Children Living Away from Home

1. Definition

Everywhere children live should provide the same basic safeguards against abuse, founded on an approach that promotes their general welfare, takes into account their wishes and feelings, protects them from harm and treats them with dignity and respect.

The Isle of Man Children's Homes and Child (secure) Accommodation Minimum Standards (2016) contain specific requirements on safeguarding and child protection for each particular regulated setting where children live away from home.

2. Risks

Children living away from home are particularly vulnerable to being abused by adults and peers. Limited and sometimes controlled contact with family and carers may affect a child's ability to disclose what is happening to them. Given that young people may live away from home because of concerns about their home conditions or the ability of their parents or carers to safeguard their welfare, it is particularly important that their welfare is protected when they are being cared for by foster carers, or within a residential care setting or in other circumstances defined within this procedure.

All settings must ensure that:

  • Children feel valued and respected and their self-esteem is promoted;
  • There is an openness on the part of the care provider to the external world and to external scrutiny, including contact with families and the wider community;
  • Staff and foster carers are trained in all aspects of safeguarding children, can recognise children's vulnerabilities and risks of harm, and know when and how to implement safeguarding procedures;
  • Children are listened to, and their views and concerns responded to;
  • Children have ready access to a trusted adult outside the place where they are living or have been placed, such as a foster placement or residential care, for example, a family member, social worker, or children's rights champion who is based within the Safeguarding and Quality Assurance Unit. Children should be made aware of any independent advocacy services, available on the Isle of Man;
  • Staff/carers recognise the importance of ascertaining the wishes and feelings of children and understand how individual children communicate by verbal or non-verbal means;
  • Complaints procedures are clear, effective, and user–friendly and are readily accessible to children and young people including those with disabilities and those for whom English is not their preferred language;
  • Bullying is effectively countered;
  • Recruitment and selection procedures are rigorous and create a high threshold of entry to deter abusers and there is effective supervision and support that extends to temporary staff and volunteers;
  • Contracted staff are effectively checked and supervised when on site or in contact with children;
  • Clear procedures and support systems are in place for dealing with expressions of concern by staff and carers about other staff or carers (a Whistleblowing Policy);
  • There is respect for diversity, and sensitivity to race, culture, religion, gender, sexuality and disability;
  • Staff and carers are alert to the risks of harm to children in the external environment from people prepared to exploit the additional vulnerability of children living away from home.

3. Protection and Action to be Taken

The most important aspect is the need to listen to children to ensure that they are able to share concerns with people who they trust and who will act on the child's concerns.

Where there is reasonable cause to believe that a child has suffered, or is likely to suffer Significant Harm, a referral must be made, in accordance with the Referrals Procedure to the duty social worker, Initial Response Team, Children and Families Division. A Strategy Discussion/Meeting must be convened; which should include representatives from the responsible home and other identified agencies.

At the Strategy Discussion/Meeting it should be agreed who will take responsibility for the next steps, which may include a Section 46 Enquiry and NARRATES assessment.

Whether a child is in foster care, privately fostered, in a residential setting, hospital, custody or living in temporary accommodation with their family, the duty to protect is the same.

Manx Care has a duty to make enquiries in accordance with Section 46 of the Children and Young Person's Act 2001 where there are concerns about significant harm.

4. Issues

Specific issues to consider in different settings are as follows:

Foster Care

Where there is reasonable cause to believe that a child in foster care has suffered harm in the foster placement, a Strategy Meeting will be held to agree Section 46 Enquiries and NARRATES within the meeting. The meeting should agree how the investigation will be carried out.

In these circumstances, enquiries should also consider the safety of any other children living in the household, including the foster carers' own children, grand-children or any children cared for by the foster carers in their home as well as any children whom the foster carers may be caring for or working with outside their home in a voluntary or paid capacity, for example, teaching, faith or youth work, scouts or many other groups.

In addition to the above the Senior Independent Reviewing Officer will need to be alerted by the team manager and a MASM should be undertaken.

As foster care is undertaken in the privacy of the carers' own home, it is important that children have a voice outside the family. Social Workers are required to see children in foster care on their own and evidence of this should be recorded on the child's records.

Private Fostering

A private fostering arrangement is essentially one that is initially made without the involvement of Manx Care for the care of a child under the age of 16 (under 18 if disabled) by someone other than a parent or close relative for 28 days or more.

