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Looked after children

 “Looked after” children are provided with accommodation by a local authority away from their families, either at the request of their parent or in accordance with a “care order”  made under section 31 of the Children Act 1989.

Section 76 of the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 

In some cases a child may need the local authority to provide them with accommodation because there is no one who has parental responsibility for them, or in cases where they are lost or abandoned or circumstances prevent them from receiving care and accommodation from a parent or person with parental responsibility. The local authority has a duty under section 76 of the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 (“the 2014 Act”) to provide such a child with accommodation. Accommodation can be secured by way of a placement with a foster parent, in a residential setting, such as a children’s home or by placement with a relative (a “kinship placement”).

A child accommodated by a local authority under section 76 is a  “looked after” child, but the local authority does not acquire parental responsibility for the child.

Section 81 (10) to (13) of the Act makes provision for certain specific circumstances where a local authority is a satisfied that a looked after child ought to be placed for adoption, and proposes to place the child for adoption with a particular prospective adopter. It specifies that the local authority must place the child with that prospective adopter, unless it considers it more appropriate to place the child elsewhere until the placement order is made. These arrangements are sometimes known as ‘foster to adopt’.  (see paragraphs 173 to 177 of the Code of Practice on Part 6).

Section 31 of the Children Act 1989

A court can grant a care order under section 31(1)(a) of the Children Act 1989 which places a child in the care of a designated local authority. Parental responsibility will be shared between the parents of the child and the local authority.

Section 31(2) of the Children Act 1989 provides that a care order will only be granted if a court is satisfied that “the harm, or likelihood of harm a child is suffering or likely to suffer, is attributable to…the care given, or likely to be given to the child …if the order were not made, not being what it would be reasonable to expect a parent to give…or the child being beyond parental control”.

A care order cannot be made with respect to a child who has reached the age of 17 (or 16 in the case of a child who is married).

Services for looked after children

The local authority responsible for looking after a child is required to ensure that the child has a care plan in accordance with the requirements of section 83 of the 2014 Act and regulations made under section 84 of that Act. 

See the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (Wales) Regulations 2015 (S.I. 2015/1818).

Contributions towards the maintenance of looked after children

Schedule 1 to the 2014 Act requires a local authority that is looking after a child to consider whether is should recover contributions towards the cost of the child’s maintenance from an adult with parental responsibility for a child.

A local authority may only recover contributions from a contributor if it considers it is reasonable to do so and is not entitled to seek towards the costs of maintain the child in any of the following cases:

  • during any period when the parent is in receipt of a benefit specified in regulations under paragraph 1(4) of the Schedule. 
  • where the child is looked after but is placed with his or her parents in accordance with arrangements made by the authority in accordance with section 81 of the 2014 Act    
  • where the child is  looked after by a local authority under section 76 of the 2014 Act
  • where the child is looked after by a local authority under an interim care order
  • where a child is looked after by a local authority under section 92 of the Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000.

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