Who must agree to the plan for contact, for a child in care looked after under a voluntary arrangement?
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There is a legal duty on children’s services to ‘as far as is reasonably practicable’, to agree the arrangements for contact with the person who is agreeing to the care plan.
A person can only agree the care plan for a looked after child if they are:
- A person who has parental responsibility for them
- The last person caring for the child immediately before they became looked after
- The child and are 16 of 17 and the plan is being agreed directly with them.
Once the arrangements have been agreed the next step are that:
- Children’s services must record the contact arrangements in the child’s care plan and placement plan
- These plans should be prepared before a placement begins
- If it is not possible for these plans to be drawn up, then the placement plan should be made within five working days (see regulation 9 of the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010). And the full care plan within 10 working days of the placement starting (see regulation 4 )
- Copies of the care plans must be given to the parents, the child, anyone else with parental responsibility and other relevant people (see regulation 6(3)
- If there are care proceedings, the timetable for preparing the care plan will be set by the Family Court instead (see regulation 4(2)). The initial care plan for the child (the interim plan) must be provided to the court when children’s services make their application to start the care proceedings. The court will need to approve the care plan for the child
- It may be helpful to politely remind the child’s social worker and independent reviewing officer what government statutory guidance says that where a child is in a voluntary arrangement, contact is: “a matter for negotiation and agreement between the responsible authority, the child, parents and others seeking contact” (this is said in paragraph 2.99 of The Children Act 1989 guidance and regulations: Volume 2: care planning, placement and case review’).
Important note: But the care plan must be agreed with the parent (or other person) with parental responsibility who is agreeing to the child being looked after under a voluntary arrangement. This is because children’s services do not have parental responsibility for the child.
For more information about care plans and placement plans see The Care plans, placement plans and permanence plans for children looked after under voluntary arrangements section.