The period for which the child is cared for and accommodated by the private carer should be continuous, but that continuity is not broken by the occasional short break.

The private foster carer becomes responsible for providing the day to day care of the child, as agreed and arranged with the person with Parental Responsibility.

Responsibility for safeguarding and promoting the welfare of the privately fostered child remains with the parent and any other persons with Parental Responsibility.

In a private fostering arrangement, the role of Manx care is to carry out duties in a way that maintains a balance between the rights of the parent to make a private arrangement for the care of their child or children, and the obligation to satisfy themselves about the welfare of those children.

Common situations in which children are privately fostered include:

  • Children with parents overseas;
  • Local children living apart from their families;
  • Children who are estranged from their families;
  • Children living with host families for a variety of reasons sent from abroad to stay with another family, usually to improve their educational opportunities;
  • Asylum-seeking and refugee children;
  • Adolescents and teenagers who, having broken ties with their parents, are staying in short–term arrangements with friends or other non-relatives;
  • Children brought on to the island from abroad with a view to adoption;
  • Children who stay with another family whilst their parents are in hospital, prison or serving overseas in the armed forces;
  • Language students living with host families.

A child who is looked after or placed in any residential home, foster care or specialised school is excluded from the definition.

Manx care does not formally approve or register private foster carers.

  • However, it is the duty of Manx Care to satisfy itself that the welfare of the children, will be, safeguarded and promoted.

The role of Manx Care is to:

  • Receive notifications from parents, private foster carers and third parties and whilst visiting at regular intervals continually assess the suitability of the private foster carers, family members and home conditions; taking into account the carers abilities to meet all of the needs of the child;
  • Offer advice and support to parents, private foster carers and the children involved.

Under the Children and Young Person's Act 2001, private foster carers and those with Parental Responsibility are required to notify the Children and Families Division of their intention to privately foster or to have a child privately fostered, or where a child is privately fostered in an emergency.

Any agency who becomes aware of a private fostering arrangement must notify the Initial response team, Children and families Division within 24 hours of an intended or actual private fostering arrangement if they are not satisfied that the arrangement has been reported to the Initial Response Team.

Private foster carers should provide Manx Care with as much information as possible to ensure all the necessary checks can be carried out, for example whether the proposed carers have any convictions or disqualifications imposed on them which would prevent them from caring for children.

Where initial checks reveal no disqualifications, the social worker should arrange a visit within 7 days of the initial notification and must confirm that the placement is within definition of a private fostering arrangement.

Wherever possible prior to the child being placed the allocated social worker should make arrangements to undertake a home visit to establish the suitability of the home environment and whether the child's needs are likely to be met.

The visiting social worker will need to consider whether the child meets the criteria of a child with complex needs (CWCN's) and whether a NARRATES CWCN's is to be undertaken. If the child is identified as a child with complex needs, then a plan will be put in place.

It is the duty of Manx Care to ensure that the welfare of children who are privately fostered are being satisfactorily safeguarded and promoted. All arrangements and regulations in relation to Private Fostering are set out in the Isle of Man 2001 Act guidance Part G: Private Fostering and within 4.3 Private Fostering.

Children should be given the contact details of the social worker who will be visiting them at regular intervals whilst they are being privately fostered.

Children in Residential Settings

All residential settings where children and young people are placed, including children's homes and residential schools must adhere to the Children's Homes and Child (secure) Accommodation Minimum Standards (2016).

Clear records must be kept and reviews and inspections must take place in accordance with the Regulations.

Children in such settings are particularly vulnerable and must be listened to.

All such establishments must have in place complaints procedures for children and young people, visiting and contact arrangements with social workers and advocates (for Looked After children), as well as parents, and other family members. See Good Practice Supporting the Voice of the Child Procedure.

Where there is reasonable cause to believe that a child in a residential setting has been harmed, a referral must be made to the Initial Response Team, Children and Families Division in accordance with the Referrals Procedure. The concerns may be related to bullying, exploitation, or children who display harmful behaviour towards other children or allegations about the behaviour of professionals or volunteers.

Children in Hospital

Children under 16 should not be cared for on an adult ward. Hospital admission data should include the age of children, so that hospitals can monitor whether children are being cared for in appropriate wards.

Hospitals must have policies in place to ensure that their facilities are safe, secure and regularly reviewed.

