Looked After Children and Care Leavers – What’s What and Whose Who?

Do you have questions about being in care? Here is some information that may help you understand what goes on and who is there to help you.

What does being ‘looked after’ mean?

A Looked After Child is a child who is being cared for by the Local Authority. They might be living:

  • with foster parents
  • at home with their parents under the supervision of social services
  • in residential children’s homes
  • in other residential settings like schools or secure units

 

Children might have been placed in care voluntarily by parents struggling to cope. Or Children’s Services may have become involved because a child was at significant risk of harm.

Why are you being looked after?

There are lots of different reasons why children and young people cannot live with their family. Sometimes parents ask for help because they feel they are struggling to look after their children or sometimes it might be because it might be safer for a child not to live at home.

 

Looked After under a Care Order

This means that the Local Authority has gone to Court and asked the Judge what they think is best for you.   When a Court makes a Care Order, this means that the Local Authority then shares responsibility for a child with the parents.

 

Parental responsibility is a set of legal rights and responsibilities including making sure a child:

  • has somewhere to live
  • is looked after
  • is kept safe

 

Parental responsibility also gives the right to make important decisions about a child’s life like:

  • who looks after them
  • where they live
  • how they are educated

When either a Care Order is made, or you are looked after under a voluntary arrangement, Children’s Social Care must make sure that your family and friends can stay in touch with you.  This is your right. The Court will want to know about these contact arrangements whenever it hears about your case. Children’s Social Care may sometimes feel that it would be better for you if

you did not have visits or letters or calls from someone in particular – especially if they think that you are at risk from them.

If you are Looked After without a Care Order your rights are the same but this is known as a voluntary arrangement between the Local Authority and your family.

 

Discharging a Care Order

There are several ways in which being looked after by the County Council can come to an end.  A Care Order finishes automatically when you reach the age of 18.  A Care Order can be ended before then if a Court agrees.  Even if Children’s Social Care feels that your Care Order is still needed, you still have the right to go to court and ask for it to be ended. The Court will hear from both sides and will then decide whether to keep the Care Order or not. Your Social Worker will advise you on how to get the help of a solicitor, even if he/she does not agree with what you want to do.

 

In Care without a Care Order

If you come into care under a voluntary arrangement between your parents and the local authority, it is called Section 20 and the Local Authority does not have parental responsibility.

If you have become Looked After without a Care Order, the arrangement may come to an end at any time, if agreement is reached between the Local Authority and your parents.

If a parent withdraws their consent for their child to be Looked After but the County Council doesn’t agree, the County Council has to ask the court for an Order and you would be asked what you want to happen. If you are over 16, you should have the most say in whether the arrangement ends – your parents may be consulted, but in most circumstances you can choose to remain looked after or leave even if they don’t agree.

 

Your Care and Support Plan?

When you are looked after, plans must be made for all the important things in your life. The main plan is called your Care & Support Plan which is written information that says how you should be cared for and describes your future plans.

You will have other plans too for things like where you are living, your health and education. All of the plans should link together to make sure you are getting all the help and support you need while you are looked after.

Your Care & Support Plan will include:-

  • Why you are looked after, what needs to happen for you to go home or if you can’t go home what the long term or ‘permanency’ plan is
  • Your wishes and feelings
  • Contact with your family and friends
  • Your health
  • Education and training
  • How you wish to follow your religion, beliefs and culture.
  • Hobbies and Interests
  • What people (like Social Workers and foster carers) will do to help and support you
  • What your plans are now and for the future
  • What your needs are

 

Your Care & Support Plan will be looked at in your Looked After Child Review meetings, to see how the plans are going and to check if any changes are needed.

 

What Independent Safeguarding Reviewing (ISRO)s do?

The law [Children Act 1989] says that when you first come into care an ISRO (Independent Safeguarding & Reviewing Officer) must be appointed. Once appointed they MUST speak in private with each child before their Review.

Your Looked After Child Review meeting is a chance for everyone to talk about your placement, the plans that are being made for you while you are being looked after and how you are getting on. You will also be asked your views on where and how the meetings are held.

There will be an ISRO chairing the meeting to make sure your opinions are listened to. Your ISRO will continue to Chair these meetings until you turn 18 years old.

 

The meetings will take place as follows:

  • The first Review meeting should be held within 20 working days of you becoming Looked After
  • The next one will be 3 months after that
  • The meeting will then be held every 6 months

The main job of the ISRO is to make sure that your Care and Support Plan meets your needs. They will do this by:

  • Chairing your Review
  • Letting you have your own say in your Review
  • By following up to make sure that people actually do what they agreed to do

These are your Reviews, and it is very important that you make sure that the ISRO knows how you feel and what you want to happen.

The ISRO also has a job to make sure that the Local Authority knows when it is not doing well enough as a “Corporate Parent” for children in its care. ISROs will also tell Local Authorities about where things are going particularly well for children.

