferred plan or Parallel Plan, possible placements with family to be explored and assessed as appropriate.

Where plan is for long-term foster placement or Special Guardianship Order or Child Arrangements Order, either as preferred plan or Parallel Plan.

Permanence Plan implementation

By third LAC Review

Where preferred Permanence Plan not implemented by third LAC Review, consideration must be given to implementing the Parallel Plan.

Where preparation for independence appropriate.

Personal Adviser appointed and Pathway Plan drawn up and reviewed. 

See Leaving Care and Transition Procedure.