Holidays and School Trips In and Outside the UK
SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This procedure applies to holidays and school/organisational trips within and outside the UK for all Looked After Children.
AMENDMENTSection 2.4, Insurance was updated in November 2021.
1. Holidays for Looked After Children in the UK
Where there is a proposal for a looked after child to go on holiday in the UK, the child's social worker must obtain full information about the holiday.
This will include:
- Proposed dates and duration of the holiday (must be in within school leave periods for those of school age);
- Address(es)/contact details of the holiday location/what type of holiday;
- Insurance details;
- Who will be present on the holiday e.g. names of other children and other adults;
- If the holiday involves staying with friends or relatives, their names and addresses;
- Emergency contacts;
- Any risk assessments that may be required, which should include any health or behaviour issues of the child as well as the holiday environment itself.
The child's social worker should seek the views of the Virtual School, child and parent/persons who have Parental Responsibility as soon as practicable.
If the parents consent, their consent must be obtained in writing.
Where the social worker, Virtual School, parent and staff/carer agree to the proposed holiday, the social worker can then request from the Headteacher of the school that the term time holiday be authorised and should be included in the child's Placement Plan.
For children who are in a long term placement and there is agreement with the Children's Services that the carers have Delegated Authority, (see Delegation of Authority to Foster Carers and Residential Workers Procedure), depending upon the nature of the delegation agreed, it may be the case that the foster carers/residential staff are able to make such decisions themselves. However, good practice should ensure that decisions by the foster carers/residential staff are shared in a timely way with their Supervising Social Worker, Virtual School and/or child's allocated practitioner. The parent/s should be advised as appropriate – especially if the holiday affects contact arrangements.
Children must not be taken on holiday during term time unless there are exceptional circumstances that would be approved by the Service Director for Children’s Social Care, agreed with the Virtual School and authorised by the Headteacher of the school. This will be kept under review following a recent high court judgement.
Requests must be made in writing. (Note that under the Education (Pupil Registration) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2013, the previous ability of headteachers to grant leave of absence for the purpose of a holiday during term time in 'special circumstances' of up to ten school days leave per year has been removed. The 2013 Regulations make clear that headteachers may not grant any leave of absence during term time unless there are 'exceptional circumstances').
Where the social worker considers that the holiday should go ahead despite the parents' opposition and legal advice supports this, the approval of the social worker's manager and the Service Director for Children’s Social Care to the holiday should be sought. The request for such approval should include the legal advice given. The Children's Service Director will make the final decision based on the information provided.
Written confirmation of the manager's decision, together with the reasons, should be provided to the parent.
Where the holiday will involve additional costs, the social worker should obtain approval for the costs from the relevant manager before the holiday can be agreed.
If approved, the holiday should be included in the child's Placement Plan.
Where the holiday will impact on contact arrangements between the child and parents, consideration should be given to arranging additional contacts before and after the holiday.
2. Holidays for Looked After Children Outside the UK
Arrangements for notifying and consulting the social worker about holiday plans should be agreed in the Placement Plan.
The consent of the parent(s) or person with Parental Responsibility must be obtained and consent form signed.
The child's social worker must obtain full information about the holiday/trip. This will include:
- Address(es)/contact details of the holiday location/type of holiday;
- Responsible adult(s) accompanying the child including adult/child ratio if group holiday;
- If the child is going with a family or person who is not known to Children's Services, whether the appropriate checks have been made;
- Dates of holiday;
- Emergency contacts;
- Views of the child;
- If any cost to the authority, including insurance;
- Any additional information.
NOTE: If there are any issues such as the holiday destination experiencing political unrest, concern that the child may not return as planned or other circumstances which may place the child at risk, these should be highlighted to the social worker's manager. A check should be undertaken through Foreign Office - Foreign Travel Advice and a balanced decision regarding the outcome made.
If it is a group day trip or holiday, the social worker must be satisfied that adequate health and safety precautions including appropriate risk assessments are taken and in place.
Children must not be taken on holiday during term time. In exceptional circumstances this should be authorised by the school’s Headteacher,approved by Service Director for Children’s Social Care. This will be based on all relevant information being provided that support the trip as well as the agreement from the Virtual Head of Looked After Children School. Requests must be made in writing.
