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Our advice service

We provide advice to parents, grandparents, relatives, friends and kinship carers who are involved with children’s services in England or need their help. We can help you understand processes and options when social workers or courts are making decisions about your child’s welfare.

Our advice service is free, independent and confidential.

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By phone or email

To speak to an adviser, please call our free and confidential advice line 0808 801 0366 (Monday to Friday 9.30am to 3pm, excluding Bank Holidays). Or you can ask us a question via email using our advice enquiry form.

Discuss on our forums

Our online advice forums are an anonymous space where parents and kinship carers (also known as family and friends carers) can get legal and practical advice, build a support network and learn from other people’s experiences.

Advice on our website

Our get help and advice section describes the processes that you and your family are likely to go through, so that you know what to expect. Our webchat service can help you find the information and advice on our website which will help you understand the law and your rights.

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What do children’s services have to do to understand the needs of child looked after under a voluntary arrangement?

When children’s services are first thinking about the plans for a child to become looked after under a voluntary arrangement, a social worker should carry out a detailed assessment of the child’s needs. It is important that children’s services know what a child’s needs are. Understanding the needs of a child means a plan to meet those needs can be properly made.

How an assessment should be done

The assessment should involve the child and their family.  Government guidance called Working Together 2018 says that high quality assessments should:

  • Be child-centred (focus on the child)
  • Look at the needs of the child within their family
  • Involve children
  • Build on strengths as well as identifying difficulties
  • Lead to action including providing services and help.

See Working Together 2018 at page 28, paragraph 58.

When doing an assessment, children’s services should follow their local protocol about how assessments in their area should be done. This will set out the processes local social workers should follow when they do an assessment (see Working Together 2018 at page 26, paragraph 46 onwards).

The local protocol may be on the council website. Families can ask the child’s social worker for a copy.

Health and education needs

Children’s services have a legal duty:

So, children’s services must arrange for the health and education needs of the child to be assessed. This is all part of the process of working out how the child’s needs can best be met. Health and education needs will be set out in separate sections of the child’s main care plan. These are called the ‘health care plan’ and the ‘personal education plan’.

The law about assessing education and health needs is found in regulations 5 and regulation 7, and schedule 1 of the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010.

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