[holding answer 20 June 2006]: Local authorities are placed under a duty, by section 22 of the Children Act 1989, to safeguard and promote the welfare of looked after children. The review of children’s cases procedure, derived from section 26 of the 1989 Act, places a duty on local authorities to have in place a plan for the future care of looked after children and to appoint an Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) to conduct the periodic statutory reviews of their cases.
The Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000 is based on this care planning framework. As looked after children approach their 16th birthday, when they will become entitled to services as ‘care leavers’, their needs are required to be reassessed in order to inform the construction of their ‘pathway plan’ (which should be based on their existing care plan). This plan sets out the services that are necessary to respond to the young person’s needs, to prepare them for leaving care and then to support them after they have left care up until the age of 21, or longer, if they remain in an approved programme of education or training.
For young people with statements of special educational needs (SEN), including those who are looked after, there is a statutory transition planning process, which commences during Year 9 of their compulsory education. The purpose of this multi-professional process is to plan for young people’s transition to adult life.
Where a child who is the subject of a SEN statement is also a looked after child, then their responsible local authority should co-ordinate the respective planning processes, in order to integrate their transition plan with their pathway plan, so that young people are provided with the necessary support in an integrated way before, during and after leaving care.