2.2 Holidays for Children on Care Orders
Holidays of Less Than One Month
The procedure is the same as for those for Accommodated Children (see Section 2.1, Holidays for Accommodated Children) except that the consent of the parents or person having Parental Responsibility is not required but should be sought and obtained wherever practicable or possible. Any objections by the parent(s) should be recorded on the child's electronic records.
The social worker should ensure that arrangements are in place through the Placement Plan to be notified well in advance of any plans for holidays abroad in order to obtain required consent wherever practicable or possible.
Holidays of One Month or More
This requires either the written consent of every person who has parental responsibility for the child, or the leave of the court.
Where a Court Order is required, the social worker should contact Legal Services as soon as possible for the necessary application to be made and advise the parents of the intended application.
It is usual for the court to require evidence of the views of those with Parental Responsibility or the efforts made to obtain them.
If the holiday is authorised by the Court, the holiday should be included in the Placement Plan and a copy of the court order giving leave for the holiday should also be given to the foster carer.
2.3 Holidays for Unaccompanied Asylum Seekers
The procedure is the same as for Accommodated Children (see Section 2.1, Holidays for Accommodated Children) except that:
- Approval is unlikely if the child/young person wishes to go on their own and/or to a destination which could call into question the integrity of their original claim for asylum;
- The child's social worker would have to endorse the holiday by signing the consent form.
The UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) provides access to state healthcare in Europe at a reduced cost, or sometimes for free.
- If the child already has a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) this remains valid until the expiry date on the card;
- If the child does not have a European Health Insurance Card or it has expired, they will need a Global Health Insurance Card. Cards can be ordered online from the NHS (see the NHS.UK website). For children under 16, the application should be completed by their carers;
- The GHIC and EHIC do not replace travel insurance which should be in place for all holidays outside the UK. For the latest advice on the GHIC, see the GOV.UK website.
2.5 Obtaining a Passport
- The United Kingdom Passport Agency provides Guidance for Social Workers seeking to obtain a passport for a Looked After Child;
- If Children's Services have previously applied for a passport on the child's behalf and are applying for a renewal or extension, a letter outlining the circumstances mentioned above stating that these have not changed is sufficient. In these circumstances there is no need to complete the application form. This should be signed by the Designated Manager (Passports);
- Where there is a proposal for a child to go on holiday abroad and the child does not currently hold a valid passport, the request to the Designated Manager (Passports) in relation to the holiday should include a written request for the authority to obtain a passport for the child;
- If it is an urgent application where an application is made in person, the social worker must provide evidence of their identity and a signed letter of authorisation from the Designated Manager (Passports);
- Where the child requires a passport for any other reason, the approval of the Designated Manager (Passports) should be sought. The written request for such approval should include the reason for the request, the wishes of the child; the views of the parent; the views of the Staff/Carer where applicable. Where the Designated Manager (Passports) gives authority for a passport to be obtained for a child, this must be confirmed in writing. The social worker must inform the parent of the decision;
- The social worker will obtain and complete the necessary application for the child or assist the child to complete the necessary application form.
3. School / Organisational Trips of up to 4 days Away
The social worker should ensure risk assessments have been conducted and that the Virtual School has been fully consulted.
The child's participation in school/organisational trips should be considered at the time of the placement, and the consultation required before they can be agreed should be included in the Placement Plan.
Where a child is placed with the parents, the Placement Plan will usually provide that a school trip of up to 4 days can be agreed by the social worker in consultation with the school and the parent.
Where a child is placed in foster care or residential care, the Placement Plan will usually authorise the staff/foster carer to agree to the child going on school or other organisational trips of up to 4 days away without prior consultation with the social worker or the parent - see Social Visits (Including Overnight Stays) Procedure. If the staff/carer have not been so authorised, the child's social worker and parents must be consulted before agreement can be given.Where parental consent is not given, the social worker should consult their Manager and obtain legal advice as necessary. Where the Manager agrees to the child going on the trip despite parental opposition, the reasons must be recorded and explained to the parent.