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Voluntary arrangement (also referred to as a voluntary accommodation)

If a child is looked after in the care system under a voluntary arrangement, this means that either:

  • There is an agreement between children’s services and the child’s parent. Or it might be an agreement between children’s services and another person with parental responsibility. For example a special guardian. They may have agreed that the child will be looked after for a period of time. OR
  • There is no-one to look after the child and children’s services have stepped in to do this. OR
  • The child is aged 16 or 17 and has themselves agreed to being accommodated under a voluntary arrangement.

A voluntary arrangement is not a court order. The Supreme Court (the highest court in the UK) describes voluntary accommodation as a ‘delegation of parental responsibility’. This means that the child’s parent, or other person with parental responsibility, has agreed that children’s services can act on their behalf by providing accommodation for their child. This voluntary arrangement does not provide children’s services with parental responsibility for the child. This remains with the parents or other people with parental responsibility.

If a parent objects to their child continuing to be accommodated, and that parent is able and willing to care for the child, then children’s services must return the child to the parent’s care immediately.

For more information see our advice pages on:

Children in care under a voluntary arrangement (s.20)

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