When a child has been in hospital for 3 months or more it is the responsibility of health professionals on the Isle of Man to ensure any support in addition to their medical needs is in place for the child.

If the child has been transferred to a hospital in the UK and continues to be treated for 3 months or more then it is the responsibility of health professionals on the Isle of Man to make arrangements to ensure any additional support is in place to meet the child's needs, apart from their medical needs and requirements that will be met within the hospital.

Any concerns about harm to a child within a hospital or health- based setting must be referred to the Initial Response Team, Children and Families' Division in accordance with the Referrals Procedure.

No child known to Children and Families Division who is an inpatient in a hospital and about whom there are Child Protection concerns should be discharged home without a Discharge Planning meeting, to assess and establish that the home environment is safe, the concerns by medical staff are fully addressed and there is a plan in place for the ongoing promotion and safeguarding of the child's welfare.

Children in Custody

In all cases, the Secure Care Home, is responsible for the overall safety and welfare of the children in that establishment.

Some young people who are placed in the Secure Home (on welfare grounds or remanded) may be subject to Child Protection Planning. The plan should continue until it becomes apparent that the custody period will be significant. Even then a plan cannot just cease without agreement of all agencies who were present during the Initial Child Protection Conference and agreed the outline Child Protection Plan. See Child Protection Conference Procedure.

The appointed social worker must communicate clearly with the young person, their family and all professionals who are involved at the time of the young persons' admission to the Secure Home, ensuring that a clear plan is in place.

Some young people who are already subject to Child Protection Planning may be placed within the Secure Home for a brief period of time on Welfare Grounds. If the Court decides that the young person can return home to their family, then Child Protection Planning should continue until a multi-agency decision determines otherwise. The social worker should update the Young Persons' Independent Reviewing Officer of the events.

If the court decides to make a secure order based on 'Welfare Grounds', the young person will become 'Looked after' for the period of their detainment. A placement plan should be prepared and reviewed as a 'Looked after Child.'

When the young person is subject to Child Protection Planning and is detained for a period of time on 'Welfare Grounds' then it is the responsibility of the social worker to contact the Independent Reviewing Officer who chaired the Child Protection Conference to advise them of the court's decision to detain the young person. A decision should be made to convene a conference to consider the change of circumstances for the young person.

Whenever young people under 18 are 'remanded', they become 'looked after' for the period of their remand. The appointed worker from the Youth Justice Team and the social worker must visit them at specified intervals and prepare a placement plan which will then be reviewed as a Looked after child in common with all placements. Manx Care is required to fulfil their duties with regard to all aspects of care as laid out in the guidance for residential care, this includes the following:

  • The planning of placements, including the making of immediate and long term plans which should be agreed with a person who has Parental Responsibility;
  • Promoting and safeguarding the young person's welfare;
  • Consulting the young person and their parents when making decisions;
  • Taking into account the young person's protective characteristics as per the Equality Act 2017 for example religious persuasion, racial origin and cultural and linguistic background;
  • In the case of a young person with a disability, ensuring the accommodation is suitable to their needs;
  • Promoting contact between the young person and their parents and significant others.

The registered secure care home is regulated and inspected by the Registrations and Inspections Unit. The standards issued by Manx care under section 35 of the Regulation of Care Act 2013. Regulation 9 of the Regulation of care (Care Services) requires registered persons to ensure that the care service meets all minimum standards applicable to that service. The standards are issued for use by the Registration and Inspection Unit who take them into account when inspecting the Secure Care Home which should:

  • Have in place an annually reviewed safeguarding children policy which promotes and safeguards the welfare of children, and covers all relevant operational areas as well as key supporting processes and include;
  • Issues such as child protection, risk of harm, restraint, separation, staff recruitment and information sharing.

Children of Families Living in Temporary Accommodation

It is important that effective systems are in place to ensure that children from homeless families receive services from health and education, Children and Families Division and any other specific services, because with frequent moves they may become disengaged from services. Where a child who needs specific treatment misses appointments due to moves, the problem may become an issue of Significant Harm.

Temporary accommodation, for example bed and breakfast accommodation or women's refuges, may be in a location which is not secure and safe and where other adults are also resident who may pose a risk to the child.

All concerns about the welfare of a child or of Significant Harm to a child should be referred to the Initial Response Team Children and Families Division in accordance with the Referrals Procedure.