How to contact us for advice

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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). For Textphone dial 18001 followed by the advice line number. 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 exactly is a voluntary arrangement? How is it different from being in care under a court order?

Some children in England are looked after in the care system under a voluntary arrangement. It is an arrangement that can be put in place without any court oversight. This not a court order. And children’s services do not have parental responsibility for a child who is looked after under a voluntary arrangement. Children in voluntary arrangements are not described as being ‘in care’. Instead, they are described as ‘accommodated’ by children’s services. We use the term voluntary arrangement on these pages.

There are many different situations which may lead to a child becoming looked after under a voluntary arrangement. It may be that there is no one to care for them. Or, if a family is struggling, a parent with parental responsibility may ask for their child to come to come into the care system under a voluntary arrangement for a time.

There are also children who enter or remain in the care system under a court order. This is because the Family Court has decided that is in their best interests. And that children’s services should have parental responsibility for them. These children are described as being ‘in care’. See our Children in care under court orders page for further information.

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