Where decisions have been made or actions have been taken that are not best for you and a Local Authority is failing to act in a child’s best interest, the ISRO can report them to CAFCASS (Children and Family Court Advisory Support Service). CAFCASS may then ask a court to look into the matter further.

The ISRO Pledge:

 

What Social Workers do?

You will be allocated a Social Worker who will carry out an assessment of your needs and will put together a Care & Support Plan with you. They will also be there to help and support you and will:-

  • Visit you and explain to you why you are being ‘Looked After’
  • Let you know how long you may be Looked After and what the long term plans are
  • They will make sure you understand what is happening and why and will help you with any problems
  • Visit you within the first week of moving to a new foster home or placement
  • Talk to you on your own
  • Talk about your hobbies, what you like and things you’re good at or anything you’re unhappy about
  • Tell you about how you can get in touch if you need to
  • Ask what you think about things
  • They will visit you at least every eight weeks

 

Your family

While you are Looked After it is important for you to keep in touch with your family; either by phone calls, texts, letters, emails or visits. If there is a problem with this your Social Worker will explain it to you.

 

Your Education

All Looked After Children and young people must have a Personal Educational Plan (PEP). A PEP will say how your school or college, carer and local authority will support you to do the best you can while you are in education. This may mean you are entitled to extra support to help you with your education. This could be a tutor or mentoring or it could be money to help you with books, equipment or travel. Every school should have a Designated Teacher for Looked After Children.  This is someone who has an interest in helping to support you at school.  If you don’t know who this teacher is in your school, ask your Social Worker to tell you.

 

Staying Healthy

Your health is very important. Being healthy does not just mean eating loads of vegetables. It’s keeping your teeth clean, regular eye tests and having your immunisations up to date.

When you become Looked After, you will have what is called a ‘Health Assessment’. This will be done by a doctor or a Nurse for Looked After Children and young people (LAC Nurse). The Nurse will help you to keep well and stay healthy by making sure you see a doctor, dentist and optician regularly.  She will help you access other health services if you need to and is available for advice either through your Social Worker or directly.

 

Listening to you and having your say

When you are looked after, lots of decisions are made about you and your life. The people who are responsible for your care must make sure they find out your views, wishes and feelings about anything that concerns you. Your views will be listened to and taken seriously before any decisions are made.

You can have your say by:-

Talking one to one with your Social Worker or carers

Joining the Wrexham Young People’s Care Council. Link to Care Council information

Filling in a Consultation Booklet to prepare for your LAC Review Link to Review Booklet

Going to the Review meetings or talking to your Independent Reviewing Officer

Having an independent advocate Link to advocacy information

Making a complaint Link to complaints

 

 

What is an Advocate?

An advocate does not work for Children’s Services. They are someone who is there to help you and others to have their voices heard. An advocate is there to help you and will only tell the people at the Review what you have told them to say. If you want an advocate please speak to your Social Worker or Independent Safeguarding Reviewing Officer. You can also contact an advocate yourself:

Phone number: 0800 111 6880

Email: northwalesadvocacy@trosgynnalplant.org.uk

Tros Gynnal Plant (TGP) Webpage

 

 

Wrexham Young People’s Care Council

The Young People’s Care Council collects the views of all looked after children and care leavers in Wrexham and ensures these views are listened to and acted upon by working with the staff of the Children’s Social Care Department to support the improvements in looked after children and care leavers’ lives.

 

 

What happens when you’re 16+?

Before your 16th birthday, plans will begin to be made for your independence. Discussions will take place between yourself and any professionals offering you support and guidance to discuss your future plans and create your Pathway Plan. You will be supported by your carers and Social Worker who will help to teach you the skills to live on your own, if that’s what you want.

 

Leaving Care

Leaving Care is all about being independent and making your own choices about the future. This can mean getting ready to start work, finding out about training and finding somewhere to live.

 

What is a Pathway Plan?

A pathway plan says what you want for your future, and we record what you want to do and how we will work together to help you succeed. It includes things like:-

  • Education, training, employment and career planning
  • Health and development
  • Contact with parents, wider family and friends
  • Financial support

 

We will also think about what money you may need for things like:-

  • Travel
  • Equipment or other things for school or college
  • Clothing
  • Contact with your family or friends
  • Hobbies and holiday
  • Costs for any special needs
  • Counselling
  • Cultural or religious needs

 

You may not get money for all these things, and you might need other things that are not on the list. We will work out the best way to help you and agree with you what we can do. This will be written in your Pathway Plan.

How often does the plan get reviewed?

Every six months a Review meeting will be held to look at the plan and see if it is offering you the support that you want and need.

How will I get my money?

We will help you to set up a bank account and learn how to run it. It is important that you learn how to manage your money and make sure it covers all the things you need. In some cases we will pay you in cash, but we want to help you learn the skills you need to manage this yourself.

