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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.

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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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Who should agree the care plan for a child who is looked after under a voluntary arrangement?

There are four things that is important for families to know:

  1. The law says that children’s services should find out the wishes and feelings of certain people before making decisions about any looked after child. This includes children looked after under a voluntary arrangement. Children’s services should do this ‘as far as is reasonably practicable’. This means they should take reasonable steps to gather the wishes and feelings from:
  • The child
  • Their parent(s) and anyone else who has parental responsibility or
  • If there is no parent or person with parental responsibility, then the person caring for the child immediately before they became looked after or
  • If the child is 16 or 17, the care plan should be agreed directly with them.
  1. Children’s services should then take into account those wishes and feeling when they make any decision concerning the child. So, this all applies where the decision about the child is to do with their care plan. Or some aspect of it.This is all set out in section 22(4)  and section 22(5) of the Children Act 1989.
  2. Children’s services also have a specific legal duty to agree a child’s care plan with the child’s parents and anyone else with parental responsibility. Their duty is to do this as far as is ‘reasonably practicable’. This means they should take steps to try and do this. This is set out in regulation 4(4)(a) of the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010.*
  3. BUT it is important to remember that children’s services do not have parental responsibility for a child. And a voluntary arrangement can only be put in place (and continue) if a parent or carer with parental responsibility agrees to the arrangement. And if no one else who is able (entitled) to object, is objecting. See more about this in Who can object to a voluntary arrangement?  What happens if family members disagree with each other about a voluntary arrangement?

*Or if there is no such person, the law says children’s services should agree the plan with the person who was caring for the child immediately before plans were being made for them to become looked after in the care system.

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