The framework for planning looked after children in and leaving care is established in very detailed regulations and guidance setting out the requirements established by the Children Act 1989 and the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000. This framework is intended to ensure that there is proper and thorough planning on behalf of each child wherever they are placed. Every child and young person must have a “care plan”. This becomes their pathway plan from age 16 when local authorities must begin to prepare them for the time when they will no longer be looked after. Where young people have been placed outside of their local area, the pathway planning process must identify whether they will continue to remain in the area where they are placed into adulthood or whether they will return to the area of their responsible authority.
Government have published the National Protocol on Inter-Authority Arrangements for Care Leavers as a model to assist in managing joint working arrangements between local authorities where a care leaver who is the responsibility of one authority is a resident in another authority.
This protocol can be accessed on the ‘Children Leaving Care’ page of the Every Child Matters website.
The Children and Young Persons Act 2008 received Royal Assent in the last session of Parliament. Section 8 of this Act sets out the factors that local authorities must consider when they make a placement for children in their care. This clarifies that as far as reasonably practicable authorities must attempt to secure placements that are within their area and close to children's homes. The priority given to these factors will depend on a detailed assessment of the circumstances in each individual case.
Later this year we will be consulting on planned revision of the Children Act statutory guidance which will include revision of leaving care guidance. This revision provides us with the opportunity to provide more information about how we expect local authorities to plan for looked after children and care leavers who have been placed away from their responsible authority.