What is personal support?

Personal support is all about who can offer you help, and how and when you will get the help you need. This means making plans for keeping in touch with the people you care about and who care about you, and making sure you know how to get in touch with a doctor, dentist and help in an emergency.

What happens when I am 18?

A Care Order automatically ends when you reach 18 years of age. You will not have to return to the court for this to happen. You should stay in care until you are 18 unless you are very sure that you don’t want this kind of help and support. From the age of 18 you will still have your Pathway Plan and a Personal Advisor and Children’s Services will still keep in touch with you until you are 21.

 

From 18 you can claim benefits and the Council will no longer give you most of your money. We will still help you in ways that we both agree to. If you are over 19 and in education, training or work we will still help you. This might mean buying books, equipment or clothing or helping with field trips, travel costs and college registration and exam fees, childcare costs or tuition feeds. We can give you this kind of support until you are 21 or older, it just depends what’s agreed in your Pathway Plan.

Can I go to college or university?

If you go to university, you will get money through the same system of student loans as everyone else, but we will make sure you have somewhere to stay in the holidays if you need it.

Some further education college courses involving things like agriculture or art may involve living near a college or living there for part of the course. Again we will make sure you have somewhere to live during the holidays.

 

What is a Personal Advisor?

A Personal Advisor is someone who is there to help you work out your Pathway Plan. They work with you to make sure you get all the help you need.

They will:-

  • Give advice and support
  • Understand your needs and help you write your Pathway Plan
  • Work with you to review your Pathway Plan – your hopes and ideas may change as you go along, so it will need to be changed to show this
  • Talk to the Local Authority to make sure you get all the help you need, including any money you should get
  • Keep in touch with you until you are at least 21
  • Help you find a good place to live
  • Make sure you get the right training and support you need, so you have the right skills to help you live independently
  • Help you to move into a place of your own, as well as helping you buy the basics and making sure you settle into your new home
  • Help you to find out what you need to know about the community you live in
  • Advise you what do to in an emergency
  • Help you to complain or sort out any problem you might have with Education & Children’s Services. The might ask an Advocate to work with you as well – this is someone who can make sure your complaint is listened to, and can even speak on your behalf if you like

 

A Personal Advisor is there for you – they know how things should work and how to get things done. They will give you a different type of help than your Social Worker will and they may get you more support or a special kind of support – especially as you settles into your own place. It is important that you have a good relationship with your Personal Advisor. You may not always agree, but you should feel able to work together and talk to them.

 

What can I do if I’m unhappy?

We listen to your views and we will always try our best, but we can’t always promise that what you want is possible.

Wherever you are living you should feel safe and looked after. But no one’s

perfect and there might be times when you don’t get on with everyone you are living with, or you might be unhappy with a decision that has been made. If this happens, you should tell someone you trust so they can help you sort things out. You can speak to whoever is caring for you, your Social Worker, your Independent Safeguarding Reviewing Officer or another person you trust.

 

If you are unhappy with what any person working with you has done, you have a right to make a complaint. You can contact the Complaints Officer in any of the following ways or ask your Social Worker or advocate to help you to do this:-

Phone number: 01978 292087

Email: complaints@wrexham.gov.uk

Young Person friendly document being developed

 

Knowing your rights

You have rights. Every child and young person under the age of 18 years has rights no matter who you are, where you live, or your situation. It’s important for you to know what your rights are so you know when you are not being treated properly.

 

The United Nation Convention on the Rights of the Child (also known as UNCRC) is a list of 42 promises that governments have made to children and young people and these are what you have the right to:-

  • Be treated with respect
  • Say what you think and feel about decisions made that affect you
  • Have your language, culture, race, gender, sexuality and religion respected
  • Have a private life
  • Have protection from being hurt or badly treated
  • An education and health care
  • A safe place to live
  • Not to be punished in a cruel or hurtful way

What are your rights?

 

Reconnecting to care

If you’ve been looked after by the Local Authority, you can come back to care after you’ve left, to get help with getting into education or training after the age of 21.  This is known as ‘reconnecting to care’.  Support is available up to the age of 25 (or older, if your education or training programme continues beyond this age).

To find out more, speak to your Personal Adviser or Social Worker. You can also call us on: 01978 295611

Reconnecting to Care policy being developed

Files and Case Records

Children’s Social Care has to keep written information and records about every young person who is Looked After. This information is kept in a separate file by your Social Worker and locked away in a filing cabinet.  Any reports prepared on you should be discussed fully with you and you can ask to see your file.

All children and young people have a right to find out what has been recorded about them by Children’s Social Care under the Data Protection Act. Leaflet re accessing information here:

 


 

If you would like more information on this topic or you have questions please call into the INFO Shop or contact us on 01978 295600 / Instant message.  If you leave us a message we will get back to you as soon as